Less is More – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
A pioneer of Modern Architecture, Mies van der Rohe coined the phrase “Less is More”. A phrase that describes what he believed to be essential architecture; minimal, well detailed and modern. A common phrase that some choose to live by especially in an age of consumerism. I have always appreciated well designed and detailed architecture and I would venture to say that most architects relate to things of quality, expensive as they might be.
Today, however, we might add a footnote to this well-know quote. “Less is more, but NOTHING is even better.” In developing economies, we tend to associate progress with building. Suburbs continue to add rings to the outer layer and downtowns demolish old buildings in favor for new larger ones. Is this a recipe for sustainability or disaster? Could we stop building even if we wanted to?
The nothing pitch.
Nothingness – The architecture of nothing.
In order to have an architecture of nothing, would it mean that all of our monuments would be virtual? To visit one then you would walk to an open field, turn on your phone or put on some goggles and experience a virtual monument. Could you pray in a virtual church? Hold conferences online in a Zoom meeting? (wait we do that already). Be inspired by a virtual tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater? (I think we probably have that too). So are we becoming a virtual world already? Do we still need a physical shelter? Even if many of these other program spaces could be done virtually we still live in a physical world.
What would it mean to become “lighter”? Could our buildings float in the air, on the water, in our minds? Could our building have smaller footprints, less dense materials and less embodied energy? Can we tread lighter on the soil, cut down less trees and pour less concrete? What if we lived closer to nature instead of isolating ourselves from it? What would this mean for an architect? What if our initial response to a potential project would be to design it cheaper, use less materials, conserve precious space and program virtual chat rooms? Isn’t this the kind of thing architect’s should be doing?
What do we essentially need for shelter then? At an absolute minimum what could we get by with if we had to taker shelter? A coat, a hat or a tent? It would depend on the climate for sure but if we had to carry our shelter on our bodies it might be something like this.
now add a walking stick . . .
and you get something like this . . .
add more poles and you get this . . .
and pretty soon you have a civilization that provides shelter, goes with you anywhere and treads lightly. The cost of this shelter is minimal compared to one built with any other material. The flexibility of these spaces arranged around an outdoor space is unlimited. The cost of the site, if erected on public land, is nothing and the relationship to nature is absolute. Natural circadian rhythms would be observed with the translucent tent material. We sleep better, live better and afford better than almost nothing.
Born then, is the team of “do mostly nothing” and “build lighter” architects, embracing the credo of reduction. Born to a name, yet to be determined, of “more with less” architects.