Austerity Is the New Minimalism

Unadorned simplicity distinguishes contemporary objects and furniture.

Gabellini and Sheppard’s design for Top of the Rock, at New York’s Rockefeller Center, with its unpolished crystal formations behind a faceted tinted-glass wall, reflects the current popularity of patterned decorative surfaces but also suggests a transition to a newly emerging austerity. At the recent ICFF in New York, objects such as Jasper Morrison’s simple wooden Crate, Jonas Damon’s eco-friendly cork side tables, and Joan Gaspar’s minimalistic fluorescent light point to a return to the basic qualities of materials. The stripped-down look of these products—often grounded in sustainable thinking—and their rejection of ostentatious and wasteful ornamentation show the flip side of today’s new geometries. For a less trend-driven look at austerity, check out John Pawson’s exhibition at the Thoronet Abbey, in Provence, France: concrete benches by Pawson placed at 14 different points along a route trace the twelfth-century monastery’s connection to the architect’s ongoing search for simplicity.

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