Minimalist architecture: history and characteristics

Minimalist architecture: history and characteristics

Minimalist architecture is, par excellence, the straightforward aspect of design. Although it was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, the movement has remained a trend, for almost a hundred years since its beginning. With a life as long as his, Minimalist architecture has seen its ups and downs and has also gone through transformations, however, its essence remains: architectural purity and simplicity.

The success of this style is the calm and relaxation that its spaces convey, because although the ideals of design vary with each era, the desired habitability is maintained. for this reason, It’s time to delve deeper into the history, characteristics and highlights of minimalist architecture.


Johannicki Krosbergen Camps/Unsplash.

Minimalist architecture was born in the twentieth century, and is still in trend today.

When was minimalist architecture born?

To understand the origin of minimalist architecture, it is first necessary to know its historical and architectural context. In general terms, Minimalism is an aesthetic breakthrough for the values ​​of modern architecture. Modernity emerged in Europe thanks to two events: the Industrial Revolution and World War I. The Industrial Revolution, which ended in the mid-nineteenth century, brought with it the possibility of ushering in the creation of new building materials, such as steel, concrete and glass, and also allowed for their mass production. Now, at the beginning of the twentieth century, World War I forced the architects of their era to design according to standards of thrift and austerity, due to the impact of the war on the European economy. For this reason, modern architecture, whose origins go back to 1920, built its works between concrete slabs and steel structures, without decorations, decorations or non-essential elements; It also rejected any historical bias, as a turning point in the design trends it represented.

Years later, Functionalism – the current daughter of modern architecture, which argued that “function follows form” – mutated; Simple aesthetics will be the goal to be achieved at all costs. In 1930, the architect’s famous phrase “less is more” appeared Mies van der Rohe laid the foundation for what is known today as minimalist architecture.. By the 1970s and 1980s, this style gained more strength, although by the beginning of the 21st century it was no longer being recreated with the previous persistence. Despite this, its aesthetics have been reborn with greater force, and contemporary architecture has brought simplicity to the peak.

Denis Nevozay/Unsplash.

Minimalist architecture seeks simplicity of forms, and therein lies its success.

What does minimalist style mean?

As its name already suggests, simplicity takes minimalism to the maximum. For this style, which is appreciated by lovers of contemporary architecture, the most important thing is Finding beauty between simplicity and purity of design. It also appeals to architectural honesty and, therefore, does not include any additional decorative elements and its spaces convey a balance between shapes and colors.

The flexibility of minimalist architecture is based on straightness, in contrast to other currents derived from functionalism, such as organic architecture. Therefore, it is natural to note Clean volumetric between right angles and pure geometries. Moreover, the facades are one of the most important elements of this style; They retain subtle, eye-catching designs, but with a delicate axis harmonious with simplicity. As for the color palette, Minimalism opts for neutrality, giving depth to its spaces thanks to the different shades of the primary color. Although the materials used are sparse, since the style adheres to a limited catalogue, contrasts are achieved by hierarchizing the element through textures, or the juxtaposition of planes, whether extruded or combined.

The minimalist movement was so influential that it spread to painting, music, fashion and interior design. The latter has achieved greater importance than architecture itself, because they are the spaces that accompany the daily life of its users. The concept of minimalist architecture is maintained in the interior design. The spaces express an atmosphere of serenity thanks to the monochromatic color palette and straight lines and add another feature: lighting. This element is vital in any perfect design, regardless of the direction it belongs to, but in simplicity it has taken a leading role, as It highlights the purity, clean lines and balance of spaces Common between its layouts, colors, spaces, and even furniture.

Chicago History Museum/Getty Images.

Minimalist architecture originated from Mies van der Rohe’s motto “less is more.”

Who is the father of simple architecture?

As already hinted, Minimalist architecture derives from the modernist thought of Mies van der Rohe. This German architect was involved with Modernism from its beginning, as he belonged to the Bauhaus, the German school of design and architecture that defined the movement. In addition, he was involved with the works of Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, who influenced his work and changed his vision. From the beginning, Mies van der Rohe designed according to the standards of neoclassical architecture.

Due to the closure of the Bauhaus school during World War II, the architect traveled and settled in the United States, where He enhanced his knowledge of European modernism through the internationalism of the Chicago School. There, architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson ended up reinforcing the “minimalist” thinking of Mies van der Rohe.

Inside Weather / Unsplash.

Concrete, wood, granite and marble are the best materials for minimalist architecture.

What materials are used in minimalism?

The importance of minimalist architecture is based on simplicity and cleanliness. Concrete is currently one of its greatest elements due to its versatility in design and structural capacity, thanks to which larger spaces are achieved with minimal supports. In addition, some architects have chosen to leave the material natural, i.e. working with visible concrete, but it is often used as a base for white, gray or cream finishes. On the other hand, steel is the second most representative material of simplicity, due to its sober and elegant appearance.

As for the interior design, simplicity relies on light-colored wood, playing a role with monochromatic colors, in addition to marble and granite. This material is used above all to highlight some decorative elements, which will be the only thing contrasting the simplicity of the rest of the spaces. Finally, glass is the material that allows optimal lighting for interiors and adapts to the surrounding environment The language of finishes created by concrete and steel.

Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash.

Across time and space, these are the finest architectural examples of simplicity.

Examples of minimalist architecture

the Simple architecture It expresses feelings and atmosphere with a few elements but with an elaborate design. If there is one thing that cannot be denied about this style, it is that all its buildings possess beauty and balance, however The following three works are the best representatives of minimalist design worldwide.

Thomas Vale/Unsplash.

The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion expresses early simplicity.

Pavilion Mies van der Rohe


No list of minimalist architecture is complete without mentioning the introduction to movement. Although this pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe, is faithful in its expression of modernist ideals, such as free façade, flexible spaces and an appreciation of function over form, it is also Laying the aesthetic foundations of simplicity, by maintaining clean and straight shapesAs well as reducing mixing of materials and sticking only to concrete, steel, marble and glass.

The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion was built for the Barcelona International Fair in 1929, as a representative of Germany. His influence on the world of modern design was so strong that years after his retirement, it was installed again in Barcelona, ​​this time permanently. After one year, “Less is more” would revolutionize architecture and pave the way for minimalism.

Lisa Therese/Unsplash.

Architect Peter Zumthor is an expert at taking simplicity to the maximum, as in the case of the Bruder Klaus Church.

Capella Brother Klaus


In Mescherniche, Germany, Peter Zumthor decided to reaffirm that good design, with simple lines and refined materiality, does not lack intention, and that, Contrary to popular belief, this simplicity is beautiful. Thus, the Bruder Klaus Church was built as a simple concrete volume with a single triangular-shaped entrance on its narrow side. The entire church contains a modification that features the false work itself.

The magic happens on the inside. Zumthor’s lighting control is ingenious, since the church functions in the form of a funnel: the entrance has a convex roof that opens towards the only entrance to the upper light and floods the atrium, which is highlighted thanks to the vertical undulations.

Luna Wang/Unsplash.

In the repertoire of architect Tadao Ando, ​​the Church of Light embodies that architectural simplicity has great beauty.

Church of Light


As mentioned earlier, minimalist architecture reached its peak in the 1980s, and Tadao Ando’s Church of Light is an example of this. this A beautiful and meditative space was built by a Japanese architect In 1989, more than 30 years after its appearance, it remains in the collective imagination as a simple reference.

It is a rectangular building, with a cross-shaped opening as the end visible in the atrium. The only addition to the folder is an “L” shaped plane that intersects its lateral end. As if that were not enough, the materiality of the visible concrete adds a state of transcendence that only minimalist architecture can create. Without a doubt, it is Tadao Ando’s most famous work for beauty conjured amidst so much simplicity.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *