In today’s chaotic world, simplicity grows virtuous. As an operational directive, simplicity forces the pursuit of the essential, where what matters is retained and what doesn’t is tossed overboard. Simplicity is at once classic and trending; ambitious and naive; utopian and pragmatic. A decade after 2008, the feeling is baked into current trends of austerity, with economic realities influencing aesthetics and ethics within architecture in deep ways. The value of simplicity lies not just in the luxury of a representational project, but more powerfully in methods of practice—in understandings of how architects make decisions in realizing their work. Simplicity in communication matters, as related professionals require information, clients want to know what they’re paying for, and various publics are curious about what architects do. Lately, simplicity is a conceptual survival tactic: A sharable, legible understanding of a piece of architecture, even as image, is needed if it is to endure in our fast-paced, media-soaked environment. PLAT suspects that this conciseness leaves work open for continued engagement, and that simplicity is not the opposite of complexity, but instead exists as its complement: Complexity is built out of simplicities, and vice versa.
On the other hand, simplicity is not what it pretends to be. In architecture, it takes a lot of effort for work to “appear” attractively simple, leading to opaque expressions that seem elementary but in reality are anything but. Further, too much simplicity flattens nuance. In prizing this quality, everything might become a one-liner, a diagram, a headline, an image, an advertisement, a talking point, a tweet—a digestible morsel of content. Architects are synthesizing generalists existing among and between disciplines, a self-definition that positions us as discerning decision makers who navigate complicated situations and processes. There is even real conflict between architecture’s historic triad of values: Firmitas, utilitas, venustas—pick two these days. In its elegant way, simplicity under capitalism quiets conflict and masks violence. Finally, to be simple is to be basic, to prefer the ease of a factoid to the difficulty of wisdom, or even tidy falsehoods to inconvenient truths. Simplicity lies.
To be dumb about it, simplicity isn’t simple. PLAT 8.0 asks: How can contemporary understandings of simplicity further architectures that prize directness without sacrificing subtlety? How is simplicity an ethical concern as well as an aesthetic one? Is there a difference? PLAT wants to hear your complex thoughts on this topic. We are interested in stories of simplicity in practice, present, past, or future; transparency, political and operational; austerity; useful value engineering; humor as a critical tool; the instructional directness of failure; emotions, generally; minimalism; issues of details and assembly, straightforward or otherwise; the fashion precedent of normcore; architectural lifestyles; boring architecture; and much, much more.
Send PLAT your essays, projects, case studies, interviews, oral histories, fictions, drawings, anecdotes, jokes, memes, etc. We welcome submissions from non-architects thinking seriously about architecture. Abstracts of approximately 250 words and images are due December 1, 2018. Complete pieces are welcome, though they should be delivered with an accompanying abstract. For initial submissions, image and video files should be reduced in size to accommodate easy transfer. Materials can be attached or linked. Email submissions and questions to [email protected]. Follow the work at platjournal.com and @platjournal. We look forward to hearing from you.