“All Power to the Pack Rats” reads the headline of an article recently published online by Jacobin Magazine. Musician Ian Svenonius’s argument is unsettling: Is the fetish for living without possessions, for clean, uncluttered and physically untethered lives a calculated plot to make us dependent on corporations such as Google, Amazon and Apple? Is the love of minimalist design merely the aesthetic manifestation of an economy in which we cast off “outdated” material things in favor of an umbilical connection to a handful of corporations that store and deliver knowledge, music, culture and, when needed, groceries?
Minimalism does smell a little foul these days, ever more commercial, devoted to luxury rather than simplicity, a fantasy of the globalized everywhere. It is the design ethos of a world in which you bounce around a grid of generic places, which all feel familiar because they all have the same stores, the same brands and the same basic design. If you want to look at how this fantasy manifests itself architecturally, visit CityCenterDC, the massive, 10-acre mixed-use development that has arisen on the site of the old convention center south of New York Avenue between Ninth and 11th streets NW.