The only bar in town

Chapter »A la Carte«: Loos Bar in Vienna

Photo Credit: Robin Roger Peller

In a small space, yet of monumental importance to the local bar scene, Loos Bar, designed by Adolf Loos, is located in the heart of Vienna’s Old Town. A design masterpiece in which Viennese modernism and American bar culture join hands, inviting a diverse audience into a unique atmosphere.

 

Photo Credit: Robin Roger Peller

Vienna in transition

Loos Bar, originally titled Kärntner Bar  or American Bar, opened in 1908 as one of the first »American Bars« in Vienna. Thus, the bar was part of a movement that first introduced Viennese nightlife to American-style cocktail bars and British gentlemen’s clubs. Furthermore, the bar created an alternative space to the more sophisticated coffee house. Originally, Loos Bar  was exclusive to male visitors, but this changed just five weeks after the opening. As Claire Loos, Adolf Loos’ third wife, describes in her memoirs: »The women forced their way in.«

The beginning of the 20th century in Vienna was characterized not only by political and social tensions, but also by different artistic movements and conflicts. While the Wiener Werkstätte aesthetic dominated in art and architecture, Loos Bar exhibited avant-garde approaches in its design, which, however, could not entirely escape the influence of the Secessionists.

 

Photo Credit: Matthias Obergruber

Structures and breaks

Entering Loos Bar, an illuminated mosaic sign first tilts down from diagonally above at the entrance, revealing the words Kärntner Bar  against the backdrop of the U.S. flag. Four marble columns frame the windows and entrance, separating the outside from the inside of the bar. Inside, checkerboard-pattern floor tiles meet square panels of onyx over the entryway, a coffered ceiling, and dark marble columns that evenly texture the space. At approximately six by four meters, an intimate atmosphere is created through dark color schemes, targeted lighting and materials in their original state. While mahogany wood clads the lower half of the walls, the upper half of the room breaks with the limited space through visual expansiveness. The graphically uniform marble frieze repeats seemingly endlessly in the mirror covering. The furnishings consists of the bar that runs the length of the room, low seating in green leather and eye-catching tables with octagonal plates made from illuminated frosted glass.

Marianne Kohn, known as the »Queen of the Night« and manager of the Viennese cult club U4 in the Eighties, took over Loos Bar  as managing director in 1995. Under her management, the bar established itself as one of Vienna’s most important cultural spots – Kohn herself describes it as an institution. There is only one bar in Vienna, people tend to say about Loos Bar. For one thing, its unique position is due to the incomparable atmosphere in a confined space, and then also to the diverse clientele, which ranges from well-known personalities and architecture lovers to curious admirers. [LM]

 

Photo Credit: Robin Roger Peller

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