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The House for Tristan Tzara

In 1925, the Viennese architect Adolf Loos had been commissioned by the founding father of the Dada movement, Tristan Tzara, to design and build a house in Paris for him and his wife. This essay written during my 3rd year, attempts to reconstruct the collaboration between an artist and an architect.

- Nominated for the RIBA Presidents Medals Dissertation (2013).
- Best History Dissertation award.

As I would like to show in this essay, this commission was not at all a business as usual. Tristan Tzara and Adolf Loos worked with two diametrically opposed philosophies and world views and as such their collaboration appears rather impossible. Adolf Loos was not only an architect, but a radical and polemic thinker who was known to refuse to adapt to his clients wishes, rather it was Loos himself who demanded from them to change their attitude of living and even eating and dressing. In 1925 Loos had just left his Austrian culture to start a new career and life in Paris. What fascinated me in this research was to see whether Loos adapted perhaps a bit more to the needs and wishes of Tristan Tzara, for it was in Paris and in the fascinating cultural scene of artists, actors and intellectuals that Loos imagined his new commissions. 

On the other hand, Tristan Tzara, with the help of his Dadaist friends in Zurich, and later in Paris, was known for mocking reason and logic in every possible way. His art was taking the form of experimental writings and unexpected theatrical performances with a devotion to the absurd. He worked with the idea to “agitate the audience” and to “shake their consciousnesses”. Tzara even argued for spontaneity rather than reflection when he said: 'Thinking is made in the mouth', and we can only imagine that with such attitude he would be a difficult partner to discuss the details of a house for him and his wife. 

In this period of aftermath of the First World War, it was difficult for Adolf Loos to impose his style in Paris. The Parisian society was still trying to leave behind the difficult memories of five years of atrocities and was finding refuge in excesses of all kinds. It was the period of the "Années Folles" (The Crazy Years). Loos preferred an architecture which was gentle and refined, but as I will show later, nevertheless provocative. 

The relationship between Loos and Tzara eventually gave birth to an emblematic residence in Paris Montmartre. The Tzara House is the only built work realized by Loos in France. It became exemplary for modern architecture and became registered as a historic monument since 1975. Therein the following I would like to examine the house in detail and investigate how it became the home of the Dadaist poet. Through the spatial analysis of the house and the discussion of the ideas of these two dissenting characters, I would like to approach a building of which exists relatively little research and documentation. I would like to find out whether the building can tell the story of modernity and the visions about art and architecture of these two illustrious personalities. 

Tutor: Ines Weizman (London Metropolitan University).

Click on the file attachement link below to download the full dissertation.