Minimalism: a timeless architectural trend

June 27, 2016
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by juan
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Minimalism: a timeless architectural trend

When we make reference to the minimalist trend in architecture, we are talking about a style that can be described as timeless. Paraphrasing its first representative. the great architect and industrial designer Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe: “architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space”. And since its emergence in the 60’s, passing by its maturity in the 80´s and arriving to our days, the minimalist trend has never lost validity: continues to represent the will of our epoch.

One of the greatest achievements of minimalism is, according to the British industrial designer Jonathan Ive, “to inspire spaces and products that are durable, and that lack the fragile appearance of throwaway programmed obsolescence”.

Although this architectural trend emerged in United States in the 60´s, its European roots can be traced by the end of the 1930´s in the first ideas of the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who elaborated his thoughts while acting as Director of the School of Arts and Design of the Bauhaus in Germany. Shortly after, and due to the second world war, he emigrated to the United States taking advantage of the fact that he was already well known as designer and architect there, and thus, he adopted the American citizenship. During the mid 60´s he participated in the movement of the minimum in geometric and visual arts in New York where his version of rationalism and later of functionalism, become model for other designers.

Minimalism is to achieve the most with the least and express as much as possible, with the greatest economy of resources. This austerity, this economy of ornaments, does not imply that the works of this trend aren´t moving: good design is always moving.

Van der Rohe seeks to prove that the essentially good needs no ornaments or formalisms, that from the point of view of architecture harmony happens when it is not necessary to add or remove anything. Also, and thinking about architectural practice, for him, anything that is hardly functional cannot be called beautiful. That’s why the work of van der Rohe is notable for the absence of ornaments, but this does not mean it does not have a subtle elegance given by the use of perfect shapes and noble materials.

Without a doubt, the fact of having been the son of a sculptor, and having assisted his father with his workshop from an early age, taught him to handle both the volumes and its spatiality, and to respect the stone and marble that would in the coming years provide unique presence and elegance to many of his works. It is said that together with Adolf Loos, van der Rohe was of the few architects of his time able to use marble surfaces with absolute naturalness (e.g. murals of the German Pavilion for the Barcelona Exhibition of 1929 and the interior of the Tughendat House in Brno built between 1928 and 1930).

 

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Invisible architecture and the chameleonic aspirations

June 20, 2016
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by juan
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Invisible architecture and the chameleonic aspirations of the most emblematic technological companies: the case of Google, Facebook and Apple

Invisible architecture as its name suggests, seeks to camouflage, to mask its buildings, which of course, remain present and in some cases are even enormous. But they happen to get veiled, to merge with the landscape in which they are located.   Some authors even understand that this architectural trend rather than aspiring to integrate its buildings into the landscape, seeks to make them go unnoticed, because for their followers, at the end, landscape is what matters. Invisible architecture then resorts to the mimicry and optical illusion and uses different techniques to make “disappear” constructions: displays, mirrors (including water mirrors and reflective surfaces in general), video cameras, etc.

The French architect Dominque Perrault -one of the most representative of this trend- says that architects use “… the disappearance so that a project does not become an obstacle.” “The architecture consisting in building walls implements a necessary act of separation, but my desire is to separate the least possible, responding to the equation of continue development without destroying the specificity of places».

It cannot be casual than the current headquarters of Facebook in San Francisco, and the future headquarters of Apple and Google in California they all use invisible constructions. At the same time it is paradoxical that at the time of requiring discrete, invisible buildings, they all have chosen for their projects, well known architects whose works always arouse public attention from the very beginning: Frank Gehry was the author of the headquarters of Facebook, Norman Foster is responsible for future ring of Apple in Cupertino and Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Hearherwick work in the future headquarters of Google. Google officially recognized this desire for discretion in: the company´s blog that describes its new headquarters as a building that “fades the difference between architecture and nature”.

But the use of invisible architecture is not the only link that all these projects have in common: they all incorporate and fuse elements from other recent architectural trends: high tech, minimalism, sustainable architecture, and even architectural elements that makes us remind the Metabolist trend of the 60’S for its commitment to the futuristic look, that so far the public has not yet seen besides star wars movies.

All these architectural spaces at the time of acting as office buildings constitute a point of visual reference, and a “manifesto” in the sense that they are projecting a corporate image associated with the future, the technology and the sustainability. But it is more than a corporate image in the traditional sense of the word: now the corporate image also goes through an emotional connection that links the company with both employees and customers.

The interesting thing about all of these projects that meld the latest architectural trends, is that they represent a change of paradigm with regard to the working environment: they all show a working atmosphere that happens to be a more horizontal space than the one we have seen before, allowing collaboration, team working and giving space to a more ludic and natural approach to work that boosts creativity and productivity, and that creates a sense of protection thanks to its sustainability.

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Sustainable Architecture

June 14, 2016
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by juan
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Sustainable architecture, also called sustainable architecture, eco-architecture, green architecture and environmentally conscious architecture

In the last two decades, architecture has accentuated its orientation towards environmentally friendly projects in an intend to help solving or at least mitigating a problem that besets us all. Sustainable architecture, also known as eco-architecture, green architecture or environmentally conscious architecture, is an evolution of the architectural trend called high tech and is a way of conceiving the architectural design that involves reducing the environmental impact and promoting the inclusion of efficient and sustainable energy sources.

In this sense, sustainable architecture values efficiency and moderation in the use of materials and keeps an eye on the management of the natural resources of the locations, considering weather conditions, hydrography and the ecosystems in order to achieve a maximum performance with the minimum impact.

It also puts special attention on the reduction of energy consumption for heating, cooling, lighting and using any other equipment, covering the unsatisfied demand with renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind generators, solar thermal energy, biomass or even geothermal energy. There is a consensus on the fact that under changing climatic and environmental conditions combining different energy sources is the way to secure energy supply all the year round.

Organizations such as Green Building Council (GBC) and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) – among others- are responsible for defining the standards of sustainable building and for evaluating and certifying the sustainability of buildings through its specific tools: LEED, BREEM, GREEN. In spite of this, and given the difference of criteria or priorities set by each organization, one of the biggest difficulties that owners, developers, technicians and builders face today with regard to the design and construction of a sustainable buildings is precisely the fact that there are no uniform parameters upon which they could base themselves to certainly determine the what order of importance should be established for the different parameters or how much emphasis should be given to each one of them. But at the end, what we all have to keep in mind is that a sustainable architecture should meet the needs of its occupants, without endangering the well-being and development of future generations.

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Multifunctional Architecture: a new kind of space for a new lifestyle

June 6, 2016
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by juan
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Multifunctional architecture as its name implies, has to do with the creation of spaces that gather several functions, but it goes far beyond, as it does not only aims at creating projects that adapted to the urban space where they are inserted but also it even aims at solving urban problems.

On top of this, multifunctional architecture seeks to create spaces that can cause an emotional impact, by strongly linking the aesthetics of the construction to elements of emotional reference for the community to which they are addressed.

This idea of multifunctionality, applied to either small complexes, districts or cities, finds roots in the ideas of Le Corbusier, particularly in “l´unité´habitation” (housing unit), where he seeks to merge the privacy of individual housing with the multiplicity of activities of a modern city.

This ideal unit consists of 400 houses inserted into a complex that holds as well shops, recreational spaces, places for physical exercises and different services.   The concept was materialized for the first time in the “unité d´habitation” de Marseille, the “Cité Radieuse” (Radiant City) project that was developed between 1947 and 1952 by the assignment of the French Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism.

Even though the so-called brutalist architecture comes from this idea, the concept of “housing unit” also evolves on the side of its multifunctional sense, and sees applications both in housing developments as the one of Marseille, and in its broader vision, in comprehensive urban developments such as the city of Brasilia in 1956.

With regards to interior decoration, multifunctional architecture proposes a discreet ornamentation, putting aside extravagances, as it picks up the teachings of an ancient Chinese tradition that suggests not to include excessive details inside houses considering that this ends up by negatively affecting the mental state of the inhabitants.

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