published August 8 2012

Overheard,”I hate modern architecture”

Most people are familiar with Mies van der Rohe’s classic proposition that “Less is More”. In many minds it is not a statement, but a law.

The statement, of course, was a reaction to the design community’s penchant to create something unremarkable and gussy it up with layers upon layers of ornamentation. Based on this thought of the early Modernists, preference was rather given to an architectural mindset and aesthetic that moved decidedly away from ornamentation.

I frequently listen to an excellent podcast named dashdashforce (which deals predominantly with technological matters far above my head, but that I find incredibly interesting) and they were discussing this idea of design being distilled to its bare essentials. One of the contributors (Adam, I believe) made an analogy to great chefs attempting to create great food; that the focus becomes a study in minimalism where very few ingredients, each of the highest quality, have an important part in an overall “design”. In speaking with a well-respected chef friend about this idea, his discourse sounded a lot like really good architects speaking of architecture.

The point to all of this is that I’ve been noticing a troubling trend growing since Modernist thought regained the spotlight over the past fifteen years. That trend is the wholehearted acceptance of the “Less”, but without the emphasis on the “More”.  The point to shaving off every superfluous detail was to magnify the quality of the true nature inherent in the design. If the true nature of the design sucks, then why not gussy it up? Rather, please DO create simple, clean design, but do it as part of GOOD design. Defining good design is a discussion for another post; however, a flat roof and stucco is not automatically synonymous with the idea.

I actually wonder what people are referring to when they state that they hate modern architecture. Surely they don’t mean the homes they’ve seen by firms such as Ian MacDonald Architect or Shim Sutcliffe (pictured above, and don’t call me Shirley). My guess is that someone plunked down a “modern” on their street, but forgot to remember the “More”.