I’ve been debating with a fellow-minimalist whether or not minimalism is reductivist. Eventually we agreed there are two answers.
We all know Mies’ famous phrase Less is more. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a 3-word translation of the central principle of minimalism: that (other than popular belief) taking the direction of ‘less’ instead of ‘more’ can also result in things of beauty and quality.
This direction towards the minimum is one of reduction.
So as a reference to the principles of minimalism, minimalism is indeed reductivist.
In many articles, including the lemma on minimalism on Wikipedia, minimalist design is defined as ‘a trend in design and architecture where the subject is reduced to its necessary elements’.
Stating that minimalists reduce an object suggests that the designer’s starting point is an other design, which he reduces to a minimalist version. The opposite should be true: the designers starting point is an original idea, the essence, and as little design as possible is added.
So as a description for what minimalists do, minimalism is not reductivist. It is non-additionist.