Ma and Minimalism: Architecture of the void, the in-between and the transparent

Lin Xiang Tai

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Modos Landscape Promo Image
The void

Minimalism is a term generally referring to the idea of simplicity and stripping things down to their essentials. Correspondingly, the Japanese concept of 'ma' is about the pure and essential void between things. In life, both ma and minimalism emphasise simple living, and value the quality of lives and experiences. Ma is the essence of minimalism and the search for potential and meanings in emptiness. It is also the heart of the Japanese aesthetic that appreciates the idea of ‘less is more.' 

This thesis begins with the proposition that there is beauty and something profound in the void created when there is less. Ma is what Arata Isozaki described as the natural distance, natural pause or interval, or part of the ‘culture of gray’ discussed by Kisho Kurokawa. Similarly, Sou Fujimoto’s in-between architecture can be identified as part of ma. The aim of the research is to gain an in-depth understanding of these concepts and explore them in architectural design. The making process includes explorations into calligraphy, known as one of the arts of ma, and also a series of model making that examines simple geometry and the interplay between the three areas of focus for this thesis: the void, the in-between and the transparent.

The culmination of this thesis is an oasis in the heart of Auckland; a retreat where people can relax and find enjoyment. It is a place to rest, meditate and to take a break, treasuring social interactions and life experiences as advocated by the minimalists. The necessity for this retreat is felt in a high-stress and competitive modern society where consumerism is taking over lives with the underlying idea that ‘more is better.’ It is about the role of architecture in providing relief and in improving the negative impacts of modern consumerism, in particular the wellbeing of people.

Modos 1 Gwyn
The void, the in-between and the transparent
Modos 2 Gwyn
1:100 scaled model of the design project
Modos 7 Gwyn 2460
The ground facilities