Simplicity – An Extract from "KyotEau: Bottled Memories"

What is simplicity?

For the Italian scientist, engineer, painter, and polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

The Polish musician Fredric Chopin (1810-1849): “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

The Japanese architect of botanical gardens Koich Kawana (1930-1990): “Simplicity is the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means."

And to the Japanese tea master, Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), the simplicity of the tea ceremony comes through in his poem:

Tea is naught but this;
First you heat the water,
Then you make the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know.

In the Japanese tea ceremony, many objects made from bamboo are used, and the mystery associated with the material contributes to the inner meaning of the proceedings. The shape of the bamboo flower holder, cylindrical in shape, is often nothing more than a chopped-off piece of stalk. Such simplicity is an important element of Japanese design. The concentration of perfect workmanship in a simple object is a design principal that has influenced many Japanese craftsmen and can become an article of faith.

This Japanese simplicity is the appreciation of a single flower, exquisitely arranged and presented, as opposed to a large bouquet, where it is quantity that counts. It might value the importance ascribed to the act of creation rather than to the object manufactured. It might focus on the intimate, organic qualities of structures built on a human scale, in contrast to those emphasizing the façade.

Simplicity seems natural, almost obvious, in its final form, but getting there takes experience, talent, and patience. Design for simplicity cannot be successful unless it is supported by perfect execution.

Simplicity isn’t simple.

* Photo by Manfred Koh

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