Sofia G. Mantoni
Sometimes less is more
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Minimalism—is a word we often hear, but what does it really mean? Depending on our perspective, minimalism can pertain to many different things. For instance, the tiny house trend was partially driven by the idea of simple living. This minimalist lifestyle asks people to reflect on what’s really essential in their lives and reduce the clutter—whether physical or spiritual.
Minimalism is also important to the visual arts and design. While it may seem like a simple principle, achieving excellence in the Minimalist style requires great skill. It asks artists, designers, and architects to break things down into their essential elements, using simple forms to produce harmonious work.
Greatly influenced by Japanese culture and philosophy, Minimalism is a Western art movement that appears after World War II. Since that time, it has remained an enduring aesthetic choice that continues to appear in contemporary art and design.
We tend to think of the decades immediately following World War II as a time of exuberance and growth, with soldiers returning home by the millions, going off to college on the G.I. Bill and lining up at the marriage bureaus.
But when it came to their houses, it was a time of common sense and a belief that less truly could be more. During the Depression and the war, Americans had learned to live with less, and that restraint, in combination with the postwar confidence in the future, made small, efficient housing positively stylish.
The phrase “less is more” was actually first popularized by a German, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who like other people associated with the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States before World War II and took up posts at American architecture schools. These designers, including Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, came to exert enormous influence on the course of American architecture, but none more so than Mies.
Mies’s signature phrase means that less decoration, properly deployed, has more impact than a lot. Elegance, he believed, did not derive from abundance. Like other modern architects, he employed metal, glass and laminated wood — materials that we take for granted today but that in the 1940s symbolized the future. Mies’s sophisticated presentation masked the fact that the spaces he designed were small and efficient, rather than big and often empty.
By condensing design to its essential elements and focusing on form, light, space, and materials, Minimalist architecture achieves harmony through simplicity. Minimalist architects often bring together nature and the interior to achieve a balance between the man-made architecture and the environment. Order and harmony are obtained through the use of geometric forms, bare walls, and simple materials. In this way, “the essence of architecture” shines through in the design.
The architectural design then floods into life making it more simple and less of a burden. It is not about letting go of everything it is more about abandoning anything redundant and keeping "just the right amount" (Lagom a Scandinavian word)