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T h e

White Modern Minimalist Minimalism is simply the perfect amount of something.

R e g i n a

M i c h e l l e


W i j a y a


Table of Contents P a r t

O n e

Introduction: Minimalist Design Architecture


Roots of Minimalism


P a r t

T w o 13

Brief History of Minimalist Design

P a r t

T h r e e 17

Influential Minimalist Designers

P a r t

F o u r

Minimalist Design Practical Approach


Minimalism Vs. Simplicity


P a r t

F i v e 27

White Minimalist Building Designs


Grids Typography Space Colour

“Less is more” 4

MINIMALIST DESIGN ARCHITECTURE MINIMALISM is the simplicity of style in artwork, design, interior design, or literature, achieved by using the fewest and barest essentials or elements to maximum effect. Minimalism has also been called ABC art, reductivism, and rejective art and its theories have been applied to lifestyle. Minimalism aims for simplicity and objectivity. It wants to reduce works to the fundamental, the essential, the necessary, and to strip away the ornamental layers that might be placed on top.Minimalist designs tend toward more whitespace, better typography, grid layouts, and less color. Mies van der Rohe famously said “Less is more” to describe his aesthetic sense of having every element serve multiple purposes both visually and functionally.Buckminster Fuller later reworked the phrase to “doing more with less” and Dieter Rams changed it to “Less but better.”All three are saying the same thing. Minimalism is about designing smarter. All minimalist designs should not and do not look alike. Minimalism does not mean take everything away until only black text on a white background remains. It means


communicating as much as possible with as few elements as possible. It strikes me that instead of a design being minimalist or not minimalist, it’s more a case of to what degree does the design embrace minimalism. We can strive toward it, but even the most minimalist design could be reduced further. None of this should be taken to mean that every design should end up being minimalist. Different design styles set different moods and invoke different emotions in your audience. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals you can add meaningful aesthetics on top. Ornamentation works when it has a solid foundation to sit on. Stylistic details won’t save a design that fails to execute the fundamentals.


Part One

Roots of Minimalism Like with anything in life, minimalist design was influenced by certain things that came before it. Specifically, what influenced minimalist design was:

I. The De Stijl art movement II. Architects like Van Der Rohe III. Traditional Japanese design


Roots of Minimalism

I. D e

S t i j l

De Stijl was an artistic movement in the Neth-

erlands that started in 1917 and lasted till roughly the early 1930s. “De Stijl” is Dutch for “The Style”. The movement included painters, sculptors, architects, and designers.

• •

Horizontal and vertical lines Rectangular forms

De Stijl pushed for simplicity and abstraction by reducing designs only to its essential form In addition to that, many of the eleand color, sticking to only: ments or layers don’t intersect, letting each of them to be independent and • Primary values white, black, and grey not covered or interfered by other ele• Primary colors blue, red, and yellow ments. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to figure out how De Stijl influenced minimalist design.


Roots of Minimalism

Rohe was a German architect who’s considered a pioneer of modern architecture, and his architectural style during post-World War I laid the groundwork for minimalist design. He designed many landmark buildings, including Chicago’s Crown Hall and New York’s

Seagram Building. Van der Rohe strived for simplicity and clarity in his architectural designs by: • • •

II. V a n

D e r

R o h e

Ludwig Mies van der


Using modern materials like steel and plates of glass Having a minimal structural framework Including lots of open space

He is the one who popularized the term “less ularized the term “less is more”, which as mentioned earlier, is one of the unofficial mission statements for minimalist design. Like with De Stijl, the connection between Van Der Rohe and minimalist design is clear.

Roots of Minimalism

Adding only what’s needed and removing the rest has always been a focus in traditional Japanese design. If you look at old Japanese architecture and interior design, you’ll see that there were very few flourishes, simple color and design choices, and clean lines and forms. There is a connection between Japanese design and Japanese culture. Japanese culture is infused with Zen and simplicity. Everything from how food is prepared, to how it’s presented, to how it’s ate, to things like tea ceremonies and stone gardens – all place a focus on


simplicity and focus to the activity at hand. Anything that isn’t essential to the activity is not included. Even traditional Japanese clothing like the kimono exude simplicity. There are practically no flourishes and decorations. Every element of the garment is designed with essential functionality in mind: freedom of movement, natural cooling, comfort, durability, and ease of putting on and off. Naturally, minimalist designers would be influenced by traditional Japanese design; usually more so than much of traditional Western design such as Gothic or Victorian.

III. T r a d i t i o n a l

J a p a n e s e

D e s i g n



Part Two

Brief History of Minimalist Design

Minimalist started in the early 20th century with architecture, roughly around the 1920s.



MINIMALIST DESIGN HISTORY MINIMALIST started in the early 20th century with architecture, roughly around the 1920s. Post-World War I architect Van der Rohe was one of the first prominent architects who used principles in his designs that came to exemplify minimalist design. The reason minimalist architecture started taking off was the availability of modern materials: glass, concrete, steel. Also, standardized ways of building were forming, which helped to more effectively design and build minimalist buildings. The trend continued through the mid-20th century, with notable designer and architect Buckminster Fuller (more on him below) designing domes using simple geometric shapes that still stand and look modern today.

The focus on simplicity spilled over into painting, interior design, fashion, and music. That’s how the following were formed and are now commonplace: minimal painting, minimal music, the minimalism school of composing, and so forth. Painter Frank Stella was quoted as saying, “What you see is what you see”. Minimal art in particular especially grew in the 1960s in America. Similar to De Stijl, painters reacted against the abstract-expressionism art and used only


the rudimentary geometric shapes in their works and didn’t add decorations or any other elements. Naturally, the focus on simplicity also spilled over into consumer products, with designer Dieter Rams (also more on him below) using minimalist design in products for Braun. Ikea, the Swedish furniture company, is another example of minimalist designed consumer products. The furniture is so simple that it’s designed for everyday people to be able to assemble with ease, often without even needing instructions due to it being self-explanatory.

And of course, minimalist design carried over naturally into the digital realm, with visual and web designers applying minimalism principles into their own designs and designs for clients.


Part Three

Influential Minimalist Designers

There were plenty of people doing minimalist designs, but like with any trend or movement, there were a few key figures that were more prominent and influential than the rest. Two key figures in minimalist design were: Buckminster Fuller Dieter Rams.


Influential Minmalist Designers

Buckminster Fuller was an American designer who’s best known for his architectural design of the geodesic dome. Born in 1895, Fuller’s futurist tendencies helped him to design minimalist geodesic domes in the middle of the 20th century which could stand on its own – and still stand today.

Buckminster Fuller


“Less, but better”

Dieter Rams

To designers, Dieter Rams should be an even more familiar name. Rams is a German industrial designer who was born in 1932 and was head designer at the Braun company, where he helped design things like record players, radios, calculators, and consumer appliances. Rams heavily pursued minimalist design, focusing on including only the essential aspects of a product so that it’s not filled with non-essentials. That resulting product would then be simple and as pure as possible. Rams’ self-described design approach is ‘Less, but better’. Rams also has a ten principles to good design. He states that good design:


1. Is innovative – uses technology to innovate, 2. Makes a product useful – emphasizes the usefulness and functionality, 3. Is aesthetic – beautiful and makes people feel good, 4. Makes a product understandable – at best, it’s self-explanatory, 5. Is unobtrusive – is neutral and lets user impose their personal style on it, 6. Is honest – doesn’t promise things the product can’t deliver, 7. Is long-lasting – is timeless, 8. Is thorough down to the last detail, 9. Is environmentally friendly – conserves resources and space, both physically and visually, 10. Is as little design as possible – gets out of the way of the product


Part Four

Minimalist Design Practical Approach

Knowing the history and key figures of minimalist design is nice and all, but knowledge without action is useless (outside of entertainment purposes, of course). So here are some resources on the right practical approach to minimalist design.



Practical Approach

Principles of Minimalist Design – a Smashing article with examples that runs through the essential principles of minimalist design and how to apply it to web design: Less is more – use only elements that are necessary for your design; the end effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Omit needless things – don’t include unnecessary elements in your designs; include only what’s necessary to the content and function (including certain design and graphical elements that directly affect readability and usability). Subtract until it breaks – remove elements until your design stops working the way it should (stops being user-friendly or stops delivering your intent experience); the point right before that is when you’ve achieved the most minimalist design possible. Every detail counts – what you choose to leave in is vital, so think of the feeling you want visitors to have, then include only the details that will create that feeling (funky, modern, clean, sophisticated, and so forth). Color minimally – use only the colors that interact well with each other and create the feeling you want visitors to have. White space is vital – don’t try to fill every space, instead use white space to emphasize certain elements over others. The Ins and Outs of Minimalist Design – a Design Shack article that looks at key aspects of minimalism in web design and showcases examples from designers who got it right. The key aspects it covers are: Typography – choose clean, simple fonts with high level of readability. Strong grid alignments – a readable and pleasing arrangement of content; our eyes are familiar with this pattern, and we want items to line up in a predictable manner. Contrast – increased contrast can drastically improve your design’s readability and user-friendliness. White space – emphasize where you want viewers to look while making them feel comfortable and less claustrophobic.


Practical Approach

Minimalism Vs. Simplicity

As the name implies, minimalism is certainly not a lavish style, but it is not an absence of design either. As a 60’s grandchild of the Bauhaus movement, minimalism continued the trend of artists rejecting the lavish, highly-decorative styles of the past. Decoration had become so intense and dense that it had begun to undermine the function of the objects it touched.


Part Four



Consider the two photographs of houses above. It’s clear enough to

determine which is simple and which is minimal. What makes the right house minimalist is the reduction of its elements to just the essential parts—the necessary components that makes it a house. In a sense, minimalism is a reduction in quantity. “Minimal” can be simplistic, but simple is not always minimal.



Part Five

Minimalist Building Designs

These buildings include, houses, residentials, school, clinic, art galleries and art space, apartments, villas, restaurants, train stations, etc (literally everything and every minimalist buildings. Location: Wordwide



Mateus Andrade // 01.12.15

Färgfabriken Kunsthalle Old industry units are valuable witnesses of passing trends and usages. Serving as the ground for experimentation and the perfect stage for architecture improvements over time. Once a factory for paint or even ammunition, the latest incarnation is a Kunsthalle for contemporary art and architecture by Petra Gipp Arkitektur in the outskirts of Stockholm. The almighty white colour, a favourite for minimalism architects, was put into great use as a pacifier for wildly divergent styles and scales in this inconspicuous renovated factory. The challenge was clear, to prepare each space for eclectic practices.From the charming, 60’s inspired, meeting rooms humbly playing with black and white interchanges, to the arched ceilings in the cafe with glass and light wood as its sole supporting acts. It’s clear that for each room the architects negotiated and balanced it all so the sparseness and weightlessness of the main exhibition room doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even in between expositions, this project managed to find an equilibrium that is quite rare for large-scale minimalist buildings. The architects gave a new lease of life to an old factory with confident austereness and a great sense of preservation for historic elements.






Photography by Ake E:son Lindman.



Jillian Japka // 21.01.16

Les Perseides Atelier REC architecture has designed an unprecedented school with curvilinear forms and a dazzling facade. Les Perseides is a collection of 15 classrooms for the Blagnac School Group in the modern eco-neighbourhood of ZAC Andromeda, France. REC explains the intention of the design: [The school] marks the lasting urban ambition of architectural complex revolving around concepts between an open landscape and a city garden. The school of the neighbourhood is designed to be an urban landmark, a place of exchange and friendliness. A white outer skin, fashioned of concrete, protects the functions of the school — the classrooms, sports arena, and green — from the busy streets of ZAC Andromeda. The skin also serves the practical function of regulating the building’s internal temperature, allowing for low energy consumption. But from an outsider’s eye the facade is simply an urban sculpture, easily admired from the busy intersections adjacent to the school. The classrooms are all designed with a connectivity to the courtyard — a lovely feature of this city school is to have so much access to outdoor space! Large skylights are placed plentifully in the upper rooms. The views of the blue skies above surely lead the students to the most magnificent of daydreams. Bright colours, utilised in both the interior decor and outdoor playscapes, lend a light and welcoming spirit to these areas.






The school is designed with comfort in mind: each room or gathering space is easily accessible, & natural light floods to every inch. Surely learning in a school as beautiful as Les Perseides inspires the mind to do great things. Photography by REC architecture / Mikael Petit.



Jillian Japka // 11.09.14

Geneva Flat FREAKS Free Architects recently designed this one-story apartment in downtown Geneva, Switzerland. Completed this year, Geneva Flat is arranged to utilise every inch of space and does so brilliantly. The open floor plan is divided by thin white walls and panes of glass. Most of the walls serve more than one function. The walls become a wardrobe, bookshelf, and even a platform for the bed. The glass is a room separator but still allows each space of the apartment to feel connected. It also creates a bright and airy aesthetic throughout the home. Geneva Flat is decorated with monochrome furnishings and an artful light fixture. The gray and white palate of this apartment couldn’t be more simple. Yet, in a space as austere as Geneva Flat, every material is crucial to forming a comprehensive design scheme. Each element was chosen which great care, resulting in a composition that is both minimal and luxurious.






Photography courtesy of Alain Carle Architecte.



Jorge San Luis // 15.01.16

AIBS House When Belgian architecture studio AABE were commissioned to design a luxurious house located on the top of a 159 metre cliffside in Ibiza, Spain, they had a very clear vision. One that has been impeccably executed and almost goes unnoticed by its astonishing and unique environment, which is perhaps key to the success of this project. Just like a path or road which comes to a dead end, the land becomes rippled before turning into a staircase which leads you down to the lower bridge from where you can appreciate the landscape in all its beauty. The house itself, with its strong minimalist aesthetic, includes an enclosed living area featuring a single large window frame, which are designed to provide protection against the winds. A number of walls and pillars have been erected on the concrete surface, supporting the floor above which contains the bedrooms. Away from view, the swimming pool lies to the side of the house beyond the terrace, surrounded by the natural environment, which includes an olive tree providing a second wall for the patio. Under bright blue skies AIBS House appears calm and serene whilst in stormy weather it has a striking and tormented air about it.






Photography by Jean-Luc Laloux.



Adele Lim // 13.08.12

Färgfabriken Kunsthalle

Designed by Maria Castello Martinez with Formentera’s expansive landscape in mind, Es Pujol De Sera is a work-live structure that accommodates a small family dwelling as well as a small architectural design office. Completed in 2011, the building’s central annex contains iroko timber-made cabinetry and access to a skylight which separates the 2 programs with sliding walls and slits in interior walls that allow for the flexibility of private and public spaces to integrate into each other. Extruded planes of the volume on the exterior in the North-South orientation exploit the best views of the site. Using movable screen walls to provide a level of privacy and shade is a simple, beautiful architectural detail as the structure experiences physical changes that one might imagine on such an exposed location. Within the uncomplicated volume of this single-storey structure, the architect is successful in embracing the landscape with its wall-windows and accessibility of the exterior to the interior. I really appreciate the elegant simplicity yet carefully planned layout and program of the interiors which add such a great depth to the style of minimalism in architecture.



House Map




Photography by Estudi Epdse.



Vicky Kaiser // 13.08.10

Georg Spreng’s House by C18 “If my house was burning down I would try to save my life,” said Michel Roeder, one of three partners of German architecture firm, C18. A less obvious choice for some of us. Once during an earthquake, I quickly grabbed my iPhone before running out of the office building. Georg Spreng, one of the original founders of Frogdesign, now a jewelry designer, and C18 architects share a taste for clinical precision and pragmatic romanticism. Facing the street, the exterior of Georg Spreng’s home, near Stuttgart, in Germany, is a facade of clinical white, square tiles. It does not reveal what is inside—a great surprise. The house opens into the landscape with splashes of color, that reflects Spreng’s jewelry designs, and light-filled spaces with ultra-modern finishes. On the cooler end: flirtatious curtains and an unforgettably, glamorous lap pool. A nostalgic mood to the minimalist affair. Can minimalism be deliberately mysterious? Architecture





Jorge San Luis // 14.09.11

House in Melides I do not usually write about architecture, but this house has really caught my attention. As an unusual point, the client of this build made a competition between three architects and Pedro Reis won the project. The house is in Melides, Portugal, and has two volumes in the shape of a cross. In the upper volume are the main spaces: living room and dining room in an open plan format, the kitchen and the main bedroom. In the lower volume are the secondary spaces: bedrooms, bathrooms and the garage. I like the contrast between the upper volume, white and clean, and the lower one, with a more rustic style.








Jillian Japka // 18.09.14

Luxembourg House G house, a stunning minimalist private residence nestled in Afeka, northwest of Tel Aviv, is the result of the collaboration of Axelrod Architects and Pitsou Kedem Architects whose work may already be familiar among our readers. Their masterful attention to detail reveals itself in the frameless, flushed architecture. The intersecting beams, columns and planes of this project deliver the sunlight in an almost abstract way, penetrating the volumes and reflecting across the glass and walls on the inside. The roof floats over and cantilevers over the structure, providing much needed shade for this home. My favorite part of this project is the narrow, vertical stairwell, the ‘slice’, that faces the street not only serves as egress, but emphasizes the dramatic volume of the interior with the massive height and extensive use of glazing . The back of the house now has a clever way of letting light in. As the architects describe it: The ‘slice’, containing stairs to all floors, is punctuated by a linear skylight and a ribbon window that dramatically illuminates the stairwell. The result is a spectacularly unifying element in what would have simply been the backside of the building.




Photography by Roland Halbe.





Adele Lim // 09.09.13

G House When Belgian architecture studio AABE were commissioned to design a luxurious house located on the top of a 159 metre cliffside in Ibiza, Spain, they had a very clear vision. One that has been impeccably executed and almost goes unnoticed by its astonishing and unique environment, which is perhaps key to the success of this project. Just like a path or road which comes to a dead end, the land becomes rippled before turning into a staircase which leads you down to the lower bridge from where you can appreciate the landscape in all its beauty. The house itself, with its strong minimalist aesthetic, includes an enclosed living area featuring a single large window frame, which are designed to provide protection against the winds. A number of walls and pillars have been erected on the concrete surface, supporting the floor above which contains the bedrooms. Away from view, the swimming pool lies to the side of the house beyond the terrace, surrounded by the natural environment, which includes an olive tree providing a second wall for the patio. Under bright blue skies AIBS House appears calm and serene whilst in stormy weather it has a striking and tormented air about it.










Photography by Amit Geron.



Jillian Japka // 28.01.16

Casa V Abraham Cota Paredes has completed the lovely Casa V in Jalisco, Mexico. The home design aims to create serenity and a connection with nature in a site that is surrounded by urbanity. The main feature of Casa V is a central patio, complete with tree and reflecting pool. The courtyard physically and visually unites the various areas of the house. I love the way different sized windows are used to create viewing areas into the patio. These viewports are necessary for bringing light and ventilation into the first floor rooms, as the ground story has no exterior windows due to the public nature of the site. Cantilevered staircases draw the user to the second floor where a large back terrace provides much-needed outdoor space while taking advantage of city views. While the home is mostly a stark white, subtle details connect the design to nature. The wood of the staircase steps and window beams draws your attention to the forest, further accentuated by the lone tree in the courtyard. The floors and bathroom are covered in white marble, a gorgeous natural material that feels both modern and ancient. And of course, the water and tree in the courtyard connect the resident to an organic landscape far from the metropolis. The overall effect of Casa V is one of peace and tranquility; a sense of oneness with nature while in the centre of the city. Architecture







Photography by Roland Halbe.



Jillian Japka // 31.12.15

C_29 / Optimist 314 Architecture Studio has designed a modern eyewear store in a crumbling building in the town of Chalkida, Greece. The store, C_29 / Optimist, was designed with the concept of a gallery space to showcase the eyewear for sale. The structure appears as a floating cube squeezed between two aged brick walls. Remnants of the old building are apparent; exposed brick runs the length of the shop and acts as a kind of ramshackle decor. The structure gets plenty of natural light due to its open front and a skylight that spans the length of the ceiling. The light is reflected in the many mirrored surfaces, creating a lustrous aura throughout. The store is monochromatic, but the whitewashed surfaces provide more than enough captivating textures. Painted brick pair with new sheetrock, both grounded by polished concrete floors. The centrepiece of the room, again in white, is a modish display table. This vanguard feature gives the vibe of a spotlight sculpture in a gallery. Glass tables along the perimeter hold freestanding mirrors. A mirror is an object with a simple enough function, but in this design they are elevated to additional artworks in this gallery-store. It makes sense to design a store in the tradition of a gallery. After a time in a store with this aesthetic, who wouldn’t want to take home a small bit of the artistry? Architecture





Mateus Andrade // 06.01.16

Minimalist House From time to time some projects deserve a second look, with refreshed visuals. That is when Minimalissimo revisits outstanding pieces from the past. Take a look at this beauty originally covered 6 years ago: An anonymous white box faces the street, clearly an unusual and candid welcome for eventual guests; but also a very austere take on privacy, as there are no windows to the outside. The Okinawa-based project has one of the most straightforward names as Minimalist House the architects from Shinichi Ogawa & Associates played all the cards openly. A true love letter to minimalism in all senses right from the entrance. Three partitions makes up the whole premise, two identical 18x3m strips and one slightly leaner. With that recipe the house takes shape — starting with a beautiful courtyard doing its part to set the tone with a very simple green garden offering some height and water. In addition, of course, the much important light source to the main area, a possible Tadao Ando influence. The middle section holds no walls nor any kind of evident division, as each room is purely defined by its furniture holding their ground. The lack of evident separation forces its residents to a very simple lifestyle, with very few elements on display in the bedroom, dining area and living room (with a clear love for music). On the other hand, such arrangement is the gift of extreme flexibility. As the building does not limit nor dictate what should be done. A white functional wall separates the only explicitly private area for the powder room, study and the kitchen. The long corridor sports a beautiful and subtle lighting project. Architecture


Photography by Jonathan Savoie.




Gian Marco Tosi // 06.03.15

The White Gallery House Israeli architecture studio Pitsou Kedem continue to impress with this 700mq family home completed in 2014. The White Gallery House is a private residence situated in a white box with large windows as decorative elements and a large open space that seems a lot like an art gallery. Vertical lines open like geometric slashes connecting the house to its surroundings, to the garden and to the long and narrow swimming pool that stems from inside the house. The openings make it possible to look out into the surrounding environment if you are inside, or look into the house if you are outside. They allow natural light to penetrate the structure or artificial lighting to seep out into the surroundings during the hours of darkness. These vertical openings also serve as a reminder of a modern stilt house when you see them from the outside through the surrounding trees. Architecture







Photography courtesy of Pitsou Kedem.



Pingkan Palilingan // 20.11.15

Kopi Manyar Designed and owned by esteemed architects, husband and wife Isandra Matin and Audite Matin, Fandy Gunawan, and Angie Miranti (who all work under the renowned architecture firm, Andramatin Architects), Kopi Manyar strikes a balance between its austerity and atmospheric mood at the same time. The dominating low-key palette and clean-lined furniture that pays a nod to Japanese aesthetic is a perfect backdrop for your idle contemplation. Sunlight beams in through wooden fittings, creating sharp shadow lines; a small-scale Zen garden with a big tree that shades those who wish to have their coffee with a glint of sunshine; it’s these kind of details that makes one wants to stay at Kopi Manyar longer than planned. But of course, all is done without forgetting the company of Kopi Manyar’s coffee, with coffee beans by Javanero that mainly sourced their green beans from West Java. Similar to the interior, the menu is pared down with a handful of coffee options and light bites, typical of those offered in a modest “warung kopi”. During lunchtime, expect yourself to overhear conversations on buildings and construction from people beside you – they are usually staffs of Andramatin Architects whose office is located just at the back end of the cafe. Apart from enjoying a good ol’ cup of joe, one can also take the opportunity to enjoy art works from the gallery (with different themes that are regularly rotated), which is located in a separate room beside the seating area. With a design-oriented establishment plus a comforting cup of coffee, it is safe to say that Kopi Manyar is the embodiment of an immaculate pairing between coffee and design. Architecture



Photography by Regina Michelle Wijaya.


Great Design is eliminating all unecessary details.


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