3 1. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (1929) in Poissy, outside of Paris. The house was emblematic of Le Corbusier work in that it addressed “The Five Points”, his basic tenets of a new aesthetic of architecture constructed in reinforced concrete. (Source of image: www.arcspace.com) 2. Frank Stella working on ‘The Empress of India’ in 1965. (Source of image: www.danm.ucsc.edu) 3. Urn next to pond in the yard of The Luis Barragan House in Mexico City, Mexico. (Source of image: www.landliving.com) 4. Jonathan Saunders Fall RTW 2007 collection. (Source of image: www.style.com) 5. Raf Simons for Jil Sander Fall RTW 2009 collection. (Source of image: www.wwd.com)
MINIMALISM IN ARCHITECTURE
MINIMALISM AND JIL SANDER
MINIMALISM IN FASHION
‘It isnt necessary for a work to have alot of things to look at, to compare, to analyse one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful.’
Donald Judd ‘Specific Objects’ (1965)
The Bauhaus movement prided their work as a fusion of art and technology, hoping to bring out the functionality and simplicity of art forms ranging from architecture to typography. Aleksandr Rodchenko and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, under the establishment founded by Walter Gropius, took inspiration from unique perspectives, and incorporated them into their work. As Gropius himself practised as an architect, the Bauhaus notion no doubt influenced the buildings and forms in its time. As Rodchenko and many others dually noted, clean lines and block forms were the origins of the functionalism that dictated the Bauhaus way of life. The architect and theorist, Le Corbusier, also initiated the use of lines as the main element in his designs; the Villa Savoye completed in 1929 is a prime example of his vision that encompasses a puristic approach to architecture. The term ‘Minimalism’ was coined to describe the work of a group of American artists who developed a new kind of whole or serial geometric abstraction during the 1960s. Frank Stella, one of the first artists who practised the idea of minimalistic art during the late1950s said ‘what you see is what you see’ when it comes to considering minimal art. In this he is suggesting that his work harbours no meaning apart from the facts of its construction. Carl Andre, a fellow materialist sculptor of the time, said of Stella’s paintings: “Art excludes the unnecessary. Frank Stella has found it necessary to paint stripes. There is nothing else in his painting.” Stella’s work consists of uniform repetition of stripes across the canvas and using them to create diverse effects on the surface. Minimalism in architecture thrives on simplicity in both context and form, and to seek to remove any sign of personal expressivity. The aim of minimalism is to allow the viewer or subject to experience the work more intensely without the distractions of composition. Many fashion designers incorporated this vision of simplicity and elegance into their designs to create unassuming and stylish clothing.
Source of image: Southwark embankment (primary research)
‘The more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation.’ Hilton Kramer (art critic of The New York Times in the 1960s)
Although it only became popular in the 1990s, minimalism had already filtered into different areas of the creative industry since its conception: art, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music and fashion to name a few. Over time, minimalism has evolved into a lifestyle more than anything else. Opposed to the ornate and opulent decoration in the 1930s and 1940s, it became obvious that the purpose of the decor and lavishness was to compensate for the poor quality and lack of craftsmanship. The ethos of minimalistic design, as famously said by fashion designer Donna Karen, is to strip the design of ‘fluff and frill’ and present it in its purist form.
“What you see is what you see.” is what American artist and sculptor Frank Stella said of his work. Artists such as Frank Stella and Russian suprematist Kasimir Malevich have presented minimalistic art in very geometric and forms: Stella famously using rectolinearity and Malevich using different shapes in the same composition. Architects such as Claudio Silvestrin, Tadao Ando and I.M Pei make use of space just as much of material and content, if not more, in their work. The concept of ‘less is more’ is evident and light itself plays a big role in bringing the structures to life. Minimalistic fashion took its toll when fashion house Jil Sander came onto the scene. Zero-decoration and attention to detail made Sander’s designs stand out for good quality and wearability. Designers such as Donna Karen and Narciso Rodriguez followed suit. Minimalism in fashion became popular because it allowed the wearer to have their own creative input into the look. It create ‘blank canvases’ for the wearer be versatile and create a look that suits them.
1. Frank Stella’s ‘Empress of India’ (1965), made as part of the his Notched-V series. The enormous scale of this paining suggests Stella’s mounting ambition as he monumentalized his stripe format in 196465. Stella used subtle gradation of brown, red and orange to delineate both the individual stripes and the separate quadrants. (Source of image: www.nataliaanet.wordpress.com) 2. Ornament made of wrought iron. The design was realized into a three-dimensional form by varying each limb of the bowl at a different angle. This gives each component of the design a linear feel, but gives the overall form a smooth, gradual look. (Source of image: Photograph taken at The Victoria and Albert Museum - London) 3. Building exterior. The light filtering through the fitted blinds created an interesting three-dimensional linear pattern. Although temporary, a rectolinear form was projected as a reflection. (Source of image: Photograph taken in St Pauls, London) 4. Bustier by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Panelling is a common feature on corsetry, and is also a byproduct of the insertion of boning into the channels of the body. The boning acts as a support for the garment, as corsetry use to be a form of underwear before it was revolutionized as a form of outerwear. (Source of image: www.theessentialist.blogspot.com)
MINIMALISM IN ARCHITECTURE
‘Less is more’ Mies van der Rohe (minimalist architect)
8 TADAO ANDO Tadao Ando is a Japanese architect whose use of squeaky clean lines and neutral hues of creams, beiges and greys portrays minimalist architecture in its purist form; making the environment it creates more soft and warm rather than stark and cold, which is what some forms of minimalistic architecture is associated with. Ando’s purist forms illustrate a range of issues in the traditional architectural vocabulary — the interplay of solid and void, the alternatives of open and closed, the contrasts of light and darkness. The puristic forms found in Ando’s creations references his Japanese roots, mirroring that of the simplistic, clean Japanese interiors. Ando’s body of work is known for the creative use of natural light and for architectures that follow the natural forms of the landscape; rather than disturbing the landscape by making it conform to the constructed space of a building. The architect’s buildings are often characterized by complex three-dimensional circulation paths. These paths interweave between interior and exterior spaces formed both inside large-scale geometric shapes and in the spaces between them.
LUIS BARRAGAN Luis Barragan is considered the most important Mexican architect of the 20th Century. As an artist, the use of colour never eluded him and was incorporated into his minimalistic visions as part of his work. As a minimalistic architect, Barragan took inspiration from Le Corbusier and attended lectures on his trip to Europe; although he afterward opposed the idea of houses being ‘a machine for living’ (Le Corbusier used the exact phrase to describe his vision behind the creation of the Villa Savoye). Opposed to functionalism, Barragan advocated for an ‘emotional architecture’ claiming that, “Any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake.” The injection of colour into simple forms enhances the divisions of spaces and differentiates Barragan from the typical minimalist architect. The warm colours evoke emotion and sentiment that can be hard to portray in minimalistic forms. As well as utilizing simple forms in his work, Barragan also experimented with different textures and materials that mirrored the rustic feeling of his Mexican heritage, bringing out the original raw surface textures in colouring processes and natural materials such as wood and clay.
1. Asuma House, Osaka, Japan (Tadao Ando - 1975) 2. Hyogo Chapel, Hyogo, Japan (Tadao Ando - 2000) 3. Interior of Casa Gilardi, Mexico City, Mexico (Luis Barragan - 1975) 4. Satallite City Towers, Mexico City, Mexico (Luis Barragan - 1957)
MINIMALISM IN FASHION
‘Simplicity is the key to elegance.’ Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel
10 The world of fashion is no stranger to the notion of minimalism. Less is more when it comes to the minimal trend. With streamlined silhouettes and tailoring, solid monochromatic shades of neutrals, whites, greys and especially black; designers push boundaries when creating maximum impact with minimum means. At first glance anyway. Pared-down looks and clean lines took up residence and encouraged wearers to enhance their creative streak by accessorizing a blank canvas. Pioneers of minimalistic fashion are grand but few. The conception of minimalism by Jil Sander in late 1970s reformed the way construction and form was executed in fashion. Minimalism became a raw form of emotion for designers to expose exquisite detailing and silhouettes clearly without the facade of lavish and romantic embellishments that deviate the audience’s eyes. Other designers followed suit, rejecting romantic frills for stark, architectural shapes that look simultaneously classic and futuristic, and also being stunningly clean at the same time. Designers such as Donna Karen, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, Miuccia Prada and Helmut Lang paid homage to the effortless and unfussed style. As Miuccia Prada famously said “There’s something extremely confident and uncomplicated about this unpretentious look, which showcases a woman’s shape, face, and personality, without any need to distract the eye with ornamental embellishments or patterns.”
American designer Calvin Klein made his mark on the fashion scene by introducing simple silhouettes with fabrics that work with the body to create unassuming silhouettes that suit virtually all women of any size and shape. Klein’s natural hues of tans, sandstones, charcoals and marl gives the wearer a sense of simplicity and cleanliness that will withstand over time. Since the very beginning, Klein’s vision was always unanimous with his work. He stated that ‘minimalism is not a trend, it was is and always will be a lifestyle.’ Over the decades, Calvin Klein brand has evolved from a fashion brand to a lifestyle brand, offering home furnishings and interior decorations to direct minimalistic measures into the surrounding environment as well as on the body; which makes the Calvin Klein brand an all-encompassing simplistic luxury. Scottish-born designer Jonathan Saunders approached minimalistic design in a different way. Simplistic and elegant are the silhouettes of his pieces, but his love for print and colour-blocking enhances the designs by giving them a subtle edge of difference to the generic minimalistic fashion brand. As a relatively young designer, Saunders has created his own stamp in the industry; thanks to his signwature style of contrasting pale hues with bold colours. The confident air that Saunders’ designs exude contributes to the brand’s success, attracting a younger market: adding a twist to the foundations of minimalism, but still staying true to its ethos.
1. Calvin Klein (Pre-fall 2010) 2. Calvin Klein (Fall RTW 2008) 3. Jonathan Saunders (Fall RTW 2007) 4. Jonathan Saunders (Spring RTW 2008) 5. Jonathan Saunders (Fall RTW 2007)
Source of images: www.style.com
MINIMALISM AND The epitomy of ‘less is more’ uncovered by the one dubbed ‘The Queen of Less’ Jil Sander depicts minimalism at it’s best.
Heidemarie Jiline Sander, known by many as Jil Sander, is a fashion designer of German heritage with a much-loved aesthetic of minimalistic form and grace. The singleminded focus on understated elegance and refined tailoring became Sander’s design ethos and was a concept that is injected into every single design that was under the brand’s watchful eye. Her designs are often compared with the Bauhaus architecture of the 1920s. Sander herself refers to her stubborn character, when explaining why she notoriously returns to simple lines in cut and a highly sophistcated choice in fabric. The fashion house’s conception in 1979 proved trying for the then lavishly decorated fashion industry, lead by the likes of Claude Montana’s dynasty-inspired designs. Sander’s minimalist collections, with a focus on fabric quality came close to a revolution in the fashion world and were not accepted next to the Parisian catwalks. Her style only started gaining attention in the 1990s. Success for the fashion house began when it was realized that her creations were coordinates which could all be easily combined with each other. This became popular characteristic and was responsible for introducting the ‘onion look’ to the then curious fashion industry.
In 2005, the avant-garde Belgian designer Raf Simons was named creative director of Jil Sander, following the acrimonious departure of the house’s founder. Aspects of Simons’ own design identity filtered into the collections, including his influence as a menswear designer. Clever layering and structured construction detail became a key part of the Jil Sander image but still paid homage to the clean, uncomplicated forms that till this day, remains the essence of the brand. In 2009, Sander launched ‘+J’, a collection in collaboration with the Japanese label Uniqlo, consisting of both menswear and womenswear featuring the minimalist aesthetic and demure colors typical of Jil Sander. The collection, which was sold on the high street in Uniqlo retailers around the world, offering the brand’s originial fuss-free aesthetic to the public at affordable prices. Until today, Jil Sander remains the master of minimalism who revolutionized aesthetics to it’s purist form.
1. Ad campaign variation for Fall RTW 2009 2. Fall RTW 2009 collection by Raf Simons 3. Jil Sander flagship store in Taipei 4. Ad campaign variation for Fall RTW 2009 5. Jil Sander for Uniqlo ‘+j’ Fall 2009 collection