An early rendering of the Bar
Beatriz Colomina describes Loos' use of the theatre box as operating at the intersection of agoraphobia and claustrophobia. (Colomina, Beatriz. 1992 "The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism" in "Sexuality and Space" p 73 Princeton Architectural Press)
The Karntner Bar presents itself as a theatre. The leather lined theatre boxes curl protectively around their occupants breaking the patronage into cosy, conspiring groups, huddled about the gruesome uplighting cast by frosted-glass topped tables.
The bar stretches the length of the interior, maintaining a strict control, monitoring the unfolding dramas and administering the alcohol.
People entering the bar do so through the light diffusing veils at the street end. Access to the street is mediated through thick marble faced columns, doors at both ends affording an opportunity to check makeup, and costume before making the grand entrance.
Centre stage is a checkerboard promenade, running from the curtain to the theatre box against the back wall, completing a triptych by dividing the enclaves on one side from the bar on the other.
The division into three longitudinal sections rotates to become the three lateral divisions into bays articulated by the granite columns and beams. This structure framing the luxurious and sensuous fields of materials.
The finely cut onyx, over the curtained wall, the marble coffering of the ceiling bays, the mahogany of the walls, the bar and the theatre boxes.
The endless subdivision performed by the geometry, slicing up the pre-Oedipal realisation of the spatial whole, is confused by the propagation of the bar space through the use of high mounted mirror surfaces. (For Loos, the interior is pre-Oedipal space, space before the analytical distancing which language entails, space as we feel it...Colomina, Beatriz. 1992 "The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism". p 91)
The length is doubled by the mirror on the back wall, and this new space then expands sideways to infinity between mirrors lining the tops of the side walls, repeating the trick of the theatre boxes by providing an enclosed space in a larger space.
The controlled agoraphobia alleviating the claustrophobic anxiety due to the density of the spatial and material experience, the promise of fresh air in a hot and sweaty throng of drinkers.
A fisheye view of the final model
The Extension to the Karntner Bar
Extension is not to be read as supplement as Derrida would have it understood (supplement points to a lack in the supplemented). Extension here is an exploration and development of the architecture of Adolf Loos, if you like, an extrapolation of the themes and thesis presented by the Karntner Bar.
At the top of the stairs
The warm light of the stairwell beckons from where it sits between the theatre boxes on the wall opposite the bar. The curling flight of stairs escaping the controlling observation of the bar by ducking to the left down the well, slips past the split between the new bar and the old cellar. A rupture left as a revelation of the Extension's foreign origin, articulated in the differing material treatments of the dividing surfaces.
At the top of the stairs
Across the threshold, the reddish warmth of the mahogany lining quickly fades in the cool light of concrete and glass. A break in a cracked wall frames a familiar coffered ceiling, expanding through mirrors into the far wall. The illusion is revealed as the opening looks upon itself, a narcissistic moment before the observer realises that in fact they themselves are framed, observed by those people below.
At the bottom of the stairs
Green light seeps through between smooth concrete panels,the inversion of concrete and glass reversing the traditional material attributes of the frame and the window.
Glass and concrete alternate as the material surfaces of the staircase. At the far end of this corridor the staircase is physically reflected, and alluding to the mirrored surfaces found upstairs, this double leads nowhere.
Behind the cracked wall, another long thin space. Though not as high as the stairway, this tunnel extends at both ends to vanishing points in the mirror walls that define its physical extents.
Emerging from the tunnel and into the light, the bar glimpsed from above appears again, and once more, the visitor finds themselves in the limelight. Upon the brightly lit stage of the oak floor, the visitor can feel the eyes of those indiscernible figures sitting in the dark recesses of the bar.
Looking across the bar
The Extension sits inside the basement area below the Karntner Bar. The back wall of this space lines up with that of the Bar above, but the space itself extends out below the entrance and slips under the footpath.
A skylight formed of coffered milky glass allows daylight from the street to penetrate the subterranean darkness, though this is not the normal experience of this space.
At night the glow from the bar below filters into the dimly lit air of the Karntner Durchgang, prefiguring the uplighting of the light-tables in the upstairs bar.
The basement space is sliced lengthways into a series of tall thin spaces, these divisions align with the slightly skewed wall of the Karntner Bar. Mirrors are placed along the tops of these partitions. The virtual lateral space created by the interplay of the mirrors and the lateral beams that cut through the dividing walls, is woven into the longitudinal grain of the physical space, echoing the subdivision of space performed by the geometry in the bar above.
The marble ceiling of the bar above is cut in half and placed below between the cracked wall and the high flying half wall, where framed mirrors repair the damage of the transformation.
The half wall lined with lamps and mirrors casts light upon the bar below, while shading the deeper parts of the Extension, which, when combined with the sudden level change, effects a voyeuristic relationship between the lower and upper areas, similar to the relationship between the pool and the gallery of Loos' house for Josephine Baker (see Colomina, Beatriz. 1992 "The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism" pp. 89-90), except that here, there is an opportunity for the voyeur to cross over the subject-object boundary and participate in the spectacle.
Tall stools formed of mahogany and leather, modelled on those in current use in the Karntner Bar, cluster against a wall of shining brushed steel plates that wraps around a dark mahogany bar top, the props for this theatre.
Concrete planes provide a backdrop against which the spectacle of the revelry can take place.
The Extension in the spirit of Loos, provides props and scenery for the intrigues and mundanities of the clientele.
Karntner Bar (part 2)