“I’m not sure Kiyonori Kikutake would be featured in a Minimalism manual nowadays, but I think he’s a very pertinent example of someone who understood the difficult balance between pure spaces and human needs, and excelled at it. A brilliant body of work, deserving of being studied. His Toku’un-ji Temple is a breathtaking piece, always in the back of my mind’, says the architect Tiago do Vale Architects in a conversation with sawdust on Minimalism.
The Caveman – A Tribute to Materiality, Tiago do Vale Architects, Ponte de Lima, Portugal
Winner – American Architecture Prize 2017
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The design of the retail project – The Caveman – A Tribute to Materiality is an ode to the value of the materials as they are: their frankness, their natural image and their intrinsic qualities. Having as a starting point a shoe store built in the late 90’s, this new commercial space, which targets a very specific (and demanding) market with a wide range of products required a design of great flexibility in the presentation of the products; generate a space with a strong, recognizable and repeatable image, while achieving it all at a very low cost.
The pre-existent drywall false ceiling was demolished and the wallpaper on the walls removed. Lifting the degraded floating floors revealed a concrete subfloor in great condition. A concrete column was hidden behind four floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Returning the space to its most raw characteristics exposed its most strong features: a rediscovered ceiling height and a phenomenal transparency to the street. The exposed ceilings, perimetral walls and infrastructures are painted black, toning down their presence in the background. A large “U” shaped surface warmly embraces the visitors, serving as the product showcase and, through its deconstruction, designing the store counter. The yellow cement wood boards are perforated in a pattern that allows the product display area to be infinitely reconfigured with sucupira wood pegs -serving both as shelves and hangers. There are minimal cuts to the boards and no leftovers. These boards are supported by a galvanized steel structure that reinforces the “U” shape and deemphasizes the irregular perimeter of the store behind it.
The geometry of this plane relates to the perimetral walls in such a way that it allows for a dressing room, storage and working spaces behind it. Hanging from steel cables, along one of the glass store sides, there are four displays, constructed from the same cement wood boards and galvanized steel profiles used before. All in all, the entire store is composed of four materials, in their raw, pure state: pre-existent concrete, cement wood boards, galvanized steel and wood.
With great simplicity, it was possible to produce a rich, complex space. Though each part may appear crude when regarded individually, their ensemble results in a welcoming place of great warmth and finish, defined by the qualities of the honest, exposed materials, the carefully crafted details, its wonderful transparency and its extremely judicious lighting.
- project : The Caveman
- architecture : Tiago do Vale Architects
- architecture team : Tiago do Vale, Maria João Araújo, with Adele Pinna, Camille Martin
- dt of completion : 2016-2017
- location : Ponte de Lima, Portugal
- client : The Caveman
- construction : ARU, Arquitectura e Reabilitação Urbana
- year of construction : 2017
- construction area : 667-sq.ft (62-sq.m)
- retro furniture : Vintage Alternative Store
- photography : João Morgado
A few words by the architect on Minimalism
What is Minimalism for you? Has it truly changed in the past few years?
I’d say Minimalism -in architecture- is an aesthetic approach to the complexities of construction that aims to refine the way one designs and builds in order to achieve the purest shapes. Thought I believe this approach hasn’t changed over the past few year (though it may have achieved greater depths in its application), it seems apparent that there’s a tendency among architects to strike a better balance between the intellectual satisfaction that Minimalism provides and the textures and shapes that give spaces their human scale.
How do you think vibrant colours translate into minimalism in design?
It’s a very direct way to introduce an interest into simple surfaces. It has to be used with care (as true in minimalist designs as in conventional ones) though: the way people relate with colour varies profoundly. It’s very different to experience a colour sporadically or to experience it systematically.
Who is your most influential minimalist architect and what is your most liked work?
I’m not sure Kiyonori Kikutake would be featured in a Minimalism manual nowadays, but I think he’s a very pertinent example of someone who understood the difficult balance between pure spaces and human needs, and excelled at it. A brilliant body of work, deserving of being studied. His Toku’un-ji Temple is a breathtaking piece, always in the back of my mind.
What is the future of Minimalism? Is it to stay or?
Yes, I think Minimalism is here to stay. On one hand, we can see a growing interest in Brutalism, both by designers and by the public at large, which seems to convey an increased willingness to accept elemental, unadorned spaces. On the other hand, Minimalism doesn’t really belong to a certain time: from traditional Japanese design to Neoplasticism there always was and there always will be a space for simple, essential designs. Minimalism is, in that sense, timeless.