Two architects, Adolf Loos in 1908 and Walter Gropius in 1924, and the architecture critic Alexander Schwab in 1930 (under the pseudonym Albert Sigrist) all advocated for the austere aesthetics of modernist architecture. For Loos, ornamentation was a sign of regression and criminality; for Gropius, removing ornamentation was a matter of honesty and of creating an architectural aesthetics for the mechanized present. For Schwab, too, the removal of ornamentation was a question of honesty, but with the goal of direct proletarian architecture, that, while still capitalist in character, nonetheless pointed beyond capitalism. Despite their differences, all three offer versions of the same line of reasoning, an understanding about architectural space as a critique of those parts of society that appear to be constituted abstractly and a celebration of those parts of society that appear to be constituted concretely. The article explores this opposition between the abstract and the concrete in this architectural discourse and attempts to account for this dualism with reference to a theory of capitalism.

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