As objects which are minimal (in some respect), this seems entirely plausible, but I'm not sure what category we should be working in, and what restrictions we would need, to actually have a situation where minimal surfaces would be characterized by a universal property, if they ever can be. An uneducated guess on one possible setup where minimal surfaces would be universal: the objects are surfaces whose boundary is a given simple closed curve, and the morphisms are the area-decreasing isometries - it seems like a minimal surface should be a final object, though we would probably need to introduce an equivalence relation on the morphisms to get the maps to be unique?

I'm also curious about the same question, but for geodesics. Perhaps for them, we would use the collection of paths from point $x$ to point $y$ on a given surface, and use the length-decreasing homotopies?

Being a final object isn't the only option - maybe, for any surface, some kind of map will factor through a minimal surface associated to it?

EDIT: I'm worried this is perhaps too soft a question for MathOverflow - I'm not sure there's really a "right" answer.

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