Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Adolf Loos: On Architecture

   17. My Building on Michaelerplatz (1911)

When the menswear firm of Goldman & Salatsch decided to build new premises they invited eight architects to take part in a competition. I was to be the ninth. I was the only one to refuse. I know very well that the system of competitions is a cancer eating away at modern architecture. I know that the best architect never wins the prize; the project that is carried out is the one with the most immediate appeal. Competitions are appropriate for ladies' hair-styles and hats, though obviously five years later different entries would be chosen as the best. The same would happen with our architecture competitions, but by then it's too late. This means that an architect who is only five years ahead of his time has no chance in a competition.

So I said to Goldman & Salatsch, “I only work to commission. Let us agree a contract.” And I drew up a contract:

  1. We commission Adolf Loos to provide plans for the building on the corner of Kohlmarkt and Herrengasse.
  2. If someone else should produce a better ground plan than Adolf Loos, he will withdraw from the commission.
  3. The decision on the ground plan is ours. There will be no discussion of the façade.

The point of the contract is clear. So far I have always rejected a commission if I knew there was someone who could do it better. The clients, I knew, were intelligent men who understood their business and I was quite happy to accept their judgment of what was good or bad. They must know what their business needs. They must know which ground plan is economical, which would facilitate the running of their business, which impede it. Lighting can be explained. A façade cannot be explained. There is only one person who knows the effect it will have: the one who conceived it. Neither drawings nor models can give the slightest idea of its real appearance. I know that Viennese property owners are not as lacking in taste as Viennese designers of façades. All the dreadful façades of recent years would have remained unbuilt if the clients had foreseen the effect.

The contract was signed and I got down to work.