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Picture Dictionary of Modern Architecture: Minimalism


The Minimalist home of Mexican architect Luis Barragán is reduced to dramatically lit lines and planes.
The Minimalist Luis Barragan House, or Casa de Luis Barragán

The Minimalist Luis Barragan House, or Casa de Luis Barragán, was the home and studio of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. This building is a classic example of the Pritzker Prize Laureate's use of texture, bright colors, and diffused light.

Photo by Salas Portugal, courtesy of the Pritzker Prize Committee
One important trend in Modernist architecture is the movement toward minimalist or reductivist design. Hallmarks of Minimalism include:
  • Buildings are stripped of all but the most essential elements
  • Emphasis is placed on the outline, or frame, of the struture
  • Interior walls are eliminated
  • Floor plans are open
  • Lighting is used to dramatize lines and planes
  • The negative spaces around the structure are part of the overall design
Modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe paved the way for Minimalism when he said, "Less is more." Minimalist architects drew much of their inspiration from the elegant simplicity of traditional Japanese architecture. Minimalists were also inspired by a movement of early twentieth century Dutch artists known as De Stijl. Valuing simplicity and abstraction, De Stijl artists used only straight lines and rectangular shapes.

The Mexico City home of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Luis Barragán is Minimalist in its emphasis on lines, planes, and open spaces.

Architects known for Minimalist designs include:

  • Tadao Ando
  • Luis Barragan
  • Yoshio Taniguchi
  • Richard Gluckman
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