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Three Eminent Minimalist Structures Across the World
September 1, 2021 at 6:30 PM
by Subikshaa Stalin
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A popular art movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Minimalist style was established by younger artists who stepped away from abstract expressionism. Revolutionizing the world of art and design, this style soon took shape across all art mediums - from canvases and sculptures to living spaces and built environments. American artist Frank Stella, a pioneer of the Minimalist art movement describes the intent of the artistic style is to have an absolute and immediate response from its viewers - “All I want anyone to get out of my [works] and all I ever get out of them is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion. What you see is what you see.

Taking inspiration from Cubism, the movement was characterized by monochromatic planes and geometrical forms that abstained from ornate expressions thereby establishing clarity in design. Built structures from this period immediately appealed to the visual attention of their users allowing them to contemplate the materials used and experience these spaces in varied settings of light.

3 Eminent Minimalist Structures from Across the World:

1. Barcelona Pavillion, Spain

2. Church of the Light, Japan

3. Chichu Art Museum, Japan

1. Barcelona Pavillion, Spain

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Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who is cited to be one of the first practitioners of minimalism in building design, the Barcelona Pavillion was built as a part of the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. Mies conceived the pavilion to be an inhabitable sculpture that offered a serene getaway from the exposition, distinguishing it from the rest of the pieces displayed.

The essence of the design lies in the efficacious use of materials - steel, marble, chrome, and glass that create a rich spatial experience for the users. Sourced from the Mediterranean lands and Swiss Alps, the marble exhibits a symmetrical pattern created through the technical process of broaching. The Pavillion is raised on a plinth of travertine that elevates and separates the built structure from its neighboring context of a vibrant city. The roof sports a low profile thus fitting eloquently as a floating surface in the elevation of the built structure. In all regards the Pavillion is an embodiment of Mies’ principle of minimalism - “Less is more”.

2. Church of the Light, Japan

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Located in the small town of Ibrasaki, within the vicinity of Osaka, the Church of Light is an architectural wonder that fuses principles of light and minimalism. The structure being Tadao Ando’s aesthetical rendition of a religious complex embodied simplicity and had no elaborate Christian motifs.

An absolute space devoid of any ornamentation, the Chapel relied solely on the intersection of light and geometric planes to create a spatial experience that invoked feelings of spirituality and reflection among its users. Built purely of concrete shells, the church complex is a result of planar surfaces carefully aligned by skilled Japanese carpenters. The void that takes shape of the cruciform in the east-facing wall is the only prominent religious symbol in the complex. The light filtered from this cross illuminates the dark concrete interiors of the complex making it a humble abode for worship.

3. Chichu Art Museum, Japan

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A visual testament to the Minimalist style in architecture, the Chichu Art Museum is another distinguishable work of Tadao Ando that makes use of strong geometric shapes and lighting principles. Located on the art island of Noshima, the museum is built underground so as to not disrupt the seamless view of the Seto Inland Sea. A major tourist attraction, the museum complex was built in 2004 to re-establish and redefine the connections of people and nature. The specific orientation of the blocks facilitates light to be filtered in varied angles creating unique spatial interactions with the user throughout the day. With the ample amount of light and play of spaces, Tadao has thoughtfully managed to eliminate the claustrophobic feeling of being underground.

The complex also features two spatial courtyards - one imitating the shape of an equilateral triangle and the other taking the shape of a square. The meticulous use of natural materials such as glass and concrete helps establish the significant idiosyncratic style of Tadao Ando in the structure.

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