LOS VON LOOS ("LOOSE FROM LOOS") A LAW PERMITTING INDIVIDUAL BUILDING ALTERATIONS ARCHITECTURE-BOYCOTT MANIFESTO
People ask me why, as a painter, I meddle in matters of architecture. But as a painter I am also just a man.
Before you sit down anywhere, you first wipe the chair if it is dirty. So if I go into dirty architecture, I must clean that first, too.
And the dirtier the architecture, the more strongly and effectively its dirt must be combatted.
And this, just this, I did a fortnight ago.
I only enter a house as a free man.
Not as a slave.
Only then can I do anything else, such as painting or saying something.
There is another, very important reason why I choose Vienna to attack this evil box-prison mischief, namely because I am Austrian, which gives me a moral obligation to do so.
For it was from Austria that this architectural crime was launched into the world.
It is thus from Austria that reparations must come.
The Austrian Adolf Loos brought this atrocity into the world.
In 1908, with his manifesto aptly entitled “Ornament and Crime”.
No doubt he meant well.
Adolf Hitler meant well, too.
But Adolf Loos was incapable of thinking 50 years ahead.
The world will never be rid of the evil he invoked.
It is the duty of myself and all of us to be the first to recognise and combat the catastrophe unleashed in Austria sixty years ago.
Exactly 50 years later, in 1958 in Seckau, I read my “Mouldiness Manifesto Against Rationalism in Architecture”.
I am now no longer alone.
There are architects who have taken it to heart. Germany holds conference upon conference of architects with a conscience, for whom the responsibility for what they are doing is a fearful burden.
But they know no solution.
I have nevertheless seen some new buildings which were not produced on the drawing board.
That’s good. But it is far from being enough.
Back to Loos. Of course it is true that stencilled ornaments were lies. But they were not crimes. Nor did the removal of ornament make houses any more honest. Loos should have replaced sterile ornaments with living growth.
But he did not. He valued the straight line, the identical, the smooth.
Now we have the smooth.
Everything slips off smoothness.
Even God falls down.
FOR THE STRAIGHT LINE IS GODLESS.
The straight line is the only uncreative line. The only line which does not correspond to man as the image of God.
The straight line is a true tool of the devil. Whosoever uses it is aiding the downfall of mankind. “La ligne droite conduit à la perte de l’humanité.”
What will this downfall be like? We have already had a preliminary taste of it: ten to twenty psychiatrists in every apartment block in New York. Overflowing clinics, where the insane cannot get well because the clinics are also built in the style of Loos.
The diseases of people confined in sterile residential complexes flourish in the deadly monotony. Rashes, ulcers, cancers and strange manners of death all occur. Recovery in such buildings is impossible. Despite psychiatry and health insurance.
There are increasing numbers of suicides in the satellite towns, and countless suicide attempts. These are women who cannot get out during the day like the men. We could spend hours listing the miseries which began with Loos.
The nihilism of the interned expresses itself through a decline in the desire to work, a decline in production, as psychiatrists and statisticians can surely confirm. For unhappiness, too, can be quantified in figures and money.
And thus the damage caused by rational building methods exceeds several times over any apparent savings made. This supplies the proof that rational buildings turn criminal when left as they are. I am not against serial production as such.
For the present, unfortunately, we still need it.
But to leave serially produced products in the state in which they reach us is an indication of personal bondage, proof that we are slaves.
Help annul the criminal laws suppressing creative building freedom! People do not yet even know they have a right to design their own clothing, their own housing, both inside and out.
A single architect or building sponsor cannot take responsibility for entire apartment blocks, nor even for a single house in which several families are to live. This responsibility must be conceded to each individual resident, whether he be an architect or not.
All restrictions imposed by building-inspection authorities, leases etc., which forbid or place restraints on individual home improvements, must be lifted. Indeed, it is the duty of the state to provide financial assistance and support to every citizen wishing to undertake individual alterations, whether to outside walls or indoors.
Man has a particular claim to his architectural outer skin. With one condition: neither the neighbours of those implementing modifications nor the stability of the house may suffer as a result. But that is why we have technical experts who can calculate everything so nicely.
Tenants as well as owners must have the option of exercising their window right, that is, of making home improvements inside and out.
Only where the subsequent tenant does not accept such alterations should the apartment be returned to its original state. But it can assumed with 90% certainty that individual improvements will be highly welcome to the next tenant, since their aim will have been to make an apartment more humane.
If such a law on individual building alterations is not passed, the prison psychosis of interned residents will continue to worsen until it reaches a terrible end.
There are only two options: either absolute slavery or rebellion against the restrictions of personal freedom.
If the law on individual building alterations is not passed, I demand countermeasures to go into effect immediately.
There are several possibilities:
1. Boycott. People should refuse to use these slave cages.
They should refuse to enter them. If a person is invited to go somewhere, be it to friends or the police, and the building is a sterile box, he or she should go to the next public telephone and ask the person to come out.
2. Architectural change through the visitor. I demonstrated this for the first time personally in a student dormitory.
Only enter a slave cage if you can change it architecturally.
By pouring black and red paint on the sterile wall and taking off all my clothes and giving my speech in the nude, I acquired the moral right to be present in this sterile cage at all.
Now, there are unconscious architectural revolts and changes already; and many kinds of unconscious boycotts, as well:
There are shootings and street riots such as those in Chicago.
There are bombings in wartime.
There is increasing juvenile delinquency in the new neighbourhoods of cities.
There is the rowdyism of drunks.
There is the escapism of leather jackets and hippies.
There is the escape to one’s annual holiday and the bitter homecoming.
There is the escape to the cinema, television, books.
There is the escape to art, music.
There is the escape to the world of dreams, alcohol and drugs.
There is the escape to death.
Whose fault is this?
The cowardly architects, the jumping jacks of their unscrupulous clients.
In any case: those who flee, rebel or commit suicide are well off. But those who do not have these escape options lose their soul, their humanity, their most sacred asset and everything else besides.
No, I propose:
do not destroy
do not rebel
do not flee
and everything will be all right.
I’ll tell you now how I can conceive this. I will carry a kilogramme of plaster of paris around with me. If I receive an invitation to go somewhere, I will have a look at the building first. If it is a smooth one in which people are confined who are not allowed to do anything, who can do nothing, want to do nothing, I will insist on putting a nice hump of plaster of paris on the wall with my own hands.
If I am not permitted to do this, I won’t go in.
I call on you to do this or similar things if you have a conscience. For if you eat out of the hand of this sterile architecture, it arouses the suspicion that you like the taste.
If, for example, 100 individual mounds of plaster of paris were put on a sterile District Administration building every day, even this building would soon be better and prettier.
Or the tenants in a building in which all the flats, the ones adjacent, above, below, are the same refuse to pay the rent as long as they are not permitted to make building alterations with their own hands.
Or: workers refuse to walk or ride through a street where sterile façades are to the right and left.
Just as every deer refuses to go where it has qualms about doing so.
Or: a piece of iron can be used to scrape things in the smooth outer skin, as is done in public toilets. Look at the dreadful enslavement we are in that the last remnants of individual creativity can only be found in toilets. The last place of freedom.
The only free buildings we still have are the Schrebergärten (huts in the workers’ allotment garden plots).
Every architect has the sacred duty to say that what he has erected here is by far not all. That it is only a miserable skeleton that the occupants have to remodel; that he is himself incapable of building a home for everyone. His duty is solely to make the skeleton strong and variable enough so that partial architectural changes can be carried out.
Since in cities everyone no longer finds quarters on the ground floor, he, the builder, has to create planes superimposed above one another.
But with that his mission is already at an end.
The portion of the earth which is covered over and killed by the building construction must be transferred to the roof. A layer of earth so thick that huge, 100-year-old trees can grow on the roof. It is incomprehensible why the roofs of Vienna are not being used as parks and forests.
People will say: such trees on the roofs cost more than the house itself.
But I am sure that in a few years they will be forced to issue a building ordinance requiring every house, every garage, every factory, particularly every factory, to have a layer of earth on the roof one metre deep. For meadows, forests, parks, gardens and agriculture with cows.
And that won’t be enough. They will be forced to add on four storeys of forest and meadows for every storey of human dwellings. So a 10-storey building will have to superimpose 8 layers of forest over only two layers of people.
Now I have a suggestion to make: Ernst Fuchs, Arnulf Rainer and I make up the Pintorarium, a free association of fundamentally different, not yet corrupted energies. How about having each of us, Arnulf Rainer, Ernst Fuchs and I, being assigned one existing and inhabited sterile building for remodelling? (In the meantime, following my example, the painters Brauer, Kumpf, Fuchs, Oberhuber and Attersee have built houses or been involved in architectural activities; addendum by Hundertwasser, 1996.)
In Vienna the wrappings and shells are so important that people think they can do without the core. Woe to him who takes away the wrappings. Our cowardice, our lie is huge.
I am in the process of liberating myself of it.
I have tried to concentrate nakedly on the truth.
It is very hard.
You are vulnerable to everything if you have nothing on. But the victory is great.
It is a good feeling.
It would be good if our government would also muster the courage to speak to the public in the nude.
It makes you feel good when you do your duty.
I feel very good.
Speech in Concordia Hall, Vienna, 9 February 1968 (held in German).
Hundertwasser's private print with manifestos and speeches in the nude in 1967 and 1968. Vienna, 2nd edition, 1968 (German)
protokolle. Zeitschrift für Literatur und Kunst. edited by Otto Breicha and Gerhard Fritsch. Vienna, 1968, pp. 56-63 (German)
Exhibition catalogue for Haus der Kunst, Munich 1975. Glarus/Switzerland: Gruener Janura AG, 1975, pp. 356-365 (German)
Catalogues of the World Travelling Museum Exhibition 1975-1987: French edition: Paris, Luxembourg, Marseille, Cairo, 1975; Copenhagen, Dakar, 1976; Montreal, Brussels, 1978. pp. 477-487, English edition: Tel Aviv, Reykjavik, 1976; Cape Town, Pretoria, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilia, Caracas, 1977; Mexico City, Toronto, 1978; Rome, Høvikodden, 1980; Helsinki, 1981; London, 1983. pp. 470-481, German edition: Warsaw, 1976; Pfäffikon/Lake Zurich, 1979; Cologne, 1980; Vienna, Graz, 1981. pp. 310-328. Japanese / English edition: Tokyo, 1977.
Breicha, Otto; Urbach Reinhard: Österreich zum Beispiel. (Austria for example) Literatur, Bildende Kunst, Film und Musik seit 1968. Salzburg: Residenz Verlag, 1982, pp. 68-72 (German)
Schurian, Walter (ed.): Hundertwasser - Schöne Wege, Gedanken über Kunst und Leben. (Beautiful Paths - Thoughts on Art and Life) Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv), 1983, pp. 174-179 and ed. 2004 (Munich, Langen Müller Verlag), pp. 227-231 (German)
Das Hundertwasser Haus (The Hundertwasser House). Vienna: Österreichischer Bundesverlag/Compress Verlag, 1985, pp. 61-64 (German)
Rand, Harry: Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Cologne: Taschen, 1991, pp. 138-139 (excerpt), abridged edition 1993 and edition 2003, pp. 118-119 (excerpt)
Hundertwasser Architecture. For a More Human Architecture in Harmony with Nature. Cologne: Taschen, 1997, pp. 58-61 and Edition 2007, pp. 44-47
Hundertwasser. New York: Parkstone Press International, 2008, pp. 135-139