Simplicity vs Complexity. What is the future for architecture in Japan?The two design principles: complexity and simplicity, convey an argument on whether you chose a simple design in exchange for less functionality or a complex design in exchange for an easier understanding of your design for a larger audience demographic. The argument of simplicity vs. complexity is an ongoing discussion between designers and architects. Although simplicity seems to be the main choice for most designers and architects in the modern era, Complexity allows small intricacies and details to tell a story which simplicity struggles to match.
Japan’s architecture has to be one of the most influential in the world. Leonardo da Vinci once described simplicity as the ‘ultimate sophistication’. But what exactly is simplicity? Simplicity is a form which allows information to be interpreted easier as it is straightforward and concise. This is why it is so popular now, in the modern day era full of complexity. Simplicity is often known as the holy grail of design. One genre of design which is trending in recent years is minimalism.
Minimalism is the most basic form of design as it only uses the bare essentials, focusing on the extreme simplification of a form. This can be seen in all types of media, such as music, art and architecture. On the philosophical side, simplicity is a way of freedom and Zen. Simplicity is an idea that appears in various cultures, the most influential being the Zen Philosophy in traditional Japanese culture. The Zen philosophy is an aim to reach “Enlightenment”. This is a way of life which can be described as ‘liberation from the material world’.
The Japanese used this idea of Zen and converted it in to a design philosophy. This ‘Zen’ design philosophy has had a great influence in western society and inspired the minimalist movement in the 19th century. Minimalism consists of a monochromatic colour scheme (normally black, white and grey) but often uses other saturated colours, simple shapes and lines. Minimalism surfaced during the late 1950s when young artists starting to question boundaries of various media. One of which being Frank Stella, whose “Black Paintings” exhibition in the 1959 Museum of Modern Art Show, paved a foundation for the art movement.
It then flourished in the 1960s and 1970s when a stream of new fresh artists emerged into the scene.Another influence to design simplicity and minimalism is The De Stijl Art Movement. This style of art was founded in the Netherlands and began in1917 and ended in the early 1930s.
The style comprised of simple straight geometric shapes and simple primary colours. Some describe this art style is the Dutch’s answer to the decorative excesses of Art Deco. Theo van Doesburg was one of the leading painters and theorists of the De Stijl design aesthetic. He believed that art was more than just a visual experience but part of a larger, more encompassing venture.
Tadao Ando is a Japanese self-taught architect and is one of the most renowned contemporary Japanese architects in the world. His work consists of these basic materials: unadorned concrete walls in union with wooden or stone flooring. He incorporated natural elements such as the sun and rain into his designs, making his work very distinctive. He is known as an expert in the field of architecture. He has been involved with more than 150 different projects in Japan and around the world. He is a master in natural lighting. His most famous works include the Church of the Light which incorporates the sun’s light to make a crucifix on the wall, The Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima and the Teatro Armani in Milan.
Tadao Ando is one of my favourite architects as he is very different from the modern day architects and in my opinion, he is ahead of his time. To me, his design philosophy is “less is more”. I like how he uses natural light by taking parts of a wall or a ceiling out to create a totally original design, such as the front wall on the Church of the Light where a lack of a full wall makes the wall more interesting and gives the illusion that light is coming from the cross.
Same goes for the ceiling in The Benesse House where a lack of a ceiling gives the building a more open space, creating a larger and brighter room. In addition, when it rains, it fills the water feature immediately underneath. The designs are innovative, creative yet functional. An ingenious skill, which makes him ahead of his time. I personally prefer simplicity over complexity in architecture as it looks more sophisticated and elegant. However, I do find some complex and intricate architecture such as cathedrals very beautiful as well.
Complexity might not always be a bad thing. Although most designers describe simplicity as the ‘Holy Grail’ of design, there are some pros in complexity. Complexity allows a designer to go into a lot of detail when working, allowing for small and intricate detailed designs that would look out of place in simplicity and minimalism.
The detailed and intricate design is most famously seen in Europe in their Gothic and Romanesque churches and cathedrals since the Roman Empire. There has been some speculation on where this style originated from, some people believe it was created in The Merovingian Kingdom in about 500 CE or from the Carolingian Renaissance in the late 8th century. Gothic architecture started in Ille-de-France in the early 12th century. Early examples of this type of complex design in architecture are the Cathedral of Sens and the Abbey of St-Dennis. Complex and intricate architecture were influenced by religion and geography. Religion was very important in the late 11th century and early 12th century which lead to the vast growth in Catholic Christianity which meant an unprecedented growth in the amount of Catholic churches.One architect with this complex style Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born in 1598 and died in 1680.
He was the leading Italian sculptor of his time as well as being a major figure in architecture. His work has influenced a whole new style of architecture known as the “baroque” style which includes very intricate and detailed designs. His complex designs show a dynamic composition which evokes emotions that makes the building come alive creating a dramatic story in his buildings. This style can be seen in both his architectural and sculptural designs. He is known to be a true master of realism and emotion. His work tends to show a somewhat idealised reality through his elaborate designs and human emotion.
He brings his intricate creations to life through careful details which he never neglects. This is seen in the spiralling columns of the Baldachin which spiral upwards which shows the way towards heaven.You can see Bernini’s architectural similarities and influences in Tadao Ando’s work though his natural lighting and emotional effects.
Both architects were/ are ahead of their time and both see architecture less as a way of shelter but more as an artistic endeavour.I find the extravagant and detailed designs of Gothic and Romanesque architecture fascinating, as I feel that it tells more of a story and a design philosophy than simple modern architecture. I view Gothic and Romanesque architecture is like the ‘Fine Art’ of architecture whilst modern architecture is the ‘Contemporary Art’ of architecture.
However, I also feel that it appears out dated next to modern architecture.