First of all, minimalist architecture is a trend in design and architecture in which the structure and composition of a work reduces its elements to achieve harmony, where large spaces are created by reducing furniture to a minimum, without excess of decorative elements to stand out for its unique geometry and simplicity using pure and simple textures with monochromatic colors.
The term minimalist architecture in Mexico was put into common use in 1965 by the British philosopher Richard Wollheim. He used it as a criticism of a burgeoning group of artists whose work could be identified by its "minimal artistic content".
The aim of minimalist architecture as an artistic movement was a reaction against the highly rigid and academic art world and a protest against an increasingly consumerist and commodified society.
What is Minimalist Architecture?
Minimalism in architecture is a word we hear very often, but what does it really mean? According to your perspective, minimalism can belong to many different disciplines. The trend of minimalist tiny houses, for example, was driven in part by the idea of obtaining simple living. This minimalist way of living allows people to reflect on what is really essential in their lives and to reduce clutter, whether physical or spiritual.
Minimalism is very important to the discipline of visual arts and design. Although it may seem like a simple concept, achieving excellence in minimalist style requires great skill. It requires artists, designers and architects to break things down to their essential elements, using simple forms to produce harmonious work.
Today, minimalism in architecture is a symbol of avant-garde and style which has become a buzzword. Whether applied to architecture, interior design, furniture, products, fashion or lifestyle, however, our social media-based understanding of minimalism does not necessarily convey much of the origins and essence of the architectural movement.
Minimalist architecture as an expression of architectural design employs simple, unadorned and undecorated design elements. The forerunners of minimalism believe that condensing the content and form of a design into the essentials is capable of revealing the true "essence in Zen minimalist architecture."
Minimalist architecture emerged from the Cubist-inspired movements of the Bauhaus. Architects such as Mies van der Rohe theorized that minimalism gave maximum power to architectural space.
However, within the 10 commandments of minimalist architecture there are those who claim that contemporary minimalism lost its radical potential as it went from being a critique to become a symbol for the everyday consumer, a luxury product. In the words of professor and critic Raskin, "The richer you are, the less you have."
The minimalist artist's penchant for raw materials and almost brutal simplicity soon found its way into the world of design and architecture and quickly became more about conformity than revolution.
Tadao Ando Precursor of Minimalism in Architecture.
By condensing design within its essential elements and focusing on form, light, space and materials, minimalist architecture achieves harmony through simplicity. Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect, is a paradigmatic example of a contemporary architect practicing ecological minimalism.
Known for his way of using smooth concrete, light and natural elements such as water, his decorated architecture is unveiled to allow for a greater emotional impact that manages to connect in essence with the user in a unique way.
An important point that minimalist architects handle is to try to achieve a combination of nature and architectural interior in order to achieve a balance between man-made architecture and the environment.
Order and harmony are achieved through the use of geometric shapes, bare walls and simple materials. In this way, "the essence of minimalist architecture" shines through in the design.
Fundamental Characteristics of Minimalist Architecture
During the history of minimalist architecture, this architecture managed to impose itself offering spaces free of consumerism and also representing a new lifestyle for many, the fundamental of this style is the simplicity of the spaces reduced to the essentials and lack of excess elements, so the characteristic slogan is the phrase "Less is more".
Minimalist Architectural Design is Composed of:
- Basic geometric shapes.
- Harmonious colors.
- Natural textures.
- Simple, limited and simple materials.
- Repetition to give a sense of order and unification.
- Simple and open spatial compositions.
- Linear components.
- Flat or almost flat ceilings.
- Large windows.
Architects of Minimalism
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
He began to focus on neoclassical architecture, but a trip to the Netherlands in 1912 led him to change his interests, following the discovery of the work of Dutch architect and urban planner Hendrik Petrus Berlage.
It is unlikely that Mies van der Rohe is considered the legitimate father of Minimalism and that he created his buildings with the idea that they were "minimalist", simply because that term was only used at a certain date.
By 1969, when he died, Mies van der Rohe had completed his most important works. The German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition (1929), represents a milestone in his career.
After the outbreak of World War I, he joined various avant-garde movements and began to carry out revolutionary projects.
As in the field of art history, the label of minimalism was given to his works years later, because they were similar to the quests of the artists of the 1960s and 1980s, in particular painters such as Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd and Robert Morris.
From the beginning of his work, he has focused on addressing the fundamental problems of space and proportions, light and materials, rather than developing a series of stylistic quirks, issues he addressed in his book, published in 1996, in which he explores the notion of simplicity in art, minimalist and modern architecture, and design in a wide diversity of historical and cultural contexts.
Eduardo Souto de Moura
He is considered a representative of critical regionalism, a trend within postmodernism that restores local identity while respecting technological progress.
Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura won the Pritzker Prize, considered the Nobel Prize for Architecture, with his aspiration to design buildings integrated into their context. His buildings show an interest in minimalism and a desire to make life easier for people.
Tadao Ando's meditative design focuses our attention on the beauty of silence and the power of simplicity, his minimalist structures contain much more than their limited appearance would suggest.
Tadao Ando is the only architect to have won all four of his discipline's most prestigious awards: the Pritzker, the Carlsberg, the Praemium Imperiale and the Kyoto, so it is not difficult to understand why he is considered one of the most important figures in contemporary architecture.
By combining traditional Japanese influences with modern design principles, Ando has developed a unique building language that uses concrete, wood, water, light and space in total harmony with nature.
His award-winning minimalist designs include private homes, offices, churches, museums, apartment buildings and cultural spaces throughout Japan, as well as in France, Italy, Spain and the United States. Some of his most famous creations include the Church of Light in Osaka, the Water Temple on Awaji Island, the Azuma House, the Naoshima Museum of Contemporary Art and Punta della Dogana in Venice.
Tadao Ando's work is known for his creative use of natural light and structures that blend with the natural forms of the surroundings, rather than conforming to the built space of a building. A common feature of Tadao Ando's buildings are the complex three-dimensional circulation paths that zigzag between interior and exterior space.
Signed on the interiors of the large-scale geometric forms and in the spaces between them, these paths function as paths of contemplation. According to the minimalist architecture monograph it has been said of his work that it has the same effect as a haiku and is connected to Zen philosophy.
Influence of Japanese Minimalist Architecture
While many cultures handle concepts of aesthetic simplicity, minimalism draws its greatest influence from Japan. Zen philosophy, which values simplicity as a way to achieve inner freedom, is demonstrated in Japanese architecture, which became increasingly influential in Western culture beginning in the 18th century.
Japanese aesthetic principles suggest seeking the innate beauty of the elements, valuing their natural state. One of these principles is known as wabi sabi, which focuses on finding value in the simple forms of nature, and ma void, which calls for large open spaces to create a spatial emptiness that compels contemplation of essential forms. This concept is key to contemporary Minimalist architecture.
Finally, the contributions of minimalist architecture based on the principle of seijaku or stillness that refers to the state achieved through meditation to design. In this case, aesthetics are used to help foster tranquility, harmony and balance. One can easily observe how the clean simplicity of minimalist design seems to achieve these same goals.
Minimalist Architecture in Mexico
Although Mexican architecture today is mainly minimalist, there are certain buildings that, because of their antiquity, were part of the main works of Mexican architects. Mexican minimalism is part of a modern architecture, and at the same time traditional, in which the traditional construction method is combined with the language of modernity.
Mexican architect and engineer Luis Barragán is one of the most prominent figures and the only one in the country to win the Pritzker Prize in 1980. His interest in landscape architecture is manifested in the beautiful gardens of Italian villas and the Mediterranean coast. As an example of his minimalism are the Satellite Towers.
The Satellite Towers are composed of a sculptural ensemble of five triangular prisms, each of different colors and sizes, located on an esplanade in the north of Mexico City, in Ciudad Satelite, on the main avenue Anillo Periferico in the northern part of the city.