Modernità discreta: Loos costruisce in montagna

Discreet modernity: Loos builds in the mountains
Luca Ortelli
Full professor of Architectural Design and Design Theory at the Institute of Architecture and the City, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, he has published texts and essays regarding housing and modern architecture, particularly in Scandinavian ountries, in various journals and books.
Keywords: Modernity, rationalism, building culture
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The country house that Adolf Loos designed for Paul Khuner in Payerbach represents one of his most brilliant achievements, complementary to the more famous Villa Müller in Prague. These two buildings, both completed in 1930, constitute a sort of legacy summarizing Loos’ visions and architectural principles. The country house is particularly significant in regard to the apparently contradictory relationship between modernity and tradition. Furthermore, the building reveals a quieter approach to the Raumplan, thanks to the adoption of a clear typological figure: the double-height central space with an upper-level distribution gallery. In this work, Loos applies the principles presented in his seminal text “Architecture”, where he criticized the incapacity of a villa designed by an architect of integrating the idyllic
and peaceful character of a mountain valley. In this perspective, the Khuner house was a unique occasion for Loos to build in a completely new context, far away from the typical urban situations where he was accustomed to working. The pitched roof, the wooden construction and the general shape of the building are alien to Loos’ ideas. Nevertheless, they are so carefully defined and their integration in the landscape is so calm that one could have the impression of looking at a traditional mountain building. Upon careful observation, one discovers that many elements do not correspond to a vernacular vocabulary, but rather produce a series of slight dissimilarities that demonstrate how modernity can affirm its values in a discreet way.