Friday, January 9, 2009

Less is More

Yesterday I received, via email, an invitation to a conference that is asking the question:

What if less really is more?

It looks like a pretty good conference but what the invitation really made me think about is how many people use the “less is more” phrase – probably without really knowing where it originated.

I suspect few people really care who said it first – but just in case you were wondering...

You would have to have been in a history of the Modern Movement of Architecture class somewhere along the way to know that it was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who first said that “less is more.”

Mies was one of the early, and more influential, voices at the Bauhaus School in Germany. In 1938 he closed the school in opposition to Nazism and came to America where he became head of the architectural school at the Chicago (now Illinois) Institute of Technology. From that position his influence spread widely. You can thank Mies (among others) for all the glass boxes that fill our cities and suburbs.

In his own words “less is more” means “having the greatest effect with the least means.”

What’s somewhat ironic is that Mies was actually born Ludwig Mies but he didn’t think that was enough of a name. So he added more – his mother’s maiden name van der Rohe to give his name greater weight. So I guess when it comes to names, at least for Mies, less really wasn’t more.

I may be the only person in the world who finds that funny.

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