Less Is More Is Less Is More Or So It Would Seem
Ludwig Mies van de Robe is known not only for his outstanding responses to site with the Architecture that he created, he is also known as that guy! The one who stated "Less Is More" but the burning question for me has been "What exactly does he mean by this?". Well in my latest post I endeavour to discuss the age old question... Is less truly more and if so why... To understand the saying we first need to understand where is comes from... After all I'm sure some of you might be shocked to know the phrase was stolen.... Stolen you say?? From who??? Well ok it wasn't stolen.... It was borrowed and restructured for the world of architecture, it was however originally stated by Robert Browning in his 1855 poem "Andrea del Sarto, called 'The Faultless Painter'". From there it was repeated again by the great Peter Behrens who was a mentor of Mies. Old Mies thought much of it so borrowed it to explain his theories behind modernist minimalist architecture although his interpretation was inherently different from that of Behrens.
No more is this theory of less being more in architecture than in his design for the Barcelona Pavilion (1929) and the Farnsworth House (1945-51). In these two structures we can see the result of his theory put into practice. Both open, crisp, clean and simple in look and feel allowing the Architecture and surrounding nature to control the situation leaving us in a state of relaxation through lack of complex detail. Considering the timing of his work Mies received much criticism initially for what we see today as modern responses to site. In fact on many occasions when speaking to this not in the know with Architecture i bring these two structures into the conversation with the age old question of when those i am discussing the topic with feel these buildings were constructed, more often than not the response is within the last 20 years to which the observer is surprised to hear of the actual age of each building. A man clearly ahead of his time with a design theory that speaks volumes to myself and many in the architecture community.
From Mies work in Architecture and his passion to produce Architecture that allows itself to speak without ornament of the old world one can deduce that his theory of "Less Is More" is one that allows Architecture to speak and if used in the correct manner should therefore be able to show through works produced that less truly is more. The rationale for this conclusion relies on good architecture not requiring many finishes in order to achieve the desired outcome. By this statement i refer to the plethora of poor attempts by modern day designers to keep true to modern feel but falling short by failing to keep their designs simple, too often are we as designers betrayed by our desire to simply be "different" from the others thus producing work with materials or design solutions that are not responsive to the site and generally not desired or needed in the works. Perhaps if we all looked more closely at the work of Mies and his reasonings behind the outcomes he came to on each project we would have a better understanding of designing responsively and thus allowing our work to speak for us on a grand scale instead of adoring our modern projects with an over abundance of quirks in design and material uses that are not required.