“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance” – this insight by legendary French fashion designer Coco Chanel could serve as the maxim of minimalism. Minimalism is one of the most important stylistic trends to have impacted art, then architecture and interior design. At its core, minimalism is about reducing to the essentials, using clear geometry and leaving away decorative elements that are deemed unnecessary and excessive.
The origins of minimalism in architecture
The origins of minimalism in architecture are generally said to be found in rise of modern architecture in the 1920s. Various notable minimalist architectural styles evolved at that time – such as Bauhaus, New Objectivity or Functionalism – setting itself apart from classic architecture with its representative decorative elements.
Yet it is also clear that the core concept of minimalism – reduction to the essentials – was also applied earlier in history. A good example of this are the designs by Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, whose trademark was cut-down-to-the-core architecture.
He looked far back in history and took his inspiration from the ancient Greeks: “European architecture is but a progression of Greek architecture. No masquerade – making the essentials of construction pleasing to the eye is the basic principle of Greek architecture, and this must be upheld in its continuation.”
Minimalism in interior design
Minimalism has also found its way into interior design. Apart from the obvious reduction of furniture forms, the focus is on not overloading cupboards and shelves and keeping everything to a bare minimum – otherwise the elegance of the minimalist design is lost. The most widely used building materials in minimalism – glass and concrete – harmonise best with white.
Cubism is closely related with minimalism
Cubism and minimalism are two birds of a feather and closely related: Cubism uses limited forms of expression. At its core it uses geometric shapes to fragment and compose forms. The object is basically broken down into its basic elements. Synthetic cubism, a later phase of cubism, is characterised by the integration of non-related forms.
While cubism has its origins in art (most famously represented by Pablo Picasso) and, like minimalism, is often dated back to the early 20th century, its aesthetic approach has also subsequently permeated sculpture and modern architecture. Cubist architecture experienced its heyday in Prague in particular.
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