Contemporary Alternatives to Minimalism?


I am looking for some inspiration for contemporary architecture which goes against the typical minimalist/ glass blob/ corporate generic housing standard of today.

The architect's which immediately spring to mind are Scarpa, Rennie Mackintosh and to a certain extent, Frank Lloyd Wright. Architecture where there is a clear celebration of detail and function. Not corporate high-tech steel frame but everyday domestic architecture meets furniture design. Instead of the usual 'render and wrap here and insert IKEA table here' blandness we see everyday. Purpose built architecture meets furniture as opposed to the generic 'multi-use flexible' space we seem to worship today.

Any suggestions?

Oct 13, 11 11:44 am

from the modern period you could look at people like aalto and kahn...

for more contemporary work, maybe people that might be categorized as phenomenologists, like williams + tsien, peter zumthor, o'donnell + tuomey, steven holl, and juhani pullasmaa...

or people that you might categorize as "critical regionalists" (see kenneth frampton) like alvaro siza, luis barragan, sverre fehn... and lesser known regional architects like marlon blackwell, frank harmon, or olson + kundig...

Oct 13, 11 11:57 am


Oct 13, 11 12:11 pm

I agree with the above examples!

Also see......Ando, Sanaa, Toyo Ito, Kenzo Kuma...........Alot of good examples from Japanese architects since minimalism started there. 

Oct 13, 11 2:06 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. All of the architects you have mentioned have some nice work.

J Arleo - Ando, Sanaa etc are very minimalistic in my opinion in the way they use materials and conceal details. What I was enquiring about were contemporary architects who oppose minimalism (or seem to do in their designs). I am not by any means referring to classical architects who design pastiche villas and use classical columns etc.

It's difficult to explain exactly what I mean. If you look at how Rennie Mackintosh or Scarpa would approach the design of a door handle for example, it's quite different to how an architect may specify one today. For example, Scarpa would most likely create his own bespoke design, suitable for the purpose and architecture. For example, a door handle between the kitchen and serving areas may be different to the handle between service area and stockroom etc. Different treatment, shape, form, material etc. Also if you look at how architect's use balustrade's now, It seems to be either a) Leave one out altogether and go for pure minimalism, b) Use sheet glass or other and leave the ballustrade out or c) Use a stainless steel or similar 'minimal' balustrade. It's almost as if the focus is not on making the piece beautiful in itself or expressing it as a work of art as it has been throughout history. If you look through Classical, Renaissance, Gothic, Art Nouveau, Art Deco architecture, the ballustrade has been as object of beauty and worthy of design consideration and expression. Yet in today's minimalist fashion it seems to be relegated to something which ruins photos and looks ugly.

Rennie Mackintosh's Window Brackets at the Glasgow School of Art:

So what I am mainly asking is if there are any architects who focus on designing buildings with particular focus on expressing details and transforming everyday objects into works of art and beauty. Or is this purely a classical view? Is it possible to do this in a contemporary manner?

The most recent example I have seen is Morphosis' work in the 1980s (the work shown in first book). Today though they seem to be becoming more and more corporate and minimalist.

Perhaps I am heading in the wrong direction?

Oct 13, 11 3:29 pm

Oh, I was not sure what you were asking, a bit thrown off by the expression of function comment, because that is what minimalism was much about.  Scarpa seems like a great fit, also look at bruce goff.  They were both students of F.L.W, who was influenced by the arts and crafts movement.  I think it is a great focus, but the research will be tedious because there is no single over-arching category.  I had a class about intricacy in architecture and did a model of scarpas brion vega cemetary.  Formal intricacy in contemporary architecture may be a good search for you to look into.  Even in this class contemporary examples were pretty scarce.  The professor of the class I took was wrighting a book on "intricacy and architecture," and if I can find it I will post you the link.  Also, may want to look at gaudi, I know he is not contemporary, but defidently fits and should be covered in your research. 

Oct 13, 11 6:03 pm

minimalism is not about functionalism - it is about craft and concealment.

Oct 13, 11 6:36 pm

j.arleo- Thanks for the suggestions. Bruce Goff's work is very nice and the style I was referring to. have you seen the work of Bart Prince (Goff's student)? Very intricate like you were describing. I only wish I had seen these projects when I was a student and could have researched their work further.

Can't seem to find the book intricacy and architecture. What was the name of the Professor?

Oct 14, 11 8:04 am

check out the work of Andresen O'Gorman. Some of the early work of Donovan Hill, like the HH House. John Wardle's Vineyard Residence, the work of Kerstin Thompson. Kerry Hill is pretty minimal, but he can pull off a mean balustrade now and again. 

Oct 14, 11 7:39 pm

No one mentioned John Pawson (, but when i think clean design and furniture, I have a craving to flip through his work.

Oct 14, 11 7:44 pm

"writing a book" is that a Lloydian slip?

Oct 14, 11 9:05 pm

What about Mario Botta?  Some of Moneos work may fit too.  

Oct 16, 11 1:00 am

Less indeed provides more. That's why I don't have anything to offer as an alternative to minimalism. I have read a lot about the works of Tadao Ando that's why I personally fell in love with minimalism. Actually if you look around, even modern furniture such as ghost chairs remind us what minimalism has achieved in contemporary design.

Oct 15, 12 11:13 am
Kos Scarpa Kos

FABULA architecture wishes to reintroduce words and story as a guide to the design and to the thought of form.

FABULA architecture is a method that all architects can apply, as a basic theoretical formula, to their projects, to their style  :)

Oct 19, 12 5:03 am

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