The above apartment symbolizes emptiness rather than minimalism

The above apartment symbolizes emptiness rather than minimalism. Most of the things we believe as minimalism is just emptiness. Emptiness is not necessarily a bad thing. The point of discussion is how minimalism & emptiness is different rather than which is better.

Allow me to take you through the journey of finding minimalism. I may not be completely right but I can guarantee you that the journey will be worthful for your time.

Don’t panic, if you don’t understand the above sentence. We are going to understand it through this article together with examples & frameworks.

Picasso bull

Deconstruction to emptiness: When Picasso wanted to draw a bull, He stated by deconstructing the figure of bull until it is just a set of lines.
Reconstruction from emptiness to minimalism: He then developed the bull profile it by enhancing the elements he thought as important

Apple & Muji

Let’s compare watches by Apple (Representing Minimalism under the creative leadership of designer Jony Ive) & Muji (Representing Emptiness under the creative leadership of designer Kenya Hara)

Muji deconstructed the watch to its bare essentials creating a generic yet high-quality watch
Apple deconstructed the watch but it didn’t stop there but went enhancing the elements which it thought as important

Aspects of minimalism

When we are generally discussing minimalism, we are talking about the aesthetic aspect only forgetting the functional aspect. I can hear some of you asking what on earth is the aesthetic aspect & functional aspect.

The aesthetic aspect focuses on the aesthetics (Visual & Tactile beauty) of the product while the functional aspect focuses on the functions (Uses & Ease of use) of the product

Aesthetic aspect: Visual clutter vs Visual clarity

When we are talking about minimalist aesthetics, we are generally concentrating on visual clutter/pollution. The presence of multiple elements fighting for our attention in a nonharmonic way creates visual clutter. We don’t lose the attention of a customer/user by reducing & rearranging the elements but actually, we are capturing attention by providing the respect a customer/user deserves. Visual clarity is the appropriate solution to visual clutter. Since most of us are familiar with minimalist aesthetics, I’ll skim over the part with just some examples.

A Japanese shopfront representing Visual clarity
A shopping district representing Visual clutter
Sabrimala Gandhi museum by Charles Correa provides an excellent example of minimalist aesthetic since it is designed with a variety of textures along with a beautiful tapestry of light & shade while keeping the bare essentials in building elements

Functional aspect: Flexibility vs Usabilty

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works

- Steve Jobs

The functional aspect focuses on allowing us to use the product for the required purpose with ease & speed. Allow me to explain with some examples

Apple embodies usability (focusing on ease of use) while Samsung embodies flexibility (focusing on providing more options). We can always get more options from the menu (Progressive information) if needed.
Nagakin capsule tower provides an excellent example of functional minimalism in architecture since it incorporates all furniture, equipment & fixtures in an optimum position for ease of use by the resident


We have now seen the various aspects of minimalism and common misconceptions. I hope these have given you an intuitive grasp of the philosophy/style in question. But just in case, here’s a little quiz to make sure we’re all on the same page.

In what follows, I’m going to show a series of images. Each image depicts something that may or may not depict minimalism. Opinions may vary but we are asking whether they have a bit of minimalism or just emptiness. In other words, whether they are just deconstructed to emptiness or it has reconstructed from emptiness to minimalism.

Alright, here we go.

Church on the water by Tadao Ando: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Minimalism. Even though the space of the church is reduced to a cubical volume with just two materials (Concrete & Wood). Tadao Ando focused on the view & enhanced it by creating a water body to creating a reflective symmetry while also allowing us to enjoy the view without obstructions by creating a frame.

Barcelona Pavillion by Mies Van Der Rohe: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Minimalism. Even though space especially planes (walls, floor & roof) is reduced to basic elements, Mies Van Der Rohe achieved minimalism by incorporating water bodies with beautiful marble walls & sculptural furniture.

A cabin by @tekturowi_bohaterowie: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Minimalism. Even though the material palette is basic, The geometry of the volume & the furniture elements like the firepit & coffee table creates a minimalist aesthetic.

Okinawa house by John Pawson Architects: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Emptiness. Lack of variety in color, material, shape & texture

Church of Light by Tadao Ando : Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Emptiness. This structure can be considered as a standard-bearer for emptiness since the design brief demands emptiness. By creating emptiness and allowing light only through a cross profile makes the cross so dominant thus evoking a sense of godliness through light.

New York Apartment by Tadao Ando: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Emptiness.Lack of variety in color & material

Living room A: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Emptiness. Absence of variety in elements

Pearl Copper by Ira Lysiuk: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Minimalism. The rich color & material palette gives a minimalistic edge to space

Bedroom A: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Minimalism. The wood gives a certain level of warmth while the prints provide points of interest thus give a minimalistic edge to space.

House on the stream by Andrea Olivia: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Edge case. The monotonous material, color & texture palate along with a simple volume makes the structure a good example of emptiness but the dynamic floor-ceiling windows have a level of sophistication that demands a tag of minimalism.

Micasa campus Pavillion by Studio MK27: Minimalism or Emptiness?

A: Edge case. Even though the exterior embodies emptiness, its interior embodies minimalism to a degree.

Wrapping up

There is a fine line between minimalism & emptiness. The line blurs in many scenarios as you have seen by the above examples. The above article can be summed up in the below tweet.

Let me know if you like to add or disagree with any of the points discussed. I would be more than happy to engage. Special thanks to the pensive girl for inspiring the article.

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