The Balance of Minimalism

The Balance is illusive. The Balance is obvious. It is the trees in the forest, it is the reflection in the pond.

Finding the harmony that creates balance is essentially the art of minimalism—the simplest form of simplicity. Finding the clean lines that create our perceptions, and omitting the garbage that lies within them.  This proves very difficult at times—all the time for some of us. However, this is not impossible by any stretch.

I’m staring at a stemless wineglass full of Pinot Grigio sitting prettily on a tea saucer. This peculiar arrangement is occurring because I don’t want the wine glass to tip and spill over my new mattress (which I’m sitting on as I write). This solution can be seen as a simple way to address the issue.  However, it really is cumbersome if you think about it.  The minimalist approach would eliminate the issue all together by removing the risk of the wine and saucer; it would involve a far more practical approach. Why would one drink in bed knowing the potential mess hazard?  I am simply doing it to fit my odd personal needs. That is what society is—impractical practicality. We create objects, institutions and laws in a manner which satisfies our clumsy and odd needs. These do not end up solving very much. Instead the solutions create a profoundly ugly quilt in which one thing amends another and another and so on.

In design I found that minimalism is the gateway to understanding pure ergonomics and flow. As a fledgling designer in the Landscape Architecture program, I was obsessed about designing for every need possible by inventing individual devices or objects and accompanying mechanisms, which were praised on their own, but criticized in context to the landscape.  I was not paying attention to the most vital element…the design of space itself. I was stubborn.  I did not understand why my professors kept criticizing my method. However, one particular professor (who happened an incredible mustache–it was in and of itself a masterpiece of balance) made some crucial comments that hurt my feelings. However they opened my mind up to the beauty I’d been discarding almost sacrilegiously. After 2 years of designing with an obsession for the micro, I realized I was missing out on the beautiful simplicity of space, how it in and of itself could be ergonomic. This epiphany made me feel like quite an idiot. My senior design project ended up being completely space-centric. It utilized space as the main element, with delicate supporting structures to delineate space according to the wildlife habitats within it. Of course it had flaws, but it still received great reviews. Ah the liberation!

Some may strongly dislike the minimalist aesthetic, stating that it is too boring, too cold, unnatural–lifeless. The irony is that minimalism is born from quite the opposite connotation. The condensation of a once complex set of issues or ideas that has been re-invented as the utter essence of the concept. The absolute function combined with the finess of an utterly natural form. Place a minimalist object in a forest, and I can predict that you’ll find the lines that create the object effortlessly existing in that environment. 

I adore minimalism not just for design, but also for life.  An object with fewer physical architectural intricacies, with more attention to function, is more relatable and reliable, not to mention much easier to produce. In life, minimalism can play the same role. When I find myself feeling that life is becoming constantly frustrating, unorganized, and full of snags, I realize that my current arsenal of mechanisms for living are too complex. The aesthetic of its exterior is gaudy and full of cracks and nooks that collect dirt and dust. When I re-conceptualize the design of my existence, through a minimalist approach, the layers simplify—finally I can breathe again.

Minimalism isn’t just for rich snobs and architectural elitists, it’s for those who can pragmatically identify the complexities of life, and streamline all of its best attributes into something magnificently simple to grasp.

What does minimalism mean to you? Feel free to share your favorite examples of minimalism.

Photo Credit: 贝莉儿 NG