Spence Green

التكرار يعلم الحمار

I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

Minimalism As Necessity

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People often ask me why I found the Middle East so captivating. A recent article about the Omani architect Samiya Al-Harthy Sheridan illustrates one reason: a minimalist aesthetic rooted not in taste but in circumstance. Until the last 60 years or so, southern Arabia’s indigenous peoples did not accumulate possessions without purpose. The Bedouin lifestyle required the ability to travel quickly, precluding cumbersome possessions like beds and bookshelves (those of us who move often know this truth). Per capita wealth was also very low, so many people could not afford excess.

These conditions did not prevent the development of style. Arab men took great pride in their camel sticks, khanjars (daggers), and prayer beads. The women used kohl to make their eyes seductive. Their hands kept busy in the production of splendid yet compact rugs. Despite the massive expansion of wealth induced by oil, the application of “less is more” remains strong outside of royalty.

Sheridan’s home reflects her heritage. Unlike the other gauche castles and monuments to decadence that appear in Architectural Digest, her design demonstrates an innate understanding of elegant simplicity. The walls are white, the floors almost bare. Each decorative piece meets a need; collectibles are absent. She minimizes distraction to direct attention to the Omani coastline’s real treasures: light, color, the gentle sound of water against rock. These are the simple treasures that Middle Eastern culture taught me to prefer.

Written by Spence

September 4th, 2008 at 11:52 am

Posted in Art

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