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).