Is minimalism dead or does it just smell that way? Certainly the cold, stark minimalism we have come to know is starting to look passe. 'Minimalism initially came out of early 20th-century art and the idea that by stripping away the inessential, you strengthen the central idea, making it more powerful,' says critic and author Philip Drew. 'Artists such as Sol Le Witt and Mondrian reduced art to bare slabs, lines of colour on white.' One of the pioneers of minimalist architecture was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, with his sparse, steel, glass, marble and travertine Barcelona Pavilion, which he built as a temporary structure for the International Exposition in Barcelona in 1929. Mies van der Rohe, who adopted the saying, 'Less is more', also designed the Barcelona chairs (above right) - for the king and queen of Spain, although they never used them (maybe fearing they would be too uncomfortable). In a riposte to the German-born architect, Robert Venturi proclaimed 'less is a bore'. And so heralded in the era of post-modernism, which continues to this day. Venturi and his ilk wanted to invest architecture with ornament, historical reference, even a touch of whimsy. But then again Venturi was the kind of fellow who actually liked Las Vegas. The minimalism we saw around the world in the 1990s and early this century, was a reaction against this post-modernism. Architects such as Engelen Moore (Australia), John Pawson (Britain), Yoshio Taniguchi (Japan) and Richard Gluckman (US), stripped down their designs to the bare essentials, exposing materials rather than covering them up. The result was clean, spare spaces, and people couldn't get enough of them. Interiors were usually defined by matte-white walls, white or warm-grey linoleum flooring (or polished concrete) and high-end fittings such as Kreon lighting and Vola tapware. By the middle of the decade, people were becoming well and truly jaded with this starkness and were looking for living spaces with colour and texture; the age of white box minimalism was over. But minimalism hasn't disappeared. Architects aren't suddenly covering their buildings in superfluous decoration. Nothing like that at all. It's just that the new minimalism has become altogether more human. On exteriors, warm timbers and stacked stone have made a welcome return. Inside we're seeing the reintroduction of carpets, rugs, wallpaper, texture and colour. But used sparingly ... within a minimalist context.