chapter  5
38 Pages

Locating the narrative: the city, its artefacts and its attractions

Taking the dialectic of the Self and the Other implicit in the title of The Other as their point of departure, the preceding chapters explored the paradoxes and contradictions which structure Loos’s cultural criticism. This chapter turns to examine the location of Loos’s lectures and essays. It investigates the city as the place in which Loos ‘goes botanizing on the asphalt’, identifying and classifying the social types he meets in the city; for the city, as Barthes recognises, is the meeting place with the Other: ‘the city centre is felt as the place of exchange of social activities […], the city centre is always felt as the space where subversive forces, forces of rupture, ludic forces act and meet’ (Barthes 1986:96). To engage with Loos’s writings is to recognise that he does not provide an abstract analysis of ‘the city’; his texts and lectures are littered with direct references to Vienna, which is the site and object of much of his cultural criticism. By examining the texts in which Loos recorded his impressions as he strolled through the city-above all, his series of articles on the Imperial Jubilee Exhibition (1898), The Other (1903), ‘Touring domestic interiors’ (1907), ‘City tours’ (1913/14) and much of his post-war work on the settlement movement (Siedlungsbewegung)—we can reconstruct his Vienna. These sets of texts are examined in turn, imposing a broad linear order on Loos’s texts-an order which progresses not only temporally, but also spatially. Beginning in the exhibition site located outside the city centre, Loos’s analysis then moves into the city centre, before finally experiencing the city in terms of a struggle between the centre and the periphery.