Minimalist Architecture – Simple Style for Elegant Spaces

It seems that these days, the minimalist aesthetic is everywhere! Instagram and Pinterest are filled with minimalist design ideas and decor seem to be the latest trends. But minimalism has not only been around for a long time, but extends past just fashion and interior decorating, into architecture as well. 

Minimalism in architecture can be traced back to ancient Japan and its influence has lasted for hundreds of years. Elements include clean lines, open spaces, and simple layouts. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is considered a pioneer of minimalist architecture.

Once you can recognize the elements of minimalist design in architecture, you will start noticing how common it is, in cities, towns, and pretty much everywhere. 

What Is Minimalist Architecture?

Minimalist architecture is the use of simple design elements without much ornament or decoration in buildings, homes, and other structures. The materials used tend to be simple like steel, concrete, and glass.

Minimalist architecture is the art and technique of building structures with designs that embrace simplicity by reducing unnecessary elements. Minimalist architecture focuses on function and meaningful purpose, using neutral colors and natural elements that create a feeling of calm and peace.

Minimalist living buildings - Minimalist Architecture - Gone Minimal
Minimalist living buildings

The History of Minimalist Architecture

Minimalist architecture began from the Cubist-inspired movements of De Stijl and Bauhaus in the 1920s. Both De Stijl and Bauhaus brought artistic trends into architectural design in both trends take inspiration from geometric shapes and minimalist color schemes much like minimalism would do.

All three architectural movements, De Stijl, Bauhaus, and minimalism aimed not only to pare down architecture to its most minimalist form, but abstract our concept of architectural habits and norms by creating chairs, tables, and buildings that did not resemble what we would expect.

Styles of Minimalist Architecture

Minimalism shows up in many forms and styles including historical and traditional styles of minimalism and more modern takes on minimalism. 

Modern Minimalist ArchitectureMinimalism has shaped architecture for over a century and still has an impact on the architectural aesthetic of today. Part of  minimalism, in art, but especially in architecture, is the use of new and innovative materials. A lot of minimalist buildings aim to use state of the art materials, especially those that are environmentally sustainable.

Modern minimalist architecture also strays away from the older architectural notion of having many separate rooms. Minimalist design uses open space and interior design to make separate spaces in the building rather than walls. 
Minimalist House ArchitectureMany minimalist houses have a simple, straightforward, interior layout with simple forms, open floor plans, minimal interior walls, modest storage areas, and an emphasis on outdoor space and daylight are defining characteristics of many minimalist floor plans. An integral part of the minimalist ideals is a connection to the outdoors, or the essential part of human nature, i.e. nature.

The fewer walls and more windows a home can have, the closer the inhabitant will be to the outdoors, while still having the protection of the indoors. Minimalist architecture involves using the bare essentials to create simple and uncluttered shapes in the  silhouette of the building. It’s characterized by simplicity, clean lines, and a monochromatic palette with some color used as an accent.
Minimalist House ArchitectureMinimalism as an artistic movement has its roots in Japanese Zen Buddhist practices. The idea of minimalism of stripping down everything that isn’t completely necessary and only keeping what is essential comes directly from the teachings of Buddhism. Inspired by the spartan aesthetic of Japan’s traditional Zen Buddhism, the minimalist movement goes against modern consumerism by adhering to the bare essentials. Japanese aesthetics evolved around clean and uncluttered living, holding tightly to balance, ancient customs and an inclination for natural beauty.

In Japanese culture there is a strong connection to nature and this is evident in how Japanese people garden. Minimalist architecture in Japan was meant to integrate itself into the world of nature without taking away from the beauty surrounding the building. This is why traditional Japanese homes are made with very local materials and have such open plans so the border between outdoors and indoors is much less stark. 
One World Trade Center - Minimalist Architecture - Gone Minimal
One World Trade Center

Famous Minimalist Architecture Buildings

Most cities around the world have at least one notable minimalist building. 

One of the most famous minimalist buildings was done by Mies van der Rohe in 1929, called the Barcelona Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain. The building consists of a long, flat roof and many glass walls. The building rests on two pools giving it the illusion of floating over water. The building is mostly empty apart from a couple bronze sculptures and curated pieces of minimalist furniture. 

Another minimalist building is Casa Barragán built in 1948 in Mexico by Luis Barragán. Barragán was one of the few minimalists who didn’t stray from the use of color in his works and in fact, color is one of the main components of this building as well. The concrete walls that make up the exterior of this two story building are painted in bright pinks and oranges. The interior is minimally furnished and filled with skylights that allow the light of day into the building at all hours.

Watch the informative video below for more minimalist buildings and history.

Buildings stripped down to their most basic forms and shapes make up most of minimalism.

Qatar has its own minimalist building as well in the Museum of Islamic Art built by I.M. Pei in 2008. The Chinese-American architect drew inspiration from 13th century mosques and mosque fountains in the shape of the building but simplified the lines and contours to make a more minimalist design. There is no ornamentation on the building, but in the shape and the way the museum seems to rise up out of the water, it retains a distinctly and unmistakable islamic design.

Unsurprisingly, the home of minimalist artist, Donald Judd, is one of the world’s more famous minimalist architectural feats. His New York home, designed in 1968, is a renovated garment factory, stripped down to its bare essentials and interiorly reworked to match the artist’s personal style. With neon lights as walls, and very little furniture, Judd’s home encapsulates both his personal art style but also the minimalist themes he worked with. 

Minimalist Architecture Insights

Minimal interior of a high rise - Minimalist Architecture - Gone Minimal
Minimal interior of a high rise

What Is the Point of Minimalist Architecture?

The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and joinery are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design.

What Is Minimalist House Design?

Minimalism exists in more than just commercial and communal buildings, many people have started to design homes inside and out with minimalist design. Often times, the design of minimalist houses are very specific to the environment they are built in.

Since minimalism tends to encourage the use of local and new materials, knowing what the local materials are is a must. For example, if your home is surrounded by bamboo trees, then your house will likely have a lot of bamboo floors and wood features. Minimalism, especially that which is inspired by Japanese minimalism, intends to blur the line between outdoor space and indoor space so as to integrate the indoors with the out.

The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity.

Therefore minimalist houses usually have a lot of windows that are very large so as to see outside into nature more easily. Minimalist interior design is very similar to modern interior design and involves using the bare essentials to create a simple and uncluttered space. It’s characterised by simplicity, clean lines, and a monochromatic palette with colour used as an accent. 

Minimal concrete structure - Minimalist Architecture - Gone Minimal
Minimal concrete structure

Who Invented Minimalist Architecture?

There are two answers to the question of who invented minimalist architecture. Since so much of the design and principles of minimalism in architecture is inspired by or directly taken from Japanese practices, it would make sense to name the inventor of Minimalist architecture is the Japanese. But when citing the influence of minimalism as an artistic movement, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is often credited as the inventor of minimalist architecture, or at least the one who popularized it. 

Architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, theorised that minimalism gave maximum power to architectural space. For almost a century, Mies’ minimalist style has proved very popular; his famous aphorism “less is more” is still widely used, even by those who are unaware of its origins.

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Minimalism is everywhere: it’s in fashion, interior design, lifestyle, and of course architecture. And now that you know what to look for when it comes to minimalist architecture, you will start noticing it everywhere you go. Not only that but now you know a little more about the history of minimalist architecture so you know everything that lead up to the minimalist house on your block being built.

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