Nice Gaff: Loos Bar

Posted November 1, 2017 in More

Originally designed in Vienna in 1907 by the Austrian architect, Adolf Loos, The Loos Bar is a diminutive speakeasy that’s fallen in and out of favour with the cultural elite over the past century. Now an ‘icon of classic modernity’ the bar can be found in surreal replica tucked away in Richard Castle’s Trinity College Dining Hall. For the artist, Fiona Hallinan, the bar has manifold interest.

“I’ve been working on a project called the Department of Ultimology with Kate Strain, a curator based in Graz in Austria, who is the Director of the Grazer Kunstverein. Two years ago we applied to the Trinity Creative Challenge with the Department of Ultimology and the idea that we would pose this hypothetical discipline that is the study of things that are ultimate or things that are at the end of their life cycle; things that are becoming endangered or extinct. We were invited to be hosted formally in a research centre in Trinity called Connect, which is a Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre that looks at future networks and communications.”

Hallinan first visited the Loos Bar in Trinity while studying History of Art and Architecture under Ellen Rowley who brought the students on a tour of architects De Blacam and Meagher’s perfect imitation, designed as part of the Senior Common Room following a fire in 1984. She was immediately struck by its wonderful oddness.

“It’s a kind of perfect replica that’s tucked away in the common room which is the area that senior staff can access. Just outside of it there’s an institutional looking coffee dock and then you step in side this bar and it’s all lit up. It’s a cube shape, the ceilings are mirrored and there is no natural light; it’s completely like stepping in to a portal because nothing could prepare you for it from the outside. I think that architecturally it’s really interesting because it’s a real replica. Kate and I went to the real Loos Bar in Vienna where the materials are very luxurious and though I’m not that familiar with what the materials are, there is something different about it as if someone is wearing an expensive coat. The one in Vienna has that feeling, whereas the one in Ireland is really well made but doesn’t the same sense of luxury material. The one in Vienna has a very large outdoor seating area so that was odd as well because it’s so public facing whereas the weirdest thing about the Loos Bar in Trinity is that you pass this coffee dock like in any university, lots of paper cups and a machine and then pass through an ordinary door.’

With echoes of erstwhile work practices, the artist sees parallels in her own work on site at the university. “One of the things that I love about it and the reason I think that it’s an ultimological thing is that it’s got this feeling of a memory of kind of a trade bar – places that people who work in a certain area go to and I think that’s something that doesn’t really fit with contemporary labour practice, like this idea that you all work together so we’re going to give you this place where you go and hangout or you go and escape or you go and talk about life outside of work,” that doesn’t seem to exist much these days.

Fiona Hallinan is an artist and researcher, and co-founder of the Department of Ultimology, a project which explores the study of extinct or endangered subjects, theories, and tools of learning in Academic contexts. Based at CONNECT, SFI centre for research into future networks and communications, she is a member of the Orthogonal Methods Group. She is the creator of a number of collaborative works involving hospitality including Fink’s, a four year long project at the Grazer Kunstverein in Austria.

Words: Jeanette Farrell

This concludes the Nice Gaff column. We’d like to thank Jeanette and all contributors for being part of it. You can see the full series online at


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