Minimalist architecture history

July 11, 2014
Minimalist Architecture

Minimalism in Painting & Sculpture - Characteristics

Minimalist paintings and sculptures are generally composed of precise, hard-edged, geometric forms, with rigid planes of colour pigment - typically utilizing cool hues or maybe just one colour. They tend to consist of non-hierarchical, geometrically regular compositions, often arranged in a grid format and made from industrial materials. Whatever the precise details, the idea of this kind of non-objective art is to purge the work of any external references or gestures, such as the emotionalism of Abstract Expressionism. According to Robert Morris, one of the most influential theorists of Minimalism, in his seminal series of essays "Notes on Sculpture 1-3" (Artforum in 1966), the minimalist painter or sculptor is chiefly interested how the spectator perceives the relationship between the different parts of the work and of the parts to the whole thing. The repetition often seen in Minimalist sculpture is designed to highlight the subtle differences in this relationship. An alternative approach was outlined by Donald Judd in his paper "Specific Objects" (Arts Yearbook 8, 1965), who saw minimal art as a means of eliminating inherited artistic values from Europe, thus creating a new type of art.

The movement was heavily criticised by a number of important art critics and historians. For instance, Michael Fried's critical article "In Art and Objecthood" (Artforum in June 1967), strongly criticised its "theatricality".

Minimalism in Architecture

Influenced by traditional Japanese designs, the Bauhaus art school and De Stijl, Minimalist architecture, exemplified by the signature style of architect Mies van der Rohe, which he describes as "Less is more", refers to building designs that are reduced to the absolute bare minimum of elements. Minimalist architectural design typically uses basic geometric shapes, harmonious colours, natural textures, open-plan spatial arrangements, neat and straight components, clean finishes, flat or nearly flat roofs, large windows and satisfying negative spaces. Noted minimalist designers include American architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), Philip Johnson (1906-2005), Raymond Hood (1881-1934) and Louis Skidmore (1897-1962), to name but a few. For more details, see: American Architecture. In the 1980s, a new generation of Zen Buddhism-influenced Japanese architects appeared, including: Kazuo Shinohara (b.1925), Fumihiko Maki (b.1928), Arata Isozaki (b.1931) and Tadeo Ando (b.1941). Other minimalist architectural designers include: Alberto Campo Baeza, Michael Gabellini, Richard Gluckman, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Eduardo Souto de Moura, John Pawson, Claudio Silvestrin, Vincent Van Duysen, Alvaro Siza Vieira, and Peter Zumthor. For the effect of minimalism on supertall buildings, the dominant form of urban art in America, see: Skyscraper Architecture (1850-present).

Collections of Minimal Art

Key collections of this kind of concrete art can be found at the following places, and in many of the best art museums devoted to late 20th century works.

- Chinati Foundation (Marfa, Texas).
- Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Texas).
- Montclair Art Museum (New Jersey)
- Museum of Modern Art (New York)
- Guggenheim Museum (New York)
- Museum Boijimans van Beuningen (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
- Pinakothek der Moderne (Munich, Germany)
- Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain)
- Tate Modern (London)

Late 20th Century Types of Minimal Art

Just when you thought it was safe, along comes two more buzzwords to do with Minimalism. Are they important? Are they worth studying? You decide. Frankly, I'm all done with minimal art. It all sounds rather interesting but in the flesh it can be a major disappointment. (Mind you, so can Picasso!)


Neo-minimalism is a rather vaguely defined art style/movement of the late 20th, early 21st centuries, in painting, sculpture, architecture, design, and music. It is sometimes referred to as "neo-geo", "Neo-Conceptualism", "Neo-Futurism", "New Abstraction", "Poptometry", "Post-Abstractionism", "Simulationism", and "Smart Art". Contemporary artists who are supposedly associated with the term, include David Burdeny, Catharine Burgess, Marjan Eggermont...

From towers to teapots, architect Michael Graves left a
From towers to teapots, architect Michael Graves left a ...
[yellow tail] and architect Michael Graves for wine[tails]
[yellow tail] and architect Michael Graves for wine[tails]
Architect Michael Graves: Distinct Design
Architect Michael Graves: Distinct Design
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