OPINION. ‘More with less’ by Ivan Blasi

Anna & Eugeni Bach, “mies missing materiality”. Intervention at Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, 2017. Picture: ©Adrià Goula. Fundació Mies van der Rohe cortesy.

 

It is the title of the first episode of the fifth season of “The Wire”, focused on media consumption, the pursuit of pure economic benefit, the decrease in the number of journalists and their professionalism, and the end of the aspiration to inform with quality news. That’s what I think when I hear these three words together, and even more when it comes to writing for a communication platform that seeks the opposite: respect for the truth, contrast of information, independence…

 

When we connect these three words with the field of design, we think of Buckminster Fuller and how he imagined that he could do everything with nothing. But quickly, if we change the order and the preposition for a verb, “less is more” comes to mind, associated with Mies van der Rohe, who said he had heard it from Peter Behrens. Mies considered that he gave these words a different meaning from his teacher. Since then, there has been an infinite number of interpretations that have transformed these three words into a slogan, something we see in cups, t-shirts and all kinds of merchandising, often without considering its meaning or its effect on our way of life. And this is the interesting thing about “more with less” (Buckminster Fuller), which is not “less is more” (Browning, Behrens and Mies) but reminds us of other options like “less is bore” by Venturi – who later retracted -, “yes is more” by BIG or “more is more” by the designer Alex Trochut. We could also rhyme it with “I am a whore”, pronounced by Philip Johnson, great admirer of the German architect. Mies took up the phrase to explain the effort to reduce and distill his works and their components in simple ways in which art and technology could be integrated.

 

‘This is the interesting thing about “more with less” (Buckminster Fuller), which is not “less is more” (Browning, Behrens and Mies) but reminds us of other options like “less is bore” by Venturi – who later retracted -, “yes is more” by BIG or “more is more” by the designer Alex Trochut.’

 

The last winner of the EU Mies Award, ‘Kleiburg’ in Amsterdam by NL architects and XVW architectuur, has raised some surprise as it is a residential building that is also originally from the 70s. The jury paraphrased the Smithsons saying that the intervention had been “heroic and ordinary” and stressed that the role of the architects had been minimal but that at the same time they had caused great changes at different scales (inhabitant, building, neighborhood, city). The revitalization of the existing is as relevant as the experimentation with the new, and projects of this type reinforce the reflection on the new and complex reality of contemporary living. The decisions were heroic and ordinary, achieving much more than merely apparent, having acted, as architects, as another agent of the process, together with the clients, the inhabitants and the institutions involved. Perhaps this is an example of the “more with less” from the 21th century, in which we avoid media consumption, the pursuit of pure economic benefit, the image of us that society has forged in recent years, and a new beginning that aims to recover the place that corresponds to architecture in the society?

 

Ivan Blasi

EU Mies Award Coordinator

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