Prof. Jonas Minkevičius, 2008 04 14 In brief: Minimalism in contemporary world and Lithuanian architecture is a wide-spread phenomenon. It derives from rationalism and functionalism of the beginning of the 20th century but, in general, the principles of minimalism exist from the ancient times and are related to various activities of people.

The present-day architectural minimalism has become a separate architectural trend which emerged as a reaction to expressionist complexity of forms and individualisation in creation. Theoretically contemporary minimalism is described as a method of architectural-stylistic expression, a certain variety of form and style. In practice it manifests as the embodying of a utilitarian function in the most elementary geometrical form – a cube, parallelepiped rectangular or cylinder.

However, minimalism may appear so simple only when regarded superficially. The objective reality encourages and enables another interpretation, first as an ideology, creation concept, world-view position, existential principle and the object of internal meaning expression. In the article architectural minimalism is viewed from the ideological and world-view aspect in particular.

Minimalism is one of the fundamental needs of a human being. Its first definition may be found in the Holy Bible already, old and new testament. Today minimalism becomes the ideology of economy while implementing wide social programmes. Nonetheless, minimalism does not block the way for the creative thought. It encourages to use limited spaces of residential apartments and land plots and to find original, non-standard decisions.

Still, minimalist expression changes in quality and quantity in the present-day architecture and obtains forms which are distant from the real classical minimalism. The new minimalism could be defined as pseudo-minimalism and hyper-minimalism.

At the beginning of contemporary architectural minimalism, there was no such phenomenon which could be called pseudo-functionalism. It started manifesting after the World War II in the USA first of all, where famous architects worked, mostly in Chicago and New York: F.Johnson, L.Miesas van der Rohe, M. Breuer.

Some of their projects dedicated to rich owners or posh customers - suburban villas, residencies corresponded the formalist doctrine of minimalism by the stylistic features but they were objects of the highest comfort (glass house of F.Johnson, Connecticut, L.Miesas van der Rohe’s “hanging house”).

In Lithuania efforts to create pseudo-minimalist objects appeared only during the years of restored independence, when the social layer of wealthy citizens started to form. Some more educated representatives became enchanted of laconic forms of foreign architecture or were encouraged by designers to order minimalist projects. This turned into fashion. The minimalism preserved its stylistic features but their internal meaning completely differs from the authentic, real, democratic minimalism.

It is really strange that professional architects do not see a difference between the real minimalism and the posh, pseudo-minimalism which conceals million-worth luxury under modest and artificial forms.

The brightest example of such architecture is in Kaunas, Žeimena Street, in the territory of the former park (!). A luxurious and spacious private residential house (area - 300m2) of super-minimalist forms, with pools and original sculptures has been built here.

The building was recognised the best project of the year in 2004 by the Lithuanian Architects’ Union and advertised loudly. The high evaluation only shows the formal attitude towards architecture. Actually, such minimalism de facto mutates to maximalism.

There are more examples when such cosmopolite minimalist objects, which have no signs of local cultural features, are awarded with prizes – private residential houses in Vytėnai, Sausynės Str., the bank building in Savanorių Ave., Hyper Maxima building in Savanorių Ave., administrative building of Lemora UAB in Demokratų Str., etc.

Evaluating the widely spreading standard production of minimalist architecture representing the aggression of globalisation, levelling out any manifestations of local culture, it becomes clear that we confront the aggression of hyper-minimalism.

The architecture that floods city streets by uniform forms of specular glass makes a revolution in culture rather than in the field of architecture creation. It materialises the cosmopolite cross-continental utilitarism and pushes out the content of human spirituality as well as features of regional and national identity. It is a very urgent problem. The danger of this tendency is constantly growing and encompassing new socio-cultural spaces.

In conclusion, the essence of architectural minimalism is not the stylistics or the utilitarian function packed into a modest and laconic geometrical form but the concept of internal content that is behind the form, the relation with principles of humanism.

Speaking about the ideological and philosophical conceptuality, one may distinguish various species of minimalism that manifest in diverse ways – the democratic minimalism, pseudo-minimalism, and hyper-minimalism. All of them have different degrees of positiveness.

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