#coachlearninginsport: in search of minimalism


PlanA friend from Ireland has shared one of his coach learning presentations with me. It is titled Rugby Architects.
In the presentation, he suggests that it might be helpful to look at coaches as architects rather than builders. Coaches as architects:

  • Have a vision of form and functionality
  • Plan
  • Oversee and manage
  • Ensure alignment to the plan
  • Prioritise safety
  • Deliver on the plan

The Irish connection with architecture took me back to the design conversations about the Grillagh Water House near Maghera, County Derry.
All of which set me off on my most recent reflections on #coachlearninginsport about minimalism in design and coaching. I am hopeful that by looking at other professional contexts, I might extend my thinking and practice stimulated by cognitive diversity.


For some time, I have been inviting coaches to think about two basic communication ideas:

  1. What is so important that you have to share it?
  2. Can you do more with less?

This second idea resonates with the insights available from minimalist architects.
Mies van der Rohe, for example, is associated with a “less is more approach” to design. He located his practice in the “art of building” as “the spatially apprehended will of the epoch”. This will celebrated an architecture of “almost nothing” that was “self-effacing” (Kim, 2006).
This approach was informed by the work of other architects including Hendrik Berlage and Frank Lloyd Wright. Berlage had suggested:

Architecture is and remains the art of construction, the joining together of various elements into a whole to enclose a space. … the first priority is to go back to the basics, to construct well. In order to do this quite freely, we must do it in the simplest way. Intrinsically comprehensive objects must be created once again (quoted in Bafna, 2005).
The quotation concludes with the assertion that these objects “are not obscured by cladding”.
In the next section of the post, I share three examples of buildings that exemplify this minimalism.

Fallingwater House

Fallingwater House was built by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1936-1939. The house is built over a waterfall using cantilevers. His design was based on his desire for those who lived there “to live with the waterfalls, to make them part of their everyday life, and not just to look at them now and then”. In 1991, the house was listed as the “best all-time work of American architecture”.

Farnsworth House

Farnsworth House was designed by Mies van der Rohe. It was completed in 1951. Maritz Vandenburg says of the house:

Every physical element has been distilled to its irreducible essence. The interior is unprecedentedly transparent to the surrounding site, and also unprecedentedly uncluttered in itself. All of the paraphernalia of traditional living –rooms, walls, doors, interior trim, loose furniture, pictures on walls, even personal possessions – have been virtually abolished in a puritanical vision of simplified, transcendental existence. Mies had finally achieved a goal towards which he had been feeling his way for three decades.

The Glass House

The Glass House was designed by Philip Johnson and was completed in 1949. He built it for himself. Philip was closely connected with Mies and many observers note the importance of the Farnsworth House in the design. One description of the Glass House notes its “minimal structure, geometry, proportion, and the effects of transparency and reflection”. The Architectural Digest regards it as “one of the great residential buildings of the twentieth century“.

Coach Learning

My visit to minimalist architecture has encourage me to think about “coaching without cladding” and the “art of coaching”.
I am keen to explore my fascination with doing more with less in coaching. I am keen to investigate what it means in practice to be “unprecedentedly uncluttered”.
I am hopeful that this exploration might contribute to, and be part of, the #relearn conversations nurtured by Mark, Al and Andrew. I do think there are some exciting opportunities for cognitive diversity in these conversations in ways that build upon Zach Lieberman’s suggestion that “the work of past ages accumulates, and is remade again”.

Photo Credits

Fallingwater House (Pablo Sanchez, CC BY 2.0)
Farnsworth House (Devyn Caldwell, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Glass House (National trust for Historic Preservation)



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