Continual exploration is key to learning. Whether these explorations are based on past, present or future typologies are quite irrelevant in determining their validity. Depending on the milieu you find yourself coming of age within, the architectural discourse less is either: More, A Bore, or Our Current War.
This serves as the point of departure for some dialogue, broken in the parts, the first;
Less is more
Should one interpret Mies van der Rohe’s philosophy as an acknowledgement of Adolf Loos’s lecture on Ornament and Crime, a two-fold deduction can be made. In order for a post-war modern city/lifestyle to become economically sustainable, architecture was not only required to transcend style, but also to be reduced to its essence. This requirement of rapid construction and economy called for openness, proportion, reflection, materiality and structure to be the main spatial and aesthetic considerations that developed into the principles of modern design.
Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion illustrates this clearly, where openness and continuous space is both magnified and extended through mirror image reflections seen on marble. Less actually becomes more in this instance. Ironically it is less known that such open space demands an even larger amount of openness around it. Avoiding to include the adjacent building with its painted Corinthian capital columns in most photographs attests this point.
The Neue Nationalgalerie, which also consists of a large open space, seems to be appropriate in scale due to the proportional relationship of elements and the desirable vast amount of open space around it. It even allows for positive dialogue with contrasting backgrounds such as Hans Scharoun Berliner Philharmonie and the St Matthäus Kirche.
less can only be more when over-development takes the back-seat
Alvaro Siza, a commended contextual architect, also illustrates how less can be more as seen in the Portugal Pavilion. A light curved concrete slab spanning across a vast amount of open space is both the tension and bond within this building; rich with rhythm and proportion. The colour mosaic tiles found within the folds of this building are subtle enough to refresh the passer-by in what some would consider a stark environment.
When less is considered to be more, space is always generous. Mistakes will be exacerbated, as there is no place to hide within the mere essence of the buildings. Some would consider this to be an attribute of an honest building. Contrary to common rationale, the time required to design these buildings is often quite a substantial amount more than it would be to design an ornamental counterpart.
Within the current contemporary context, less can only be more when over-development takes the back-seat to considered design criteria such as openness, proportions and the comfort of people moving through and using these spaces. There is no triumph in reducing if there is or has never been any essence. It will only seem cheap and of lesser worth.