Less is more vs Less is a bore – Which one?


Less is more is very popular in nearly every architectural school of the world, but there’s also the quote Less is a Bore – even if it is not very famous, I believe that it is equally important. The first one, of course, is by Mies Van Der Rohe, while Less is a bore is by Robert Venturi. In this post we will briefly introduce the thoery behind these sentences and theirs creators – in the convinction that it isn’t right to focus all the attention to Less is More.

Less is More – Mies Van Der Rohe’s Dogma

One of the most famous architectural quotes – Who has never heard it? No one I think. Mies Van Der Rohe was looking for order and, before him, many other architects already theorized something similar. Adolf Loos first andcLe Corbusier then, with his theory about purism and his five points and in general all the Modern Movement.

The merit of Mies (as well as having built wonderful buildings) is in having created a slogan, easy to remember, nice to hear and extremely brilliant – so that it would seem to be created straight out from a marketing agency. This phrase has helped him to make his architecture famous, first in the US and then in the rest of the world.

Less is more

seagram building

chicago federal center mies van der rohe

Less is a Bore – Robert Venturi’s critic

If Less is More is known by all, it is much more difficult to find a fan of Less is a Bore. In contrast with many of the dictates of the Modern Movement,, there is Robert Venturi.

On Archiobjects we have already written about the great book “Learning from Las Vegas” and about his great approach to architecture. According to Robert Venturi, the architect is not the figure that has the task of educating the masses from the top of his desk, but he has the duty to observe reality and learn lessons from there. In the opinion of the creator of Less is a Bore, the idea of less is more is suitable only for architects, not for people.

Less is a bore

Venturi i am a monument

Both sentences are slogans, and architecture should not be made of slogans, nor these slogans should be taken as holy words. Especially in the case of Mies, his sentence is still taken as a guideline for many architects (in many cases better so). But, as stated by Venturi, the same architects who say that they do not want decorations and prefer the absence of styles, are automatically placing themselves within a well defined style and a form of decor.

Less is a Bore was born instead from the desire of going against the first consideration, it was created to criticize it. The phrase of Robert Venturi had no claim in itself. Less is more seems to be imposed from above as an absolute truth and thousands of architects use it today – convinced that it is the passport to legitimize the design of sterile minimalist architecture.

Whatever is your side, and despite being one of the 20th century’s most controversial styles, the Postmodern movement, which supports and validates the concept of Less is a bore, recently became a publication curated by Owen Hopkins for publisher Phaidon as a celebration of this architectural language.

“[Less is a Bore] is about widening the canon and revealing the variety and richness of the movement, and looking beyond architecture to the world in which it operates”

stated Owen Hopkins on Dezeen.

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