Müller house, Prague. CC BY 3.0 Hpschaefer.
“To live is to leave traces,” writes Walter Benjamin, in discussing the recent birth of the interior. “The interior emphasizes them. An abundance of covers and protectors, liners and cases are devised, on which the traces of objects and everyday use are imprinted. The traces of the occupants also leave their impression on the interior. The detective story that follows these traces comes into being. . . . The criminals of the first detective novels are neither gentlemen nor Apaches, but private members of the bourgeoisie.” 
There is an interior in the detective novel. But can there be a detective story of the interior itself, of the hidden mechanisms by which space is constructed as interior? Where would the traces be imprinted? What clues do we have to go on?
A little-known fragment of Le Corbusier’s Urbanisme (1925) reads as follows: “Loos told me one day: ‘A cultivated man does not look out of the window; his window is made of ground glass; it is there only to let the light in, not to let the gaze pass through.’”  This quotation points to a conspicuous, yet conspicuously ignored feature of Adolf Loos’s houses: not only are all the windows either opaque or covered with sheer curtains, but the organization of the spaces and the disposition of the built-in furniture (the immeuble) seems to hinder access to them. A sofa is often placed at the foot of a window so that the occupants sit with their backs to it, facing the room. This even happens with those windows that look into other interior spaces—as in the sitting area of the ladies’ lounge of the Müller house in Prague, of 1930. Moreover, upon entering a Loos interior one is continually turning around to face the space one has just moved through, rather than the space ahead or the space outside. With each turn, each look backward, our progress is halted. Looking at the photographs, it is easy to imagine oneself in these precise, static positions, usually indicated by the unoccupied furniture, and further to imagine that it is intended that these spaces be comprehended by occupation, by using the furniture, by “entering” the photograph, by inhabiting it. 
In the Moller house (Vienna, 1928) there is a raised sitting area off the living room, with a sofa set against the window. Although one cannot see out of the window, its presence is strongly felt. The bookshelves surrounding the sofa and the light coming from behind it suggest a comfortable nook for reading. But comfort in this space is more than just sensual, for there is also a psychological dimension. The position of the sofa, and its occupant against the light, produces a sense of security. Any intruder ascending the stairs from the entrance (itself a rather dark passage) and entering the living room would take a few moments to recognize anyone sitting on the sofa. Conversely, any intrusion would soon be detected by a person occupying this area, just as an actor entering the stage is immediately seen by a spectator in a theater box.
Loos observed that “the smallness of a theater box would be unbearable if one could not look out into the large space beyond.”  Both Henry Kulka and Ludwig Münz interpret this as a reference to the economy of space provided by the Raumplan, but they have overlooked its psychological dimension. For Loos, the theater box exists at the intersection between claustrophobia and agoraphobia.  This spatial-psychological device could also be read in terms of power, regimes of control inside the house. The raised sitting area of the Moller house provides the occupant with a vantage point overlooking the interior. Comfort in this space is related to both intimacy and the control of the scene.
This area is the most intimate of the sequence of living spaces, yet, paradoxically, it occupies a volume that projects from the street facade, just above the front entrance and, moreover, it corresponds with the largest window on this elevation. A person inside the space can easily see anyone crossing the threshold of the house (while screened by the curtain) and monitor any movement in the interior (while “screened” by the backlighting).
In this space, the eye is turned toward the interior. The window does not frame a view but is merely a source of light. The only exterior view that would be possible from this position requires that the gaze travel the whole depth of the house, from the alcove to the living room to the music room, which opens on to the back garden. Thus, the exterior view depends upon a view of the interior.
The look folded inward upon itself can be traced in other Loos interiors. In the Müller house (Prague, 1930), for instance, there is an increasing sense of privacy in the sequence of spaces articulated around the staircase, from the drawing room, to the dining room and study, to the “ladies’ room” (Zimmer der Dame) with its raised sitting area, which occupies the center, or “heart,” of the house. But this space has a window that looks on to the living space. Here, too, the most intimate room resembles a theater box, and overlooks the entrance to the communal area of the house, so that any intruder could easily be seen. Likewise, the view of the exterior, toward the city, from this “theater box,” is contained within a view of the interior. There is also a more direct and more private route to the sitting area, a staircase rising from the entrance of the drawing room. Suspended thus in the middle of the house, this space assumes a dual character: it has a “sacred” quality, but it is also a point of control. Paradoxically a sense of comfort is produced by two seemingly opposing conditions, intimacy and control.
This is hardly the idea of comfort that is associated with the nineteenth-century interior as described by Walter Benjamin in his essay “Louis-Philippe, or the Interior.”  In Loos’s interiors the sense of security is not achieved by simply turning one’s back on the exterior and becoming immersed in a private world—“a box in the world theater,” to use Benjamin’s metaphor. It is no longer the house that is a theater box; there is a theater box inside the house, overlooking the internal social spaces, so that the inhabitants become both actors in and spectators of family life—involved in, yet detached from their own space.  The classical distinctions between inside and outside, private and public, object and subject, are no longer valid.
Traditionally, the theater box provided for the privileged a private space within the dangerous public realm, by reestablishing the boundaries between inside and outside. When Loos designed a theater in 1898 (an unrealized project), he omitted the boxes, arguing that they “didn’t suit a modern auditorium.”  Thus he removed the box from the public theater, only to insert it into the “private theater” of the house. The public realm had entered the private house by way of the social spaces,  and the domestic theater box represented a last stand of resistance to this intrusion.
The theater boxes in the Moller and Müller houses are spaces marked as female, the domestic character of the furniture contrasting with that of the adjacent “male” space, the library. In these, the leather sofas, the desks, the chimney, the mirrors represent a “public space” within the house—the office and the club invading the interior. But it is an invasion that is confined to an enclosed room—a space that belongs to the sequence of social spaces within the house, yet does not engage with them. As Münz notes, the library is a “reservoir of quietness” “set apart from the household traffic,” whereas the raised alcove of the Moller house and the Zimmer der Dame of the Müller house not only overlook the social spaces but are positioned at the end of the sequence, on the threshold of the private, the secret, the upper rooms, where sexuality is sequestered. At the intersection of the visible and the invisible, women act as the guardians of the unspeakable. 
But the theater box is a device that both protects its occupants and draws attention to them. Münz describes entry into the Moller house thus: “Within, entering from one side, one’s gaze travels in the opposite direction till it rests on the light, pleasant alcove, raised above the living room floor. Now we are really inside the house.”  That is, the intruder has penetrated the house only when his/her gaze strikes this most intimate space, turning the occupant into a silhouette against the light.  The “voyeur” in the “theater box” has become the object of another’s gaze; she is caught in the act of seeing, entrapped in the very moment of control.  In framing a view, the theater box also frames the viewer. It is impossible to abandon the space, let alone leave the house, without being seen by those over whom control is being exerted. Object and subject exchange places. Whether there is actually a person behind either gaze is irrelevant:
“I can feel myself under the gaze of someone whose eyes I do not even see, not even discern. All that is necessary is for something to signify to me that there may be others there. This window, if it gets a bit dark, and if l have reasons for thinking that there is someone behind it, is straightaway a gaze. From the moment this gaze exists, I am already something other, in that I feel myself becoming an object for the gaze of others. But in this position, which is a reciprocal one, others also know that I am an object who knows himself to be seen.” 
Architecture is not simply a platform that accommodates the viewing subject. It is a viewing mechanism that produces the subject. It precedes and frames its occupant.
The theatricality that we sense in interiors by Loos does not depend on the buildings alone. Many of the photographs, for instance, tend to give the impression that someone is just about to enter the room, that a piece of domestic drama is about to be enacted. The characters absent from the stage, from the scenery, and from its props—the conspicuously placed pieces of furniture—are conjured up.  One of the few published photographs of a Loos interior that includes a human figure is a view of the entrance to the drawing room of the Rufer house. The photograph shows a barely visible male figure who is about to cross the threshold through a peculiar opening in the wall and play his part.  But it is precisely at this threshold, slightly off stage, that the actor/intruder is most vulnerable, for the window of a reading space looks down on to the back of his neck. Traditionally considered to be the prototype of the Raumplan, the Rufer house also contains the prototype of the theater box.
In his writings on the question of the house, Loos describes a number of domestic melodramas. In Das Andere, for example, he wrote:
“Try to describe how birth and death, the screams of pain for an aborted son, the death rattle of a dying mother, the last thoughts of a young woman who wishes to die . . . unfold and unravel in a room by Olbrich! Just an image: the young woman who has put herself to death. She is lying on the wooden floor. One of her hands still holds the smoking revolver. On the table a letter, the farewell letter. Is the room in which this is happening of good taste? Who will ask that? It is just a room!” 
One could well ask why it is only the women who die and cry and commit suicide. But, leaving aside the question for the moment, Loos is saying that the house must not be conceived of as a work of art, that there is a difference between a house and a “series of decorated rooms.” The house should be a stage for the theater of the family, a place where people are born and live and die. It is an environment, or stage, whereas a work of art presents itself as an object to a detached viewer.
In order to breakdown the condition of the house as an object, Loos radically convolutes the relation between inside and outside. One of the strategies he employs is to use mirrors which, as Kenneth Frampton has pointed out, appear to be openings, and openings that can be mistaken for mirrors.  Even more enigmatic is the placement, in the dining room of the Steiner house, of a mirror just beneath the window to the exterior.  Here, again, the opaque window is only a source of light. The mirror, placed at eye level, returns the gaze to the interior, to the lamp above the dining table and the objects on the sideboard, recalling Freud’s studio in Berggasse 19, where a small framed mirror hanging against the window reflects the lamp on Freud’s work-table. In Freudian theory the mirror represents the psyche, thus the reflection in the mirror is also a self-portrait projected on to the outside world. The placement of Freud’s mirror on the boundary between interior and exterior undermines the status of the boundary as a fixed limit. Similarly, Loos’s mirrors promote the interplay between reality and illusion, between the actual and the virtual, undermining the status of the boundary between inside and outside.
This ambiguity between inside and outside is intensified by the separation of sight from the other senses. Physical and visual connections between the spaces in Loos’s houses are often separated. In the Rufer house, a wide opening establishes a visual relation between the raised dining room and the music room, which does not correspond to the physical connection. At the rear of the dining room is a mirror that returns the eye to the interior. Similarly, in the Moller house there appears to be no way of entering the dining room from the music room, which is seventy centimeters below; the only means of direct access is to unfold steps hidden in the timber base of the dining room.  This strategy of “framing” is repeated in many other of Loos’s houses. Openings are often screened by curtains, enhancing the stage-like effect. It should also be noted that it is usually the dining room that acts as the stage, and the music room as the space for spectators. What is being framed is the traditional scene of everyday domestic life.
But the breakdown of the distinction between inside and outside, and the split between sight and touch, is not located exclusively in the domestic scene. It also occurs in Loos’s project of 1928 for a house in Paris for Josephine Baker—a house that excludes family life. However, in this instance the “split” acquires a different meaning. The house contains a large top-lit, double-height swimming pool entered at the second-floor level. Kurt Ungers, who collaborated with Loos on this project, wrote:
“The reception rooms on the first floor arranged round the pool—a large salon with an extensive top-lit vestibule, a small lounge, and the circular cafe—indicate that this was intended not solely for private use but as a miniature entertainment center. On the first floor, low passages surround the pool. They are lit by the wide windows visible on the outside, and from them, thick, transparent windows are let into the side of the pool, so that it was possible to watch swimming and diving in its crystal-clear water, flooded with light from above: an underwater revue, so to speak.” 
As in Loos’s previous houses, the eye is directed toward the interior, which turns its back on the outside world; but the subject and object of the gaze have been reversed. The inhabitant of the house—Josephine Baker—is now the primary object, and the visitor—the guest—is the looking subject. The most intimate space—the swimming pool, paradigm of a sensual space—occupies the center of the house, and is also the focus of the visitor’s gaze. As Ungers writes, “entertainment in this house consists of looking.”  But between this gaze and its object—the body—is a screen of glass and water, which renders the body inaccessible. The swimming pool is lit from above, by a skylight, so that inside it the windows would appear as reflective surfaces, impeding the swimmer’s view of the visitors standing in the passages. This view is the opposite of the panoptic view of a theater box, corresponding, instead, to that of a peephole, where subject and object cannot simply exchange places.” 
The mise-en-scène in the Josephine Baker house recalls Christian Metz’s description of the mechanism of voyeurism in cinema:
“It is even essential . . . that the actor should behave as though he were not seen (and therefore as though he did not see his voyeur), that he should go about his ordinary business and pursue his existence as foreseen by the fiction of the film, that he should carry on with his antics in a closed room, taking the utmost care not to notice that a glass rectangle has been set into one of the walls, and that he lives in a kind of aquarium.” 
But the architecture of this house is more complicated. For example, the swimmer “might also see the reflection, framed by the window, of her own slippery body superimposed on the eyes of the shadowy figure of the spectator, whose lower body is obscured by the frame. Thus, she sees herself being looked at by another: a narcissistic gaze superimposed on a voyeuristic gaze. This erotic complex of looks in which she is suspended is inscribed in each of the four windows opening on to the swimming pool. Each, even if there is no one looking through it, constitutes, from both sides, a gaze.
The split between sight and the other physical senses that can be detected in Loos’s interiors is explicit in his definition of architecture. In his essay “The Principle of Cladding” he writes: “the artist, the architect, first senses the effect that he intends to realize and sees the rooms he wants to create in his mind’s eye. He senses the effect that he wishes to exert upon the spectator: . . . homeyness if a residence.”  For Loos, the interior is space before the analytical distancing that language entails—pre-Oedipal space, space as felt. We sense it as we might a fabric, with our eyes averted, as if the sight of it would constitute an obstacle to the sensation.
Loos seems to have reversed the Cartesian schism between the perceptual and the conceptual. Where Descartes deprived the body of its status as the seat of valid and transmissible knowledge (“In sensation, in the experience that derives from it, harbors error.” ), Loos privileges the bodily experience of space over its mental construction: the architect first senses the space, then he visualizes it.
For Loos, architecture is a form of covering, but it is not the walls that are covered. Structure plays a secondary role, and its primary function is to hold the covering in place:
“The architect’s general task is to provide a warm and livable space. Carpets are warm and livable. He decides for this reason to spread out one carpet on the floor and to hang up four to form the four walls. But you cannot build a house out of carpets. Both the carpet on the floor and the tapestry on the wall require a structural frame to hold them in the correct place. To invent this frame is the architect’s second task.” 
The spaces in Loos’s interiors cover the occupant as clothes cover the body (each occasion has its appropriate “fit”). Jose Quetglas has written: “Would the same pressure on the body be acceptable in a raincoat as in a gown, in jodhpurs or in pajama pants? . . . All the architecture of Loos can be explained as the envelope of a body.” From Lina Loos’s bedroom—“this bag of fur and cloth”—to Josephine Baker’s swimming pool—“this transparent bowl of water”—the houses of Loos always contain a “warm bag in which to wrap oneself.” It is an “architecture of pleasure,” an “architecture of the womb.” 
But space in Loos’s architecture is not just felt. It is significant in the quotation above that Loos refers to the inhabitant as a spectator, for his definition of architecture is really a definition of theatrical architecture. The “clothes” have become so detached from the body that they require structural support independent of it. They become a “stage set.” The inhabitant is both “covered” by the space and “detached” from it. The tension between the sensation of comfort and comfort as control disrupts the role of the house as a traditional form of representation. More precisely, the traditional system of representation, within which the building is but one of many overlapping mechanisms, is dislocated.
The status of the architectural drawing, for example, is radically transformed. Loos writes in his essay “Architecture” that “the mark of a building which is truly established is that it remains ineffective in two dimensions.”  By “ineffective” he means that the drawing cannot convey the “sensation” of space as this involves not only sight but also the other physical senses.  Loos invented the Raumplan as a means of conceptualizing space as it is felt, but, revealingly, he left no theoretical definition of it. As Kulka noted, he “will make many changes during construction. He will walk through the space and say: ‘I do not like the height of this ceiling, change it!” The idea of the Raumplan “made it difficult to finish a scheme before construction allowed the visualization of the space as it was.” But Loos was not simply setting sensual experience against abstraction; he was dealing with the untranslatability of languages. In “Architecture” he writes:
“Every work of art possesses such strong internal laws that it can only appear in its own form. . . . If I could erase the most powerful architectural phenomenon, the Palazzo Pitti, from the memory of my contemporaries and then have it drawn by the best draughtsman to enter in a competition scheme, the jury will throw me into a mad house.” 
Because a drawing cannot convey the tension between sight and the other senses, it cannot adequately “translate” a building. For Loos the architect’s drawing was a regrettable consequence of the division of labor, and it could never be more than a mere technical statement, “the attempt [by the architect] to make himself understood by the craftsman carrying out the work.” 
Loos’s critique of the photography of architecture and its dissemination through architectural journals was based on the same principle, that it is impossible to represent a spatial effect or a sensation: “It is my greatest pride that the interiors which I have created are totally ineffective in photographs. I am proud of the fact that the inhabitants of my spaces do not recognize their own apartments in the photographs, just as the owner of a Monet painting would not recognize it at Kastan’s. I have to forego the honor of being published in the various architectural magazines. I have been denied the satisfaction of my vanity.” 
The inhabitants of a house perceive it as an environment, not as an object, whereas a photograph of a house published in an architectural journal requires a different kind of attention, which presupposes a certain distance and is therefore closer to the contemplation of a work of art in a museum. Loos interiors are experienced as a frame for action rather than as an object in a frame.
There is, nevertheless, a certain consistency in photographs of Loos’s interiors, which seems to suggest that he had some involvement in their production. The presence of certain objects, such as the Egyptian stool, in nearly every interior view has been noted by Kenneth Frampton. Loos also seems to have adjusted the photographs so as to better represent his own idea of the house. The photographic archives of the images in Kulka’s book reveal a few tricks: the view through the “horizontal window” in a photograph of the Khuner villa (near Payerbach, 1930) is a photomontage,  as is the violin in the cupboard of the music room of the Moller house. A story was added to the photograph of the street facade of the Tristan Tzara house (Paris, 1926–27), in order to make it more like the original project, and numerous “distracting” domestic objects (lamps, rugs, plants) were erased throughout. These interventions suggest that the images were carefully controlled and that the photographs of Loos’s buildings cannot simply be considered as a form of representation that is subordinate to the building itself.
For example, Loos often frames a spatial volume, as in the bedroom of the Khuner villa or the fireplace nook of his own apartment. This strategy has the effect of flattening the space seen through the frame, making it seem more like a photograph. As with the device of obscuring the difference between openings and mirrors, this optical effect is enhanced, if not produced, by the photographs themselves, which are taken only from the precise point where the effect occurs.  Loos’s critique of the photographic representation of architecture should not be mistaken for a nostalgia for the “complete” object. What he achieves in this play with reflective surfaces and framing devices is a critique of classical representation. Such framing devices undermine the referential status of the photographic image and its claim of transparently representing reality. The photographs draw the viewer’s attention to the artifice involved in the photographic process. Photographs (like drawings) are not representations in a traditional sense; they literally construct their object.
Loos’s critique of traditional notions of architectural representation is bound up with the phenomenon of an emergent metropolitan culture. He recognized social institutions as systems of representation, and his attacks on the family, Viennese society, professional organizations, and the state, launched in Das Andere, were implicit in his architecture. Architecture, in all its possible manifestations—drawing, photograph, text, or building—is, after all, only a practice of representation.
The subject of Loos’s architecture is the citizen of the metropolis, immersed in its abstract relationships and striving to assert his independence and individuality in the face of the leveling power of society. This battle, according to Georg Simmel, is the modern equivalent of primitive man’s struggle with nature, clothing is one of the battlefields, and fashion is one of its strategies.  He writes: “The commonplace is good form in society. . . . It is bad taste to make one’s self conspicuous through some individual, singular expression. . . . Obedience to the standards of the general public in all externals [is] the conscious and desired means of reserving their personal feelings and their taste.”  In other words, fashion is a mask that protects the intimacy of the metropolitan individual.
Loos writes about fashion in precisely such terms: “We have become more refined, more subtle. Primitive men had to differentiate themselves by various colors, modern man needs his clothes as a mask. His individuality is so strong that it can no longer be expressed in terms of items of clothing. . . . His own inventions are concentrated on other things.”  Fashion and etiquette, in Western culture, constitute the language of behavior, a language that does not convey feelings but acts as a form of protection—a mask. As Loos writes, “How should one dress? Modern. One is modernly dressed when one stands out the least.”
Significantly, Loos writes about the exterior of the house in the same terms that he writes about fashion:
“When I was finally given the task of building a house, I said to myself: in its external appearance, a house can only have changed as much as a dinner jacket. Not a lot therefore. . . . I had to become significantly simpler. I had to substitute the golden buttons with black ones. The house has to look inconspicuous.” 
“The house does not have to tell anything to the exterior; instead, all its richness must be manifest in the interior.” 
Loos seems to establish a radical difference between interior and exterior, which reflects the split between the private life and the social life of the metropolitan being: outside, the realm of exchange, money, and masks; inside, the realm of the inalienable, the nonexchangeable, and the unspeakable. Moreover, this split between inside and outside, between senses and sight, is gender-loaded. The exterior of the house, Loos writes, is masculine and should resemble a dinner jacket, a male mask, as the unified self, protected by a seamless facade. The interior is the scene of sexuality and reproduction (childbirth, sickness, death), all the things that would divide the subject in the outside world. However, this dogmatic division in Loos’s writings between inside and outside is undermined by his architecture.
The suggestion that the exterior is merely a mask that clads some preexisting interior is misleading, for the interior and exterior are constructed simultaneously. When he was designing the Rufer house, for example, Loos used a dismountable model that would allow the internal and external distributions to be worked out simultaneously. The interior is not simply the space enclosed by the facades. A multiplicity of boundaries are established, and the tension between inside and outside resides in the walls that divide them, its status is disturbed by Loos’s displacement of traditional forms of representation. To address the interior is to address the splitting of the wall.
Take, for instance, the displacement of drawing conventions in Loos’s four pencil drawings of the elevation of the Rufer house. Each one shows not only the outlines of the facade but also, in dotted lines, the horizontal and vertical divisions of the interior, the position of the rooms, the thickness of the floors and the walls, while the windows are represented as black squares with no frame. These are drawings that depict neither the inside nor the outside, but the membrane between them: between the representation of habitation and the mask is the wall. Loos’s subject inhabits this wall, creating a sense of tension at the limit.
This is not simply a metaphor. In every Loos house there is a point of maximum tension, and it always coincides with a threshold or boundary. In the Moller house it is the raised alcove protruding from the street facade, where the occupant is ensconced in the security of the interior yet detached from it. The subject of Loos’s houses is a stranger, an intruder in his own space. In Josephine Baker’s house, the wall of the swimming pool is punctuated by windows. It has been pulled apart, leaving a narrow passage surrounding the pool, and splitting each of the windows into an internal window and an external window. The visitor literally inhabits this wall, which enables him to look both inside, at the pool, and outside, at the city, but he is neither inside nor outside the house. In the dining room of the Steiner house, the gaze directed toward the window is folded back by the mirror beneath it, transforming the interior into an exterior view or scene. The subject has been dislocated; unable to occupy the inside of the house securely, it can only occupy the insecure margin between window and mirror.
This tampering with limits is intensified in Loos’s Goldman & Salatsch menswear store in Vienna of 1898. Occupying the intersection between body and language, between the space of domesticity and that of social exchange, of economy, the interior of the shop exists halfway between the private universe of the interior and the outside world. Goldman & Salatsch provided its clients with underwear and external accessories such as ties, hats, and walking sticks—that is, with the most intimate garments, as well as the objects that support (literally and symbolically) the body as a figure (the body’s props, its prostheses). In this store the most intimate garments are being exhibited and sold; they have abandoned the sphere of domesticity for the sphere of exchange. Conversely, the objects that most obviously represent the site of exchange, the mask that safeguards the coherence of the human figure in the public realm, have entered the interior.
A photograph published in Das Interieur in 1901 shows a space clad with tall rectangular mirrors set in dark frames. Some of the mirrors are fixed, others are cupboard-doors, and yet others coincide with openings into other spaces. There are two male figures, one a client emerging from the intimate atmosphere of the fitting-room, the other an accountant who has entered from the exterior world of finance. They both occupy the same wall, but the nature of that occupation is unclear. One of them seems to be standing at the threshold of an opening, his image reflected on the mirror-door and perhaps again in the cupboard door to the right. Even more enigmatic is the other figure, for only the upper part of the body is visible, behind bars, as if confined within a cage. Even now that the plan of the shop has been reconstructed, it is impossible to establish the actual position of these figures within the space. One of them stands beside the image of his back—or is it the other way around? The depth of his body, its material presence, has been erased. Other reflections appear throughout the space, without any body to ground them. This dissolution of the figures into the wall surfaces questions not only their position but also that of the person viewing the photograph.
Furthermore, the illusion of Loos as a man in control of his own work, an undivided subject—an illusion I myself have fostered in this article—is also rendered suspect. In fact, he is constructed, controlled, and fractured by his own work. Take the idea of the Raumplan, for example: Loos constructs a space (without having completed the working drawings) and then allows himself to be manipulated by this construction. Like the occupants of his houses, he is both inside and outside the object. He is not simply an author; the object has as much authority over him as he has over the object. 
The critic is no exception to this phenomenon. Incapable of detachment from the object, the critic simultaneously produces a new object and is produced by it. Criticism that presents itself as a new interpretation of an existing object is in fact constructing a completely new object. The Loos of the 1960s, the austere pioneer of the modern movement, was replaced in the 1970s by another Loos, all sensuality, and in the 1980s by Loos the classicist. Each era creates a new Loos. On the other hand, there are the readings that claim to be purely objective inventories, the standard monographs on Loos—Münz and Gustav Künstler in the 1960s and Benedetto Gravagnuolo in the 1980s, but they are thrown off balance by the very object of their control. Nowhere is this alienation more evident than in their interpretations of the house for Josephine Baker.
Münz, otherwise a wholly circumspect writer, begins his appraisal of this house with the exclamation “Africa: that is the image conjured up more or less firmly by a contemplation of the model,” but he then confesses not to know why he invoked this image.  In his attempt to analyze the formal characteristics of the project, all he can manage is the opinion that “they look strange and exotic.”  What is most striking in this passage is the uncertainty as to whether Münz is referring to the model of the house or to Josephine Baker herself. He seems unable either to detach himself from this project or to enter it.
Like Münz, Gravagnuolo finds himself writing things without knowing why, reprimands himself, and then attempts to regain control:
“First there is the charm of this gay architecture. It is not just the dichromatism of the facades but—as we shall see—the spectacular nature of the internal articulation that determines its refined and seductive character. Rather than abandon oneself to the pleasure of suggestions, it is necessary to take this ‘toy’ to pieces with analytic detachment if one wishes to understand the mechanism of composition.” 
He then institutes a regime of analytical categories (“the architectural introversion,” “the revival of dichromatism,” “the plastic arrangement”), which he uses nowhere else in his book. And he concludes:
“The water flooded with light, the refreshing swim, the voyeuristic pleasure of underwater exploration—these are the carefully balanced ingredients of this gay architecture. But what matters more is that the invitation to the spectacular suggested by the theme of the house for a cabaret star is handled by Loos with discretion and intellectual detachment, more as a poetic game, involving the mnemonic pursuit of quotations and allusions to the Roman spirit, than as a vulgar surrender to the taste of Hollywood.” 
The insistence on detachment, on reestablishing the distance between critic and object of criticism, architect and building, subject and object, is of course indicative of the obvious fact that Münz and Gravagnuolo have failed to separate themselves from the object. The image of Josephine Baker offers pleasure, but it also represents the threat of castration posed by the “other”: the image of woman in water—liquid, elusive, unable to be controlled or pinned down. One way of dealing with this threat is fetishization.
The Baker house represents a shift in the status of the female body. The theater box of the domestic interiors places the woman’s body against the light. She appears as a silhouette, mysterious and desirable, but the backlighting also draws attention to her as a physical volume, a bodily presence within the house, with its own interior. She is both in control of the interior and trapped within it. In the Baker house, the female body is produced as spectacle, the object of an erotic gaze, an erotic system of looks. The exterior of the house cannot be read as a mask designed to conceal its interior; it is a tattooed surface that neither conceals nor reveals. This fetishization of the surface is repeated in the “interior.” In the passages, the visitors consume Baker’s body as a surface adhering to the windows. Like the body, the house is all surface; it does not simply have an interior.
 Walter Benjamin, “Paris Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” in Reflections, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), 155–56.
 “Loos m’affirmait un jour: ‘Un homme cultive ne regardé pas par la fenêtre; sa fenêtre est en verre dépoli; elle n’est la que pour donner de la lumière, non pour laisser passer le regard’.” Le Corbusier, Urbanisme (Paris, 1925), 174. In Frederick Etchells’s 1929 translation, published under the title The City of To-morrow and its Planning (London: J. Rodker, 1929), 185–86, the sentence reads thus: “A friend once said to me: ‘No intelligent man ever looks out of his window; his window is made of ground glass; its only function is to let in light, not to look out of.’” Was Loos a nobody for Etchells, or is this just another example of the kind of misunderstanding that led to the mistranslation of the title of the book? Perhaps it was Le Corbusier himself who decided to erase Loos’s name. Of a different order, but no less symptomatic, is the mistranslation of “laisser passer le regard” (to let the gaze pass through) as “to look out of,” as if to resist the idea that the gaze might take on a life of its own.
 The perception of space is produced by its representations; in this sense, built space has no more authority than do drawings, photographs, or descriptions.
 Ludwig Münz and Gustav Künstler, Der Architekt Adolf Loos (Vienna: A. Schroll 1964), 130–31. English translation, Adolf Loos: Pioneer of Modern Architecture, trans. Harold Meek (London: Thames & Hudson, 1966), 148: “We may call to mind an observation by Adolf Loos, handed down to us by Henry Kulka, that the smallness of a theater box would be unbearable if one could not look out into the large space beyond; hence it was possible to save space, even in the design of small houses, by linking a high main room with a low annex.”
 Georges Teyssot has noted that “the Bergsonian ideas of the room as a refuge from the world are meant to be conceived as the ‘juxtaposition’ between claustrophobia and agoraphobia,” a dialectic already found in Rilke. Georges Teyssot, “The Disease of the Domicile,” Assemblage 6 (1988): 95.
 “Under Louis-Philippe the private citizen enters the stage of history. . . . For the private person, living space becomes, for the first time, antithetical to the place of work. The former is constituted by the interior; the office is its complement. The private person who squares his account with reality in his office demands that the interior be maintained in his illusions. This need is all the more pressing since he has no intention of extending his commercial considerations into social ones. In shaping his private environment he represses both. From this spring the phantasmagorias of the interior. For the private individual the private environment represents the universe. In it he gathers remote places and the past. His drawing room is a box in the World theater.” Walter Benjamin, “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” 154–56.
 This calls to mind Freud’s paper “A Child is Being Beaten” (1919), where, as Victor Burgin has written, “the subject is positioned in the audience and on stage—where it is both aggressor and aggressed.” Victor Burgin, “Geometry and Abjection,” AA Files 15 (Summer 1987), 38. The mise-en-scène of Loos’s interiors appears to coincide with that of Freud’s unconscious. Sigmund Freud, “A Child is Being Beaten: A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversions,” The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. XVII, 175–204. In relation to Freud’s paper, see also: Jacqueline Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986), 209–10.
 Münz and Künstler, Der Architekt Adolf Loos, 36.
 See my note 6. There are no social spaces in the Benjaminian interior. He writes: “In shaping his private environment he [the private person] represses both [commercial and social considerations].” Benjamin’s interior is established in opposition to the office. But, as Laura Mulvey has noted, “the workplace is no threat to the home. The two maintain each other in a safe, mutually dependent polarization. The threat comes from elsewhere, . . . the city.” Laura Mulvey, “Melodrama Inside and Outside the Home,” in Visual and Other Pleasures (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1989), 70.
 In a criticism of Benjamin’s account of the bourgeois interior, Mulvey writes: “Benjamin does not mention the fact that the private sphere, the domestic, is an essential adjunct to the bourgeois marriage and is thus associated with woman, not simply as female, but as wife and mother. It is the mother who guarantees the privacy of the home by maintaining its respectability, as essential a defense against incursion or curiosity as the encompassing walls of the home itself.” Mulvey, “Melodrama Inside and Outside the Home,” 70.
 Münz and Künstler, Der Architekt Adolf Loos, 149.
 Upon reading an earlier version of this manuscript Jane Weinstock pointed out that this silhouette can be understood as a screened woman, a veiled woman, and therefore as the traditional object of desire.
 In her response to this paper during the conference Silvia Kolbowski pointed out that the woman in the raised sitting area of the Moller house could also be seen from behind, through the window to the street, and therefore she is also vulnerable in her moment of control.
 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book I, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953–1954, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. John Forrester (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 215. In this passage Lacan is referring to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.
 There is an instance of such personification of furniture in one of Loos’s most autobiographical texts, “Interiors in the Rotonda” (1898) where he writes: “Every piece of furniture, every thing, every object had a story to tell, a family history.” Adolf Loos, Spoken Into the Void: Collected Essays 1897–1900, trans. Jane O. Newman and John H. Smith (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), 24.
 This photograph was published only recently. Kulka’s monograph (a work in which Loos was involved) presents exactly the same view, the same photograph, but without a human figure. The strange opening in the wall pulls the viewer toward the void, toward the missing actor (a tension that the photographer no doubt felt the need to conceal). This tension constructs a subject, as it does in the built-in couch of the raised area of the Moller house, or the window of the Zimmer der Dame overlooking the drawing room of the Müller house.
 Adolf Loos, Das Andere 1 (1903), 9.
 Kenneth Frampton, unpublished lecture, Columbia University, autumn 1986, New York.
 It should also be noted that this window is an exterior window, as opposed to the other window, which opens on to a threshold space.
 The reflective surface in the rear of the dining room of the Moller house (halfway between an opaque window and a mirror) and the window in the rear of the music room “mirror” each other, not only in their locations and their proportions, but even in the way the plants are disposed in two tiers. All of this produces the illusion, in the photograph, that the threshold between these two spaces is virtual—impassable, impenetrable.
 Letter from Kurt Ungers to Ludwig Münz, quoted in Münz and Künstler, Der Architekt Adolf Loos, 195. Author’s emphasis.
 In relation to the model of the peep show and the structure of voyeurism, see Victor Burgin’s project Zoo. Lisa Tickner, “Sexuality and/in Representation: Five British Artists,” in Difference: On Representation and Sexuality, ed. Kate Linker (New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984).
 Christian Metz, “A Note on Two Kinds of Voyeurism,” in The Imaginary Signifier (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), 96.
 Adolf Loos, “The Principle of Cladding” (1898), in Loos, Spoken into the Void, 66. Author’s emphasis.
 Franco Rella, Miti e figure del moderno (Parma, 1981), 13 and note 1. René Descartes, letter to Hyperaspistes, August 1641. René Descartes, Correspondance avec Arnauld et Morus, ed. Geneviève Lewis (Paris, 1933).
 Adolf Loos, “The Principle of Cladding,” in Loos, Spoken into the Void, 66.
 Josep Quetglas, “Lo Placentero,” Carrer de la Ciutat 9–10 (January 1980): 2.
 Adolf Loos, “Architecture” (1910), in The Architecture of Adolf Loos, eds. Yehuda Safran and Wilfried Wang, trans. Wilfried Wang (London: Arts Council of Britian, 1985), 106.
 See, in this connection, Loos’s use of the word “effect” in other passages, for example in the fragment of “The Principle of Cladding,” in Spoken into the Void, quoted in my note: “(the) effect is the sensation that the space produces in the spectator . . . the feeling of warmth, when in his own house.”
 Loos, “Architecture,” in The Architecture of Adolf Loos, 105, 106.
 Adolf Loos, “Ornament und Erziehung” (1924) and Trotzdem (Innsbruck, 1931).
 Loos, “Architecture,” in The Architecture of Adolf Loos, 105, 106. Author’s emphasis.
 This window, the only “picture” window to appear in a Loos building, points to the difference in his work between architecture in the context of the city and that of the countryside (the Khuner villa is a country house). This difference is significant, not only in terms of architectural language, as it is often discussed (Benedetto Gravagnuolo, for example, talks of the differences between the “whitewashed masterpieces”—the Moller and Müller houses—and the Khuner illa, “so vernacular, so anachronistically alpine, so rustic.” See Benedetto Gravagnuolo, Adolf Loos [New York: Rizzoli 1982].), but in terms of the way the house relates to the exterior world, the construction of its inside and outside.
 Looking again at the photograph of the dining room of the Moller house, the illusion that the scene is virtual, that the actual view of the dining room is a mirror image of the space from which the view is taken—the music room (thus collapsing both spaces into each other)—is produced not only by the way the space is framed by the opening, but also by the frame of the photograph itself, where the threshold is made to coincide exactly with the sides of the back wall, making the dining room into a picture inside a picture.
 “The deepest conflict of modern man is not any longer in the ancient battle with nature, but in the one that the individual must fight to affirm the independence and peculiarity of his existence against the immense power of society, in his resistance to being leveled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism.” Georg Simmel, “Die Grosstadt und das Geistleben” [The Metropolis and Mental Life] in Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms, ed. Donald N. Levine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 324–29.
 Georg Simmel, “Fashion” (1904), in Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms, ed. Donald N. Levine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971).
 Loos, “Ornament and Crime” in The Architecture of Adolf Loos, 103.
 Loos, “Architecture” in The Architecture of Adolf Loos, 107.
 Loos, “Heimat Kunst” in Trotzdem (Innsbruck, 1931).
 One of the ways in which the myth of Loos as an author has been sustained is the privileging of his writings over other forms of representation. These are used to legitimize observations made about his buildings. In demonstrating the way in which these systems of representations have been displaced, I have also treated Loos’s words as a stable authority. This practice is problematic at many levels. Critics use words. By privileging words, they privilege themselves. They maintain themselves as authors (authorities). As this convention is dependent on the classical system of representation, this paper remains in complicity with the system that it claims to criticize. It is therefore necessary to reinterpret all of this material.
 Münz and Künstler, Der Architekt Adolf Loos, 195.
 Gravagnuolo, Adolf Loos, 191. Author’s emphasis.
Burdett, Richard, Jeffrey Kipnis, and John Whiteman. Strategies in Architectural Thinking. Chicago, IL: Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, 1992.
The authors of these original essays—emerging architectural and cultural critics and practitioners—are engaged in the act of writing back at architecture, heralding the prospect of new conditions, possibilities, and purposes of practice. Tying their work together is the idea that architecture and architectural thinking are inextricably cultural in construction and effect. The essayists suggest that the once supposed autonomy of architecture is an illusion, at best a suspect quality, at worst a mask on a series of transactions and false stabilities that architecture ensures in a culture. Each writer depicts certain operations of power in architecture, aiming the line of a text against it or threading the written line through architecture.
is an internationally renowned architectural historian and theorist who has written extensively on questions of architecture, art, technology, sexuality, and media. She is Founding Director of the interdisciplinary Media and Modernity Program at Princeton University and Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Architecture. Her work has been published in more than twenty-five languages and her books include: Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design (Lars Müller, 2016), The Century of the Bed (Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2015), Das Andere/The Other: A Journal for the Introduction of Western Culture into Austria (MAK Center for Art and Architecture, 2016), Manifesto Architecture: The Ghost of Mies (Sternberg, 2014), Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X–197X (Actar, 2010), Domesticity at War (MIT Press, 2007), Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media (MIT Press, 1994), and Sexuality and Space (Princeton Architectural Press, 1992). Colomina has curated a series of international exhibitions, based on archival and oral history research, as interfaces to communicate research to a wider audience with physical installations, digital platforms, and new forms of publication.