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As the 20th century recedes into the distance, we can begin to appreciate its virtues. One of them was a growing interest in simplicity, eventually resulting in minimalism, a movement in art and architecture. The feeling was that beneath all the surface decoration, there was something rather simple going on and that this simplicity was really beautiful. Minimalism was greatly influenced by technology, in a sense that if we would regard the world as a machine and strip away all the persiflage, we would find the ‘working parts’—the vital bits that make the machine work—and we could rediscover the essential, which would be simple and elegant. If we could only bring out this simplicity, we could make ourselves cleaner, more honest and more efficient.
As with every change of paradigm, minimalism did not come without struggle. One early battleground was architecture, where the great American architects Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright battled against the forces of orthodoxy. The norm was abundant and often useless decorations. But what they wanted were functional buildings whose very function was their beauty, simply because they were efficient. ‘Less is more’ was their motto, and because of the efficient modern technology, they eventually changed the way we thought, which was a triumph of the 20th century.
All our technology is now based on this minimalistic principle: from aircraft design to Swedish furniture to sci-fi spacecraft. Simplicity is elegance is efficiency. Think of the …
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