Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Minimalist Architectural Design

"Montague M. List"

Montague List was a boring little man. He stood 5 foot 2 in his stocking feet and was one of those people that was hard to get away from. You know the type, they hold you with chatter about nothing, talking at you without leaving any gap between the words which might allow you to slide in a reason to excuse yourself and escape.

He was as creative as a parking warden on a bad day, not very bright and his wealthy father was having difficulty accepting the idea that his procreation was somewhat blighted. He was determined that whatever it would take Montague would succeed. But Montague couldn't get into university as a brain surgeon or as a chicken sexer and the trout tickler's course was full so daddy sent young Montague to study architecture at a private University.

“Dear me you're a shortar-chitectural student” said his tutor on the first day “we'd better call you Mini”. It was the start of a nightmare for his poor long suffering tutor. Mini was hopeless. Not only was he totally uncreative he couldn't even work with existing shapes and forms. He would put statues in all the wrong places, understanding layout was a lost cause and even curves were beyond him. How can anybody get curves wrong? To simplify things Mini's tutor decided to remove anything from his training that he couldn't understand. It didn't leave a lot.

Then the escape seeking tutor had an idea - an “architecture kit for idiots”.

First he made a set of rectangular cardboard boxes of various sizes each with a name on: kitchen, bedroom, living room, swimming pool, etc. Then he made up a sample box containing pieces of stone, wood, roof tiles, corrugated iron, aluminium, paint samples, some curtaining and carpets. All rather mundane colours and textures so that they wouldn't clash.

Finally he put everything together in a large box and wrote in large friendly letters on the lid
“Mini M. List”

He had created a whole new way of designing a house. You simply shuffled the boxes around into some sort of order on a rectangle that represented the land. You then closed your eyes and pulled samples from the sample box. “Grey stone for the walls, red ceramic tiles for the floor, pale yellow walls, light green carpet. By carefully selecting the samples he put in the box he could be sure that anything “sort of” went with anything else.

With a little bit of guidance even an idiot like Mini could design a house, all rectangles and straight lines, nothing ornate that could be a challenge for the neurone impaired.

Relief set in, he could now get this boring little man off his back.

So it came to pass that the private university awarded a degree and sent a big fat invoice to a grateful wealthy father. But our story doesn't end here.

Daddy needed to prove his son was no dummy, a difficult challenge but one that money might solve.

He set Mini creating some “designs” and spoke to his developer friend Englebert. The designs were so boring that even looking at them had a soporific effect but developers can be pragmatic souls and do tend to have an ability to compromise any semblance of taste when faced with the smell of the folding stuff. Through his yawns currency whispered to him and Englebert agreed to build some houses.

As the projects proceeded Englebert started to realise that squares were dead easy to build. Not only that, the absence of anything that might make a building attractive or interesting halved the building cost.

You didn't need masons or sculpters or wood carvers, in fact none of those expensive temperamental artistic types at all. It made things so much simpler and quicker.

But then one day Englebert found that with the kit even the tea lady could throw up a few designs in her lunch hour leaving Mini out of trouble on the golf course where only the trees would be bored.

It was all going very well except for one thing. “How the heck can we sell these boring buildings?” said Englebert one day.
“Easy” said daddy, “we use the tried and tested MFS”.
“MFS? what's that?”
“Mythical Fashion Strategy.”
“Responding to overwhelming customer demand we have created a whole new building style” went the sales blurb “we have called it Mini M. List design”.

Money talks and with a few well placed articles in the national press and the odd TV interview and the world knew of this revolutionary design concept. Mini M. List design was eagerly embraced by poverty avoiding developers and their even more poverty avoiding accountants.

Architects too were pleased, for the small price of a kit they could become qualified and travel the world, they didn't need to understand anything fancy like local traditional design or cultural noms. They could throw out house plans in seconds for their draughtsmen to finish while they went off for a round of golf.

Whenever anyone objected to “some monstrosity you have built on my mainstreet” they could always fall back on the defence they learned at architectural college. The technique as described in the textbook “Successful Architecture In A Misguided World” goes something like this. Tilt the head back, raise the back of the right wrist painfully to the forehead, pucker the lips and say the words “I am an artist and people don't understand my work”. It works every time.

And so it was that mediocrity became an accepted style of its own across the world.

Not that this story has any relevance in Bali of course where the rules clearly state that all buildings should be built in Balinese style, an island popular across the world for having its own special magical culture, tradition and style.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
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