Viollet-le-Duc became a
very important figure and through his designs and theories iron became associated with the
reform of the decorative arts and his influence can probably be most clearly seen in some of
the architecture of the Art Nouveau movement.
The main principles Viollet bestowed on the
Art Nouveau movement were the spatial organization of the building according to function
rather than rules of symmetry and proportion, the importance of materials as a generator for
form and also the concept of an organic form.12
These ideals of form following function are
not only important to the Art Nouveau movement but also to the Modern Movement as well,
demonstrated in the work of Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and others.
Art Nouveau was eventually disregarded due to its ideals not being entirely realistic. As with
the Arts and Crafts movement the paradox of ‘hand made crafts for all’ was not attainable as
without the use of mass production the items became expensive and could only be afforded
by the wealthy.
It was also believed that Art Nouveau was not entirely functional. Such
decadence and decoration began to grate on the senses, creating the feeling that furniture
and ornamentation were intruding on the room.
Curved walls meant buildings became
unusable for furniture and balcony railings which stabbed you are just two examples of the
impracticalities of the style. The style began to develop and a key figure in the link between
Art Nouveau and the Modern Movement is Adolf Loos.
Despite belonging to the same
generation as the main figures of the Art Noveau and Jugendstil movements, Loos reacted
strongly against their attempt to replace Beaux-Arts eclecticism with what he saw as a
superficial system of ornament.
Loos was a maverick who kept independent from any ‘clubs’,
he was a powerful thinker, able to expose contradictions of contemporary theory but at the
same time able to produce provocative and highly original work.
His influence on the
succeeding generations of architects, particularly Le Corbusier, was enormous, and his ideas
have through successive reinterpretations, maintained their relevance to the present day.
Loos hated the work of his contemporaries such as Josef Hoffman who succeeded in
combining the new, post-Art Nouveau style with an inimitably Viennese daintiness and
Loos emerged as the purist of the generation. The purest of his purist houses is
Steiner House (1910) in Vienna. Here for the first time the layman would find it hard to decide
whether this might not be of 1930.13
The work of Loos can be therefore be seen as a