- April 15 2021
The term Modern Architecture is used to describe an architectural movement that first emerged in the late 19th century, and also widely spread around the world during the first half of the 20th century. Since then, architecture has continued to inspire designers around the world.
The Modern Era has been heavily influenced by technological innovations in the field of construction, such as the implementation of glass, steel and reinforced concrete. The emphasis has been on functionality rather than ornamentation, and thus a more minimalistic and simple approach to design has been adopted over recent years. Ideas such as “less is more” and “form should follow function” are some of the key principles of modern architecture.
While modern architecture can be described as a style on its own, we can detect various sub-categories inside the predominant style. Let’s get into some of the architectural styles from the last two centuries, which have also had an influence on architecture today.ART DECO
The Art Deco style was a modern style; however, it wasn’t based on modernist principles. Reinforced concrete, glass and steel were generously used in art deco buildings, nonetheless, and lavish ornamentation and decorative elements were the key features of this style as well.
Art Deco emerged in France in the first decade of the 20th century and spread throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. It was exceptionally well adopted in the USA where the first skyscrapers were made following the standards of Art Deco. Two impressive representatives of the Art Deco architectural style is Palais de Chaillot in Paris, and Chrysler Building in New York.
In Australia, you can find plenty of buildings in the Art Deco style.ECLECTICISM
Eclecticism first appeared in the late 19th century, and lasted until the early years of the 20th century. The main characteristics of this style involve the incorporation of architectural elements and techniques from previous styles – in order to get something innovative and unique. These elements could be furniture, decorative motives, structural features and historical ornaments.
Eclecticism first started in France, and afterwards gained its followers across Europe, as well as the Americas and some parts of Asia. This highly ornament-orientated style was a combination of different styles – thus its name. With this style of architecture, the emphasis was predominantly on aesthetics.
The remarkable Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona by Antoni Gaudi is a notable example of Eclecticism in architecture. Works on this magnificent building started back in the 1926 and are still not completed.THE INTERNATIONAL STYLE
The International style of architecture was developed throughout the second and third decades of the 20th century. Some of the greatest names in architecture ever like Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobus Oud, and Phillip Johnson were the major figures of this particular movement in the architectural world.
Rationalist Architecture and the Modernist Movement are just some of the terms that are associated with the International Style. Clean straight lines, an absence of ornamentation and decorative elements, and functionality before form are just some of the fundamental principles of this style. The Wissenhof Estate in Stuttgart Germany, was a neighbourhood which was built in 1927 and contains ones of the best examples of buildings in the International Style in the world.GERMAN MODERNISM AND THE BAUHAUS STYLE
German Modernism as an architectural movement was highly influenced by the Bauhaus German School of Art, which was operational from 1919 until 1923. Although Bauhaus students were mainly orientated towards the arts and crafts, they had a great impact on architects working in Germany and around Europe in this period.
The main concept of this style was to unify arts, crafts, technology and construction. Lines are simple, silhouettes are clean. Also, a lack of unnecessary ornamentation is one of the key elements of this architectural movement. The Bauhaus school building in Dessau — now museum — is probably the greatest and most authentic example of German Modernism.AMERICAN MODERNISM
Frank Lloyd Wright was a star of modern architecture in the USA. Although, he considered his approach to architecture as unique, and wouldn’t classify himself as representative of any styles, the impact he made on architecture is impressive.
Other important representatives of this stream in modern architecture are Rudolph Schindler, and Richard Neutra. The Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach (pictured below) together with Lovell Health House in Los Feliz, are probably just two of many exemplary buildings made in spirit of American Modernism.BRUTALISM
Brutalism, or brutalist architecture emerged in the ’50s. Some of the main characteristics of this style was and abundant use of poured concrete, a monolithic appearance, hard lines mainly in rectangular form, massiveness of the buildings, and heavy looking materials. Unfinished looking surfaces and modular and prefabricated elements were commonly used. Apertures were treated like voids in the walls and windows were therefore usually small.
This style was mainly used for government buildings, hospitals, universities and other public buildings, as well as residential skyscrapers. Brutalism quickly spread across Europe, and was especially popular in communists countries such as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. The UK is another country where traces of Brutalism can be found.
The movement began to decline in the ’70s, as it was heavily criticised for being inhuman. The building of the Royal National Theatre in London is a great example of this style.GOOGIE
Googie is an architectural style that emerged and spread all throughout the USA. South California is the where Googie originate. This very peculiar style was highly influenced by cars, jets, the Space Age and the Atomic Age. Therefore, the overall image of this style is very “future” inspired. It was highly popular throughout the USA from the 1940s till 1970s. The term “Googie” originates from now-demolished Googies Coffee Shop in Hollywood.
The style was popular for designing gas stations, motels and coffee houses. The greatest features of Googie are geometric shapes, angled roofs, bold usage of glass and steel elements, and neon signs. The highly ornamented style represents America’s fascination with the Space Age and space exploration. The world’s oldest operating McDonald’s, located in Downey, California, is one of many examples of this style.NEW FORMALISM
New Formalism is a style that emerged in the USA in the mid-1950s, and reached its peak in the 1960s. Mainly high-profile public buildings, such as trade and cultural centres, theatres and university buildings were designed according to the principles of New Formalism.
Buildings that were designed in this style show some apparent elements of the Classical Style. Strict symmetry, classical columns, smooth wall surfaces, expensive materials such as marble or travertine and buildings set on podiums.
The Lincoln Center of Preforming Arts is a complex of buildings situated in New York City. Some of these venues, such as David H. Koch Theater are good representations of New Formalism.MID-CENTURY MODERN
The Mid-Century Modern architectural style made an enormous impact in the world of interior and furniture design, and design generally. Nevertheless, we can’t neglect the importance of this style in architecture as well.
As the name states, Mid-Century Modern emerged, and was popular in the USA from the mid 40’s and all the way through the 50’s and 60’s. The legacy of this style is so powerful that it is highly popular in the 21st century as well.
The aesthetics of this style follow the principles of the Modernist Movement. Thus, it was highly influenced by the International Style. Lines are clean and simple, without ornamentation and decorative elements. The style does have a more organic form than the International style, and the silhouettes are not so formal. The Miller House by Richard Neutra, or Oscar Niemeyer’s Building Copan in Sao Paolo are legitimate representations of this style.MINIMALISM
Minimalism as an architectural style focuses on the following principal elements: elegant lighting and voids, empty spaces and voids, empty airy spaces left after removing the three-dimensional elements, and shapes in design. The main goal of this style is to achieve simplicity and basic forms. Details are important and a lot of attention is paid to materials, people, light, space and airiness of the architectural environment.
Minimalist architecture has greatly been influenced by the oriental approach to building. Japanese architecture and art have especially made an important impact to minimalism-oriented architects.
This style became notably popular among architects in London and New York in the 1980s. There are many contemporary architects who design buildings following the principles of minimalism. The 330 North Wabash skyscraper (1973) by Mies van der Rohe is a very good example of this architectural style.METABOLISM
Metabolism is an architectural movement that first emerged in Japan after World War II. The founders of this style were influenced by biological processes, as well as Marxist theories.
Here the focus was on free and organic forms, and nature served as a great source of inspiration as well. Additionally, new technologies and their implementation in the architectural world also played an important role in this movement.
During the ’70s — after the oil crisis — the Metabolists’ influence extended beyond Japan, mostly to the Middle East and Africa. One of the most emblematic examples of the metabolism is Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo.ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE
Organic Architecture is an architectural style, or better said, philosophy that promotes harmony between humans and the natural world. Frank Lloyd Wright was the first person to coin this term back in first half of the 20th century.
Buildings that are designed following the principles of Organic Architecture are envisioned as a unified organism. This style is inspired by nature, and thus its forms are organic and curvy. The selection of building materials and sustainability of the building play an important role. The fluidity of space is another important element. In the Organic architectural style, designs must be clear with a uniform scheme.
The Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a perfect example of Organic Architecture.DECONSTRUCTIVISM
Deconstructivism as a style has gained popularity during the second half of the ‘80s. This weird looking, highly creative concept was quickly accepted worldwide.
The style is known for surface manipulation together with everything but simple and clean forms. Shapes are usually distorted and seldom rectilinear. Traditional ideas of harmony and continuity are rejected, and elements that contradict each other are juxtaposed purposely. The main intention is to break all bonds with traditional architectural approaches.
This style was frequently criticised as its emphasis was always on form rather than practicality and functionality. Frank Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein built in 1989 is a great example of this architectural approach.NEO-EXPRESSIONISM
Neo-Expressionism is a style that first emerged in the 1950s. It was heavily influenced by the German Expressionist movement from the beginning of the 20th century.
There is a strong rejection of the ideals that Mies van der Rohe was teaching. Neo-expressionists believe that architecture is meant to evoke emotion rather than intellectual reaction. In Neo-Expressionism, buildings are dramatic and sculpture like. The accent is on curved and organic forms and strict and rectilinear forms are rejected. Experimental materials such as plastics, concrete and glass are widely used.
Neo-Expressionism has its followers in the architectural world. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is probably one of the best illustrations of this architectural style.LATE MODERNISM
Functionality and minimalism are important aspects of Late Modernism. However, some elements like glass blocks, belt courses and radial corners were introduced in the later version of Modernism.
It was in 1950’s when this branch of modernism first emerged. Late Modernism was dramatic and full of sculptural impressions. Functional features were highlighted and used as decorative elements; mainly rectangular forms, ribbon windows, flat roofs and industrial materials.
The building of Georges Pompidou in Paris was designed by Renzo Piano, one of the greatest names of 20th century architecture. This cultural centre is one of the most emblematic buildings in Paris today, and is a great example of Late Modernism.
The 20th century was rich in diverse architectural styles, concepts, new emerging materials, and technologies. Some of them were adopted around the world like the International Style while others were predominantly local like Googie.
We have only scratched the surface with our brief article, covering only the most emblematic aspects of each style. If you would like to know more, we would like to encourage you to keep exploring, and gathering information about the style of your preference. Good luck!