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Minimalist and Maximalist Architecture - Guide with Examples

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Architecture is governed and guided by various design philosophies that add character and value to the numerous styles of architecture and design seen today.

Maximalism and Minimalism are such styles of architecture that differ from each other in all aspects and are discussed at length about their superiority.

Maximalism is the art of designing in excess. The more elements added, the bolder the design, and the more surfaces covered, the closer a designer achieves maximalism.

Maximalist Architecture
Maximalist Architecture

On the other hand, minimalism is designed with restriction and control. There are fewer elements and more exposed surfaces. 

Minimalist Architecture
Minimalist Architecture

Simply put, maximalism follows “ more is more” while minimalism follows “ less is more”.

Characteristic Features

Maximalism

  • Loud, chaotic, and vibrant.
  • There are no strict rules or boundaries.
  • It reflects the personality of the user in a pronounced way.
  • The clientele and users are usually art collectors, who like to showcase their collections, fashionably.
  • It is easy to cross the boundary between stylish and tacky.

How to Design Maximally

  • Use rich, and intense colours, that contrast but are pleasing to the eye.
  • Statement pieces such as a large mirror, unique furniture, or even an accent wall, that is extravagant in design.
  • Plush and luxurious fabrics add a regal look.
  • Aggregating various styles like art-deco and craftsmanship can make unique designs.
  • Golden accents on furniture or moulding.
  • Animal, floral or abstract patterns on wallpapers, furniture, or architectural details.

Minimalism

  • Clean, simple, and ordered.
  • There are rules and boundaries.
  • It strips away the unnecessary details and only shows what needs to be seen.
  • The style may be deemed boring by some, but helps maintain a clutter-free environment and increase productivity.

How to Design Minimally

  • Use of geometric forms, with clean lines and defined boundaries.
  • Absence of patterns on all surfaces.
  • A monochrome colour palette, that need not be restricted to black and white.
  • Use of a single hue and its tones.
  • Materials are restricted to industrial ones such as glass, or chrome, and traditional materials such as stone, or wood.
  • Textures are used for visual perception of the space. Matte, glossy or reflective finishes are paired with a color palette to give either a warm or cool ambiance.

Famous Buildings and Architects

Architects Practising Maximalism:

Sasha Bikoff - Maximalist

  • An interior designer by profession, Sasha is known for her maximalist approach, inspired by her hometown New York City.
  • The aesthetic of her design is an abstraction of French Modernism and Italian Rococo.
  • Her designs include vintage antiquities and fashionable fabrics.
  • Examples of her designs are

1. Springs, East Hampton

The residence is a single-floor building. It has wooden structural members and a truss. This wood has thus been used in other finishes throughout the residence.

Maximalism is present in this residence through the furniture. The furniture is colourful, and funky and stands out against the neutral wood walls and floor.

The Dining Room
The Dining Room
The Bedroom
The Bedroom

2. Sutton Place

  • It is a residential apartment unit.
  • The interior of the residence is treated with a gold finish.
  • The furniture, wallpaper, ceiling treatment, and fixtures all have a gold finish.
  • This adds luxury and combined with the color palette of the furniture, the interior is vibrant.
A Hallway in the Residence
A Hallway in the Residence
The Living Room
The Living Room  

Jaime Hayon - Maximalist

  • He is a product/ furniture designer as well as an interior designer.
  • His work is distinguished by its colorful and eccentric design.
  • He uses stacked totem shapes and patterns to accentuate an interior.
  • Examples of his designs are:

1. Pompidou Cafe

  • The cafe is designed based on the exploration of color and shape.
  • There are pavilions separated by multi-colored glass.
  • The tables are curvilinear in shape.
  • The cafe ties in with the design concept of the Pompidou Centre, which is known for its exposed ducts, staircases, and color.
Multi-Coloured Glass Pavilion
Multi-colored Glass Pavilion
Curvilinear Tables
Curvilinear Tables

2. La Terraza del Casino

  • The restaurant is designed with a blue-green color palette.
  • There are organic elements used in the design of the furniture and the building elements.
  • There are totem pole columns of organic shapes.
  • The golden molding and beading stand out against the blues and greens.
Totem Pole Column
Totem Pole Column
The Effect of Gold against the Blue-Green Palette
The Effect of Gold against the Blue-Green Palette

Architects Practising Minimalism

John Pawson - Minimalist

  • He is known as the “Master of hyper Minimalism”.
  • His work focuses on designing to solve the fundamental problems of space, proportion, light, and materials.
  • He has worked on residential, religious, and commercial projects.
  • Examples of his work are:

Giessen House, Germany

The house is designed using architectural principles in an enclosed space. The ground floor is designed to allow the viewer to have an indoor-outdoor connection.

The user will be able to see the bounds of the site from the ground floor. The first floor is designed to be lit only by natural light. The openings and the way the light falls are interesting and unique.

Ground Floor with View
Ground Floor with View
First Floor with Play of Natural Light
First Floor with Play of Natural Light

Haus Tirol, Italy

  • The residence has been built using the natural contour as a guideline.
  • The use of stone has been adapted from the castles of history.
  • Stone is present on the exterior surfaces, as well as in the interior, as flooring or fixtures.
  • The use of natural materials is what makes this design minimalist.
Residence Built with Contour as Guideline
Residence Built with Contour as Guideline
Use of Natural, Local Materials
Use of Natural, Local Materials

2. Vincent Van Duysen

  • His philosophy is that architecture should not demand attention, but should rather be a silent experience.
  • He designs with the material taking the limelight, based on the client’s needs.
  • Examples of his designs are:

Torik Offices, Belgium

The building is a warehouse, office, and an atelier, resulting in a sculptural form. It has a strong horizontal character.

The black base, overhanging concrete slab, and white rooftop are atypical in design. Dark metal grids and prefab concrete are the main materials of the building. There is a play of light and shadow in the interior.

The Form of the Building
The Form of the Building
Shadows on the Interior
Shadows on the Interior

EK Residence, Los Angeles

  • The residence has a brickwork facade, that helps to tie the building with the surrounding nature.
  • The juxtaposed volumes result in no barriers between the building and its surroundings.
  • A central courtyard allows for the various spaces to merge.
  • Tall windows allow ample light into the interior.
  • The use of local material tricks the user into believing the seamless transition from outside to inside.
Brick on the Exterior, with Surrounding Nature
Brick on the Exterior, with Surrounding Nature
Tall Windows for Seamless Transition

With this extensive and comprehensive look into Maximalism and Minimalism, understanding the subtle nuances and approaches to achieving the two styles will be a simpler task.

It is ideal to refer to projects done by experts and dept hands, such as the architects mentioned above, for better clarity and inspiration for our own design.

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