Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Go Minimal!

Featuring the "MALLORCA" and "IBIZA" model residences by my company Arno Construction.

Arno Construction - Florida Certified Building Contractor CBC 1255481

The "Mallorca" model residence is a proposed contemporary style home of 2600 square feet by Arno de Villiers. It has two master suites, third bedroom and bathroom, great room, family room/study and an external loggia. Watch the video at: 


"Less is more", proclaimed Mies van der Rohe, the famous German architect who virtually invented the steel and glass skyscraper. Having less has of course, been around for a long time, ever since the days when man dwelt in a cave! There is a difference though between being dirt poor and making a conscious choice to simplify one's life even when one can afford more. One can embrace of a simpler lifestyle through understanding how design choices can help one bring it about.

Here are two home designs that break away from the tired old Florida so called "Mediterranean" style. No more tiled roofs, stone moldings, and heavy dark furniture! They are fresh, positive and economical to build.
Sweeping horizontals!

The Mallorca model is a two story home that will fit on a typical Marco Island canal lot. It has 2,534 square feet of air-conditioned space.

The Ibiza Model below is a smaller single story thee bedroom, two bathroom home of only 1650 square feet under air.
The new minimalist look
Let us review the work of a few giants in the field of architecture who helped shape the choices we have just how we would like to live today.
Our friend Mies was rooted in the teachings of the "Bauhaus," an art school started by a distinguished group of teachers in Germany directly after the end of WW1 in 1919. They sought for a means to reconcile the artist and the machine by pursuing new solutions and forms to both man's basic and aesthetic needs. The Bauhaus' curriculum returned its students to fundamentals. Analysis and simplification started with exploring the use of basic materials such as steel, concrete, glass, stone etc, in their unadorned, unembellished state plus a return to the basic rules of design, pure forms  textures and colors. The questions they dared to ask, led to new definitions of beauty in the unadorned and practical aspects of functionality. In the Bauhaus tradition, you too could well ask yourself the question, "How much and who do I really need to hang on to in every aspect of life and how much and who  can I let go of that will actually be a relief to me?"

Steel and Glass

The images above show the minimalist principles taken to an extreme. Philip  Johnson's 1949 glass house in Connecticut consists of a simple rectangular steel frame, glass panels and a brick floor. It could work if you are very tidy and live alone, as did Philip. If not, less will be a bore and you will need a little more!
Great steel and glass architects of the 1950's designed some breathtaking homes. Perhaps the most famous of them all is the 1959 Stahl House overlooking LA by Pierre Koenig that defined the style that became known as "California Modern." It was featured  in numerous fashion shoots and movies.

To help understand, appreciate and perhaps even start adopting the philosophy, look out for the following functional principles in Minimalist design; simplicity, symmetry, angularity, abstraction, consistency, unity, organization, economy, subtlety, continuity, regularity, sharpness and surfaces with a single solid color.
Note these elements in this contemporary beach house below.
The best beach house is of course, one where you can walk straight in with sand on your feet and little else that will spoil the fun like the one below. Okay, at least rinse and wipe your feet outside first, but you get the general idea.
With Minimalism, the KISS principle holds truer than ever, "Keep it simple stupid!" Design does impact lifestyle.
Bauhaus students faced the fact that their future would be involved primarily with industry and mass production rather than with individual craftsmanship. Faculty members included purely creative artists such as the easel painter as a spiritual counterpoint to the practical technician so they may work and teach side by side. The Bauhaus brought together the arts of painting, of architecture, theatre, photography, weaving, typography etc. into a modern synthesis.  The students were offered no refuge in the past but were equipped for the modern world including its artistic, technical, social, economic, spiritual aspects, so that they could function in society not as decorators but as a vital participants. They studied rational design in terms of techniques and materials in the development of a  new and modern sense of beauty.  Hands-on experience of materials at first confined to free experiment and then extended to the practical workshop, was essential to the design student. 

Solid Colors

Building on the groundwork laid by the Bauhaus principles, later minimalist movements such as the Abstract Expressionists explored design through clean, clear edges of  solid color. Think of Matisse who when confined to his bed in 1947  published Jazz, a limited-edition artist's book of about one hundred prints of colorful paper cut collages.


Concrete Cubes

Basic solid color choices and simple geometric forms echo the Minimalist mindset.

The black villa in Sardinia (above) is a complex series interrelated cubes and connected spaces.
This lime white villa on the island of Milos (below) by BP Architects is a combination of six cubes that are grouped like a tiny village around a central court. It’s a traditional Greek building in a contemporary style.

Master Mexican minimalist architect Ricardo Legorreta is known for his bold use of colors. Perhaps too strong a visual Tequila for the American of Anglo-Saxon decent, but I love it!


The Minimalist Floor Plan
Whether built of concrete or steel and glass, major advances towards a less formal lifestyle was made by  three of the great architects of the last century, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and of course our friend Mies. They destroyed the boxes inside the box. Walls no longer divided the home into little cubicles but became elements that created and defined space.

Notice how the walls of 1929 floor plan of Mies of the Barcelona pavilion ran out embracing spaces like the pool and drawing it visually inward in a revolutionary new way.

 When applied to home design, the principle of walls as manipulators of space, destroyed the boxes that made up separate rooms for each function. Some formerly separate rooms started merging into interconnected spaces. Wright often used a fireplace only to separate dining and living area. The kitchen also gradually disappeared as a separate room and became part of one great living space.





Villa Savoy (above) by Swiss architect Le Corbusier was built in 1928 near Paris of reinforced concrete;  a box on the outside but far from it on the inside!

California architects Charles Eames, Pierre Koenig and Craig Ellwood continued the direction set by the three grand masters and perfected the open plan for large and even small homes.  Here is Koenig's now famous plan for the Baily House (Case Study House #21).

Pure forms in naked concrete, hard edge artwork on the walls, and minimal furnishings are all typical of Japanese architect Todeo Ando's work; a simple but brutal beauty.

There is no doubt that embracing some of the principles of minimalist design will be a liberating experience.

Even if you live in a home that was not designed in an open and free flowing spatial way, consider clearing out each closet and drawer. It will be worth the trouble.

I once read somewhere that if you wanted a spiritual experience, just clean out your garage! Join me in taking in these design principles to heart and let us start clearing out the cluttered boxes of earthly goods and outdated relationships in our lives.


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