A minimalist architect's cell
(Ratio for an architecture of "simple living")

What do Kim Kardashian, a monk and a minimalist architect have in common?

My fascination with minimalism and minimalist architecture began long before I became an architecture student. However, my perspective shifted when I encountered an interview with Kim Kardashian, where she referred to her mansion as a "minimalist monastery." It started to seem that minimalism instead of being a tool against consumerism, became itself a product to buy. An increasing trend, minimalism is not only perpetuated by architects and designers, but also by personas like Steve Jobs and even more recently Marie Kondo and many others.

Graduation project for Geo–Design, Design Academy Eindhoven
Under the guidance of FormaFantasma, Irakli Sabekia and Metahaven

The story behind and the trip to Mount Athos

Co-op, Hannes meyer – Cabanon, Le Corbusier – Cell 2, Absalon – Farm House, John Pawson –  Room, The Shakers – Plastic number, Hans Van der Laan – AD issue March 2020

Le Corbusier wrote soon after his trip to Athonite and Italian Monasteries how much he would wish “to live in a cell like this, where everything that is needed is concentrated in a few square meters”. Following the footsteps of my predecessors, maybe in a romanticised even fetishised way, I wanted to start my own career as well as my final project for Design Academy Eindhoven by visiting Mount Athos too, a hundred years after the trip of one the most influential architects of modern times. After a long preparation that included self-isolation, philosophical writings and analysing references that included Absalon, Hannes Meyer, Vittorio Aureli and many others, I went to Athos. The purpose of my journey was to discover an original way of simple, ascetic life with the hope of finding the inspiration for an architecture and design that not only appropriates monastic life, but actually contextualises it. I spent 10 days living with the monks and followed their schedule of eat/sleep/pray and as did Le Corbusier, I sketched, I wrote and I found peace on this island of silence.

A day self-isolated in my room

It took me sometime after my 10-day stay at the Monasteries of Mount Athos to realise that the simplicity of the lifestyles of the monks as well the humble monastic cell of a few square meters was actually surrounded by massive iνdoor and outdoor spaces and filled with precious decorative objects. This excess that contradicted the theory, offered the starting point of deconstructing minimalism and minimalist architecture. Both worlds, monasticism and minimalism, share common ideals such as simplicity, voluntary poverty and modesty. At the same time monastic and minimalist architecture also share a common point of reference, the standard 6sqm monastic cell, which according to Barthes is the seedbed of a fundamental typology of the modern world: the private room.

Photographs from my 10-day stay to Athos following the schedule of the monks of eat/sleep/pray

Mount Athos and the Journey to the Holiest Land of prayer, repentance, monastic asceticism and eternal loving of The Trinity 

Ratio for an Architecture of “Simple Living”

After analysing the monasteries of Athos and major examples of minimalist architecture by built and total land area, I developed the “Ratio for an architecture of “simple living”. The ratio suggests the relative size of built and total land areas for an architecture of “simple living” compared to the 6sqm of the monastic cell. The installation is a 1:1 scale model of a minimalist architect’s cell which, upon a closer look, reveals a “mise en abyme” landscape of models where the ratio is implemented. The models used are based on Kim Kardashian’s house designed by Axel Vervoordt, the Neuendorf House designed by John Pawson and Claudio Sylvestrin and the Monastery of Aghios Pavlos in Athos.

Ratio for an Architecture of “Simple Living”

The minimalist architect’s cell

The cell in an average minimalist house, in an average Monastery, in an average Monastery land Scale
14000 times the cell
Model based on the Monastery of Aghios Pavlos, Mount Athos

The cell in an average minimalist house, in an average minimalist house land
Scale 5000 times the cell
Model based on the Neuendorf House, designed by Claudio Sylvestrin and John Pawson

The cell in an average minimalist house
Scale 110 times the cell
Model based on Kim Kardashian’s House, designed by Axel Vervoordt

© 2024 Theo Galliakis