Less is more?

One of the most cited phrase in the Architectural world is Mies van der Rohe's "Less is more". Inconspicuously simple, inherently oxymoronic, the simple phrase seems to hold the key to a deep truth that whoever uses it to for a punch-line, a reply to an annoying question, or part of a larger argument. As we write it, less is more, or less=more, it is contradiction, an oxymoron, a perplexing verbal structure, and that is part of charm.

It could be an stripped version of "Less of something is more of something else", which instantly pulls it out of its charming mystery, yet opens up a debate over what is "something" and what is "something else". If we put the phrase in its historical context, we might be compelled to say "Less specificity is more ambiguity", and since architectural perception, and sensation, is based on the subjective, on the verge of being a phenomenological conquest, ambiguity is directly proportional with the number of readings of an architectural space, thus more ambiguity is undoubtedly good. By breaking from the baggage of historical architectural symbolism, which was used to paint somewhat specific, if vague, tableaus, Mies and by extension Modernism opted to create architecture that was deprived of the richness of symbols, yet managed at some points to create canvases on which the perceiver could infuse meaning with his imagination. Thus the less specific an architectural object is the more it becomes similar to a canvas, thus the more ambiguous.