I’ve always been a fan of minimalist architecture. A good amount of my family are designers and architects. However, I believe the appreciation of beautifully designed minimalist buildings is a universal one.
Often, I can see people are in awe of a nicely built and designed minimalist building or space. It is easy to overlook the hard work and dedication of the architects behind these beautiful modern and minimalist buildings.
Because of that, in a way to show my appreciation, I have made a list of 15 great minimalist architects that can inspire you and open your mind. So let’s get started with the list.
15 Inspiring Minimalist Architects That Will Open Your Eyes
1. Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was a very renowned American architect who has designed more than 1000 structures throughout his long career. In 1991, he was recognized as “the greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects.
He pioneered an architecture movement that came to be called the Prairie School of architecture. The Prairie School is known for utilizing horizontal lines and flat roofs which gives the structures a minimalist aesthetic.
Furthermore, he believes in the philosophy of “organic architecture” which sees structures being in harmony with humanity and its environment. You can see this in many of his works, which beautifully blends both nature and man-made structures.
2. Mies Van der Rohe
Born in Germany but later emigrated to the United States, Mies Van der Rohe was a very well known and influential architect of the 20th Century. He has been awarded many prestigious awards including the AIA Gold Medal and the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
He is a huge proponent of modernist architecture. The popular aphorism “less is more” is often being credited to him. His style is well known to be simple and beautifully minimalist, utilizing a lot of glass in his structures.
3. Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson was a very prominent American architect. He has won awards including the Pritzker Prize in 1979 and the AIA Gold Medal in 1978. He received his undergraduate education at Harvard University where he learned Greek, Philology, History and Philosophy.
He is very well known for his works of Modern architecture as well as his works of postmodern architecture. His style involves a lot glass and interesting but simple geometries which makes the structures look beautifully minimal and intriguing.
4. Eero Saarinen
Born in Kirkkonummi, Finland, Eero Saarinen was a Finnish American architect and also an industrial designer. His father was a renowned Finnish architect by the name of Eliel Saarinen. In 1962, he was awarded the AIA Gold Medal posthumously.
His architectural style is described as neo-futuristic. He uses a lot of curves, arches and free flowing geometries for the structures which creates a distinct and minimalist style.
5. Tadao Ando
A self-taught architect, Tadai Ando was born in Osaka, Japan. This Japanese architect is the receiver of the 1995 Pritzker Award and the 2002 AIA Gold Model, among other awards.
Regarding his style, he often emphasize nothingness and empty space to show the elegance of simplicity. Interestingly, he prefers designing intricate spatial circulation while maintaining the minimalist aesthetics.
Moreover, he also focuses on the harmony between nature and architecture. His designs are known for the creative use of natural light and also structures that flows well with the landscape rather than disturbing it.
6. Zaha Hadid
Baghdad born Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize equivalent for architecture which is the Pritzker Prize in 2004. She was awarded Damehood by the Queen of England in 2012 for her great contributions to architecture.
Her architecture style utilizes a lot of free shapes in contrast to very rigid looking structures. She was described as the “Queen of the curve” by The Guardian.
7. Oscar Niemeyer
Oscar Niemeyer was a prominent Brazilian architect and is considered by many as one of the pioneers of modern architecture. He was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1988, the RIBA Gold Medal in 1998. Interestingly, he also received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.
He was most known for his style of using abstract forms and curves which gives his structures a beautiful modern look and feel.
In his memoir he describes:
I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.
8. Ryue Nishizawa & Kazuyo Sejima
Born and based in Tokyo, Rye Nishizawa is Japanese architect who in 2010, became the youngest ever to win the Pritzker Prize. He won along with his company partner Kazuyo Sejima. In 1995, Nishizawa & Sejima initiated their own firm named SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates). Most of their prominent works are in Japan while some are in China.
SANAA style is very well known for its white and light buildings which are stunningly minimalist. Their playful and refreshing take on building designs bring the aesthetics to a new level. The creative take on material properties like reflectiveness of glass gives their creations a unique and interesting look.
9. I.M. Pei
One of the most well known of architects, in part because of his work on Paris’ Louvre Pyramid, I.M. Pei is a Chinese American architect who’s career has spanned more than half a century. He has received almost all, if not all of the prestigious awards including the Pritzker Prize, AIA Gold Medal, and the Royal Gold Medal.
It is often described that his style is thoroughly modernist, with prominent cubist themes. He is very well known for his great ability to blend traditional elements with progressive designs using simple geometries.
10. Yasuhiro Yamashita
Born in Amami, Kagoshima, Yasuhiro Yamashita is a Japanese architect who founded the architecture firm Atelier Tekuto. He received his education in architecture from the Shibaura Institute of Technology where he did his undergraduate study and received his M. Arch shortly after.
His architectural style is interesting as a lot of his works focuses on small houses. Emphasizing a lot on clean and simple designs, he has made a great amount of beautiful unique minimalist structures.
11. Shigeru Ban
Born in 1957 in Tokyo, Shigeru Ban is a renowned Japanese architect who is the 37th receiver of the Pritzker Prize. He was also listed by Time magazine in their forecast of 21st century innovators in the discipline of architecture and design.
He is well known for his creative and innovative work with paper, in particular using recycled cardboard tubes to house disaster victims in a short time while also being efficient.
Furthermore, his distinctive style is described as “invisible structures”, where he often create his structures in a way where they are able to be seen through as opposed to being obstructed.
12. John Pawson
Born in Halifax, England in 1959, John Pawson is a British architectural designer. He received his architectural education from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He has won numerous awards including the RIBA National Award, RIBA London Special Award and the Blueprint Architect of the Year.
He is well known for his minimalist aesthetic. He emphasize a lot on space, proportion, how light interacts and the choice of materials. His work emphasizes on visual minimalism which includes stripping details, blank or white walls, frameless glass and the elimination of joints.
In his words taken from an article from The Guardian :
I love clear spaces. I love the absolute minimum. I find that pleasurable. I also get pleasure from things done nicely… I have to go the whole way.
13. Jean Nouvel
Joen Nouvel is an award-winning French architect popular for minimal, contemporary designs. He won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2008, Aga Khan Award in 1989 and the Wolf Prize in 2005.
He has made more than 20 very notable buildings all around the world. He is known for utilizing contrasts in his creations. He takes from a lot of diverse themes, from history to futurism, film to literature. Because of his multi-themed inspirations, he has created an enormous amount of unique structures.
14. Mario Botta
Mario Botta is a Swiss architect hailing from Mendrisio, Switzerland. He received his architectural education from University Institute for Architecture in Venice. He has received honorary degrees from many universities. He has worked for and has been influenced greatly by Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.
He is well known for the use of bricks as the main visible material. He adheres to “Brutalism” style of architecture which focuses on pure geometric forms and exposed concrete. However, he has developed his own signature style of strict cubes, cylindrical forms, and unique wall openings.
15. David Chipperfield
English architect Sir David Chipperfield was born in London on 18 December 1953. He has won numerous architectural awards including the RIBA Stirling Priza, Andrea Palladio prize, Royal Gold Medal and Tessenow Gold Medal. He received his art education at the Kingston School of Art in London.
He is well known for his contemporary designs which are very minimal. Most of his buildings look stunningly clean and sophisticated. His design philosophy emphasizes on planning buildings that interacts and fit nicely with the place or environment for which they are designed. He focuses on social values that the structures generate rather than following a trend or style of the present.
Minimalist buildings can give a lot of value to people who interact with them. In a world filled with unnecessary visuals, they can certainly give a fresh perspective to the observers. It has been a pleasure doing research on this, even though I am not an architect or a student of architecture. I am definitely a great admirer of architects.
Finally, do let me know what you think of this list, and if you know other great minimalist architects that I missed. I’d love to learn more on other minimalist architects.