The Green Vanguard: M is for Minimalism

Is minimalism an inherently green approach to design? It is, after all, about living with less stuff and choosing items of lasting quality. To test this theory, we called up the “father of architectural minimalism” himself, John Pawson, whose new monograph, Plain Space (Phaidon), presents his studio’s designs from the last ten years. “Well, I think it’s a very difficult issue,” Pawson said in reply to our suggestion that minimalists may also be undercover ecowarriors. “And there are several areas, I would say, of irony or contradiction.” For instance: the fact that creating any kind of new building, even an overtly minimal or sustainable one, is wasteful to some degree; or that Pawson’s particular brand of minimalist architecture is closely associated with high-end luxury living. But that doesn’t mean that green designers can’t learn something from Pawson’s approach. “I’m talking about quality of life, really, with minimalism,” he says. “It’s about enjoying it. It’s not an aesthetic principle. It’s not about living without. It’s a commitment to simplify things.” And that’s a commitment that can produce both more essential spaces and a less harassed planet.

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