Minimal Monday

Any good architect will tell you that they don't have one particular "style." While it is true that a great architect or designer can design a space in just about any style out there, we all have our favorites. For me, that is Modern. Within the Modern design sensibility lives a multitude of subcategories, of which I will get into in future articles. Minimalism is what I'm going to focus on today because it is my ultimate favorite!

I should begin by saying that Minimalism is not just a style, it's a whole way of being. For more in-depth information about how to live a Minimal life, you should check out The Minimalists blog and podcast as well as read Marie Kondo's method on Japanese tidying. Both highly recommended by me.

But this is my architecture and design blog, so that's what I'm going to show you now. I would like to share a few slides from a Pechu Kucha I recently presented that represents what I find beautiful in architecture. (all of which happen to express my Minimal design sensibility)

House in Litoral Alentejano by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

House in Litoral Alentejano by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

1. One big move that provides multiple options

I think there is such a beauty in the utter simplicity and economy of things. Such as when something as simplistic as this sliding wood wall that Aires Mateus puts on this blank white facade can do so much in adding visual tension, texture, and geometry, while at the same time providing a way to close the opening into the house. And in case you didn't notice that single white step in front? Perfectly executed with the exact right amount of distance between it and the facade so that the sliding wall has a home and can go from roof to ground without interruption. 

House in Alentejo Coast by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Juan Rodriguez. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

House in Alentejo Coast by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Juan Rodriguez. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

2. The Unexpected

When I see the first photo here of this house by Aires Mateus, I am blown away. I wonder, how can this piece of architecture stand with such a paper thin vertical member? How was this wall constructed, what is it made from, how can it work? Then the second photo reveals the knife edge of a wall which thickens as it moves back toward the house. This is the "ah-ha" moment, but it doesn't ruin the architecture like learning the trick of magic might ruin a magic show. Instead it makes me appreciate the piece of architecture even more, as the fine piece of art and structure that it is.

House in Azeitao by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

House in Azeitao by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

3. Pure Geometry

Nothing gets me more than pure geometric forms extruded into a space in which to live, work, or play. This photo takes a new view of the house from the floor looking up into the sectional objects which really make the house unique and beautiful. Pure geometries have always been a source of inspiration for me and also that which I have created many past projects, such as The Blank House.

House in Alcobaca by Aires Mateus. Photography by Fernando Guerra. Courtesy of Dezeen.

House in Alcobaca by Aires Mateus. Photography by Fernando Guerra. Courtesy of Dezeen.

4. Using what Architecture gives you

What is more Minimal that using what you already have? Design wise, a stair is a stair is a stair. Stairs have a standard tread and riser dimension, and they have remained relatively the same all throughout architectural history. But what an architect does to express the stair as something else - here a ceiling, and also a set of storage closest underneath - is how an architect can speak their unique language to the world. Architects can use other elements

Cabanas in Rio by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Nelson Garrido. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

Cabanas in Rio by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Nelson Garrido. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

5. Simple Silhouettes

So striking to me is a building form so pure that its silhouette speaks as an icon of the project. In the case of these two Cabanas by Aires Mateus (are you seeing a theme here yet?) the silhouette(s) not only is strong on its own, but it is made stronger due to its relation to the mountains beyond. Architecture mimicking nature in such a way is beautiful to me.

Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals photographed by Fernando Guerra

Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals photographed by Fernando Guerra

6. Utilizing similar materials to the landscape

I love when a building use the materials similar to their landscape. Of course this is a cornerstone of sustainable design practices which all architects should be trying their best to maintain. Here, Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals in Switzerland showcase the locally quarried quartzite stone as both exterior and interior, for a fully immersive sensory experience within the local material. I also love how in this image, the architecture contrasts with the snow, but blends in with the mountain range in the background.

Haus Meister by HDPF. Photography by Valentin Jeck. Courtesy of Dezeen.

Haus Meister by HDPF. Photography by Valentin Jeck. Courtesy of Dezeen.

7. Slight variation in materiality to create difference

I absolutely love when something so simple such as concrete is used to show subtle variations, like the way HDPF has ground the concrete down to show the aggregate at different densities to create window and door frames.

So that's some of what I find beautiful in Architecture as well a taste of my Minimal design sensibility. Stay tuned for more blog posts in 2017!