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Minimalism is a movement where everything is reduced to the most essential part. It stress on the functionality of space. Likewise, it is not only the movement but also a way of life. The important part that is promoted in minimalism shows the vital aspect that we need to look at. In our busy life, we sometimes forget about what we really need. Appreciation of life is being forgotten by the work especially in a hectic country like developed country.
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Today, this movement is well developed in Japan even though at first this movement came in the west. Minimalism adapt flexibly with their culture. What challenging of the application in this country where the rate of population is quite high while there is no enough space is will it survive. The capability of minimalism in this country proves that Minimalism is still relevant up until today. Hence, it improve the quality of life by slowing the time inside the space in contrast with what’s happening outside.
This is not only suitable in Japan but also in other country. Of course, it is not applicable in the same way as they do it in Japan. The most important thing is the capability of Minimalism to improve the quality of life through architecture. High quality of life conveys happiness to the users. So where should Minimalism in architecture start? Should the behavior come as the primary aspect or should the behavior be shaped by architecture?
After Art Nouveau era die, Modernism born as the consequences of an economic inflation. People no longer looked at an ornament but more to the utilitarian object, a form without ornament. This movement started in Germany when Walter Gropius built an academic institution called Bauhaus in 1919. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a founder of form of modern industrial design. He was designing a steel chair which was new on that period.. It was no longer in flamboyant form, on the contrary the form is geometric and have a modern – looked . A few years after that, Gropius and Mies as well as with Le Corbusier who believes in Purism and Cubism worked together and discovered an International modern Architecture called Art Deco. This movement was not only influenced England but also America. In Modernism, architecture was created based on the functionality of the space. On the other hand, in 1950s, Free Flow movement came. The form of the design in this period is curve. There was a problem in the politic of Germany that caused some of the artist moving to America and it influenced the next movement in 1960’s. Op Art & Minimalism and Pop Art were born. Op Art and Minimalism have the same characteristic: strong geometric elements, yet Pop Art emphasises on the good design. As the public reaction away from purity design, Pop Art had quite a big influence to their desire of colour and ornament up until today.
The background above shows that Minimalism rooted in Modernism. The fundamental of Modernism is being developed to the Minimalism. Both Modernism and Minimalism, used clean lines and pure geometric form, but Minimalism pursues the essential of quality as a prime objective. Franco Bertoni in his book titled Minimalist Architecture said that a simplicity that exalts the true values of life and eliminates all that is superfluous and misleading around us and obscures recognition of the essential. That is why Minimalism is about discovering the ideal.
According Gunter in his book titled Japanese Gardens (2003, p10), Japanese sense of beauty is the veneration of the unique in nature and the perfection of the man-made type. It shows that Japanese possession of best craftsmanship has been existed since then and it has become their nature. Man always makes Japanese garden by isolating selected forms of nature. Creating Japanese garden is not just as simple as putting nature into a framework even so there are some fix requirement and order.
Japanese garden is created contextually. It shows on the landscape of Japanese garden that imitate the landscape of Japan, no flat plains. As the reflection of civilization, Shinto is influenced the design of Japanese garden, the veneration of nature and sense of purity which still they convey until this generation. The Japanese believe that nature is the abode of deity. Moreover, they believe that the form of the Japanese architecture is given by nature. Nature is one of the crucial elements in architecture, especially in Japan Minimalism. Without nature, minimalism is not complete.
ii. Influence of Western modernism
In 1930’s, Japan experienced modernization whereby western modernism was being adopted and overlapped Japan modernism. It was supported by the arrival of Kenzo Tange and Maekawa, who worked in Le Corbusier’s. Their design is underlay on modern western architecture. Tange was the one who refuse about the fundamental of Japanese architecture. His thinking took part in western thinking, which is “the space that human wrested from nature.” In 1950s “Japonica” came under the influence of America. The marriage with west modernism enriches Minimalism and strengthens its fundamental, which was fertile in ancient times. Nevertheless, it does not omit any element of Japan Minimalism. The space of Japanese architecture is now not only “spatial and performative” but also “constructive and objective.” Strong culture of Japan makes the Minimalism in Japan become unique even though it is influenced by external influence, the west.
Modernism as the root of Minimalism came in German in 1900s. Through the influence from the west, Japan (the east) reinforces their identity in Minimalism. As it was explained before, Japanese culture and the foundation of Minimalism have a strong relationship. It is an inheritance from their ancestor. What is different in the East Minimalism is the infusion of culture. Minimalism flexibly adapts with the culture of Japan and creates their own characteristic. That is why the Japan-ness of Minimalism could be felt in every design.
Clean lines and geometric has been developed in Japan since long time ago. The possession of perfection is compatible with the cleanliness of Minimalism. Both of these Minimalism embrace their relationship with surrounding, nature. Nature is one of the essential elements in Minimalism in the West. Nature gives the feeling of neutrality. What comes from the nature is comforting and easy to be adapted. The interaction with nature is achieved by bring the nature inside even if it just a visual connection just like what Japanese did in Japanese garden.
From these two examples of similarities, we could see that Minimalism is flexible and adaptable to the society, but the fundamental cannot be changed.
d. Characteristic of Minimalism
The essential elements in Minimalism are repetition, reduction and neutrality. It is about designing with maximum simplicity inside and out by putting mass, light, landscape, order, containment, essence and expression.
The quality of mass and volume is the most visible elements. The solidity is reflected on the physical appearance. This solidity and form corporate at the same time and create a prominent imagery of minimalism. Nature elements such as light and landscape play quite a big role in enriching minimalism. Light gives the sense of divineness to the space. Minimalism is not complete without the presence of nature. The element of nature is not only brought outside but also inside, a blurry connection. According to Pawson, order in Minimalism is about reconsidering received wisdom and searching for essential. Containment determines on the openness of the space. Typical minimalist architecture has an open plan and the openings are placed based on in-depth consideration. Even though Minimalism shows simplicity, it is expressive. Its visual imagery speaks about the history, economics and also they way people live are.
Back to the essence of minimalism, repetition is practically being used in minimalist architecture. The used of repetition is comforting. Without similarities, difference could not be recognized. Repetition is geometric shape which derived from Modernism movement, pure form. While other movement is trying to explore the form, Minimalism keeps its appreciation to the pure of form. The reduction is created to evoke serenity of space and reveal textures. The importance of reduction is to emphasize on functionality and the relation with its surrounding because minimalism is about the composition of the holistic. This aspect is referred back to “Less is More” (Mies van der Rohe) which is show the aesthetic of the building by eliminating and showing the purity of forms. “Less is more” was developed by Le Corbusier who coined the purism by the meaning of style where flat surface must be pure, smooth, and white. The colour of white gives the sense of neutrality and shows purification. Neutrality is being promoted to emphasize the holistic so that none of the elements will stand out by itself but they will support each other as one.
2. Quality of Life and Social Environment are One
Quality of life is a degree which a person enjoys the important possibilities of their life. It is the basic standard of human being that must be achieved in order to achieve well-being. There are three categories of quality of life: being, belonging and becoming. Being includes the personal well-being. Belonging is the happiness between one and social environment while becoming is the happiness between one and the their daily activities. All of these aspects are in relation with social environment because one cannot stand-alone by itself.
Environment affects well-being. People happiness depends on the interaction between each of individual and the environment. The significant example is between human and nature, for example temperature. The temperature of the place affects human’s mood. If the temperature is appropriate and human’s body is able to adapt the temperature, human’s mood will not be disturb. It is applied not only in temperature terms but also so in other aspects.
We know that Japan is one of the busiest place on earth. Hectic life and high standard of living do not guarantee the high of quality of life. Because of the hectic life, basic needs of human being are usually being forgotten. Nature takes a quite a part in the degree of quality of life. As it is explained before, Japan in ancient times had a strong relationship with nature. Their relation with nature could improve the degree of quality of life and so does in other busy country.
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Not forgetting other country, the quality of life need to be maintained or even improved so that people could live in even a better environment that give a better affection in our daily life. The reaction of someone on himself, society and surrounding is the measurement of the quality of life. What is the most important on quality of life is, first, to fulfill the basic needs of human being.
3. The way to improve well-being in architecture
People spend most of their time in building (architecture) that is why improving well-being in architecture is decent. We eat, sleep, work and live inside architecture. In order to improve the quality of life in architecture, should the architecture created based on behaviorolgy or based on the needs of human being? Good architecture is an architecture that offers happiness to the users.
a. Architecture Based on Behaviorology
One of the ways to improve quality of life through architecture is creating architecture based on behaviorology. Behaviorology is an independently organized discipline featuring the natural science of behavior. Behaviorologists study the functional relations between behavior and its independent variables in the behavior-determining environment. This study also involves the study of the environment; nature and building. Each of the elements has their own behavior that is distinct from one another. Hence, each element will interact and affect one another. There are three things that we need to look based on behaviorology: the behavior of human beings, nature, and building.
As a human being, we know that we are the most conscious and have a big role to control things around us. We could sense the world by our senses. It is the most important thing in human life. Senses are the door to the outside world. Without it, we cannot feel the world. There are 5 senses in human body such as sense of vision, hear, feel, taste and smell. These sense stimulate human to react to their environment. All the senses except taste are appropriate in the correlation with architecture. Vision, hearing, touch, and smell are able to revive the imagination of things that we were felt before. Because of those senses we are able to react and appreciate the place we live on. Behavior of human could be investigate through a timeline, depends on what are we going to look at. The similarities of action are counted as behavior.
Nature behavior follows the law physics. Nature happens outside and will enter the space. The law of nature is something that cannot be controlled by human. Compared to human behavior, nature behavior works more consistent. In this condition, architecture becomes the framework where nature will react towards the space.
There is also buildings behavior. This could be examined in a quite long time period around 50 to 100 years. In this long-term period, we can see that there is a change in the language of building. The design of typical building from one period to another period shows a movement, a behavior of building. Through this analysis, we could more understand about the society and predict the next building behavior.
Architecture that is based on behavior has the intention to achieve the fondness of the users. Fondness indicates high quality of life. The consideration towards these behaviors is applied to architecture. The intention of the space needs to be easy to understand. This shows that behavior shapes the architecture. Behavior is a key to achieve the happiness so that it could be easier to be adapted. People are easier to adapt in a comfortable space even though it is new for them.
CASE STUDIES: Takaharu + Yui Tezuka, Atelier Bow-Wow
b. Architecture Shapes Behavior
It has been explained before that the vital of human being lays on senses. The sensitivity of sense force human being to react with their surrounding consciously and unconsciously. Architecture is the framework where society happens. Human reacts to environment. This reaction shows that architecture is able to shape human behavior. Some of architects, like Tadao Ando, prefer to design architecture in this way. He thinks that architecture has to understand and shape how the users should be. This is a natural reaction of human being towards the given environment. For the example, the design of traffic in a complex of house. Nowadays, people who live in a city could not be separate with car. Access of car is everywhere to make people live easier but it is not what it should be. The correlation with the car should not be embrace too much. Car gives indirect and direct bad influence. It gives pollution that makes people unhappy and separate people from the society. They are not engage to interact with one another. The environment creates an individual personality.
4.Minimalism in Maximizing the Quality of Life
The basic of Minimalism is about simplicity and reduction to the essential. It emphasizes on the functionality of the space. Minimalism is omitting the unimportant to emphasize the important. Quality of life is, on the other hand, talking about the fulfillment of basic needs. By fulfilling the basic needs, quality of life could be achieved. Today, work burdens our life so that we sometimes forget about what we need to have in our life. In this context, Minimalism are being used as the reaction of hectic life where everything move very fast but when one come to Minimalist space where everything is so simple and lack of decorative, one will feel that the time moves slower. This shows that Minimalism are suitable to achieve a high quality of life. Minimalism and quality of life have the similarities, which is the achievement of basic. The unimportant need to be vanished. As it was explained before, there are two ways how Minimalism improves the quality of life. What is the fundamental to create a Minimalism instead of putting the foundation of Minimalism? The affection to the users needs to be the biggest consideration in order to achieve good quality of life. Decoration does not affect happiness. Quality of life needs to be construct from the basic, which is why the focus attention that is being promoted in Minimalism is pertinent.
Human reacts towards nature and building. Nature is human’s first home. It gives human everything that they need. Interaction between human and nature always give a positive affection, which means a good quality of life. Minimalism always promotes landscape (nature) the design. Health and fondness that are generated by the interaction with nature indicate the good quality of life.
According to the book titled “Minimal: The Big Book of Minimalism” by Alex Sanchez Vidiella (2007, p17), facade design and the integration of building with surrounding become the important topic to be explored by modern architect. This aspect enriches Minimalist design. It is proof that Minimalism is still relevant to be applied today.
Minimalism is not only a movement but also a way of life. The reduction to the important is relevant with the achievement of quality of life which the fulfillment of basic needs that give the well-being as a result. Well-being could be constructed through architecture where we spend most of our live inside. Minimalism should be created through the understanding of behavior to achieve the well-being. It is true that architecture is able to shape the behavior but it needs to come after that. These two ways work concurrently and cannot be separated. The thought of what the user’s want needs to be express through the building in a simplest way so that they understand the thought and the purpose behind it. The clarity and simplicity that is promoted in Minimalism tell about the basic to the users directly. It concludes that Minimalism as a movement and way of life, is able to improve quality of life by omitting the unimportant to emphasize the important that is applied to architecture based on the behavior instead of creating of architecture to shape the behavior.
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