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Modern Architecture

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

The dawn of modern architecture came at a time when manual labor was replaced by machine-made industrialization. Modern architects have sought to reinvent building methods that focus more on what people find beautiful versus how they live. This architecture is not sentimental like revitalizing styles. Instead, it is innovative, experimental, and minimal.

What is Modern Architecture?

Modern architecture is a building style that emphasizes form rather than ornamentation. In other words, this design aesthetic is a break from more ornate, decorated homes like the Queen Anne Victorian or the Gothic Revival. There are few modern architectural styles in the United States alone. From 1930 to 1970, there are categories such as Expressionist, Constructivist, and Mid-Century Modern. The modern movement was not short-lived and encompasses several sub-styles spanning nearly 60 years. In this way, it can be difficult to determine an exact starting point. To some, the style includes more transitional architecture such as the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movements. To others, these older styles were more "pure", a source of inspiration for mid-century modern architects.

The birth of modern design came with the idea that form should follow function. The idea started with architect Louis Sullivan, who designed the buildings for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. This mantra became the basis of modern architects. Other popular pioneers of modern architecture include Frank Lloyd Wright, Staatliches Bauhaus, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. The modern design aesthetic was in full swing through the 1930s and became known as International Modernism or International Style. This design aesthetic followed an architectural exhibition by Philip Johnson in 1932. In general, the best-known examples of modern architecture end in the mid-20th century, but the design style still influences buildings into the late 20th century.

Features Since there are so many styles of modern architecture, there are a few defining features. These are some of the more common, broad core features that can appear in many different forms.

  • Clean, minimal lines. These lines are devoid of additional ornamentation and are generally a consistent, smooth texture.

  • Wide roof overhangs. A few modern homes emphasize low, horizontal structures with wide roof overhangs.

  • Glass walls and large windows. You will find a very generous use of glass that lets in a significant amount of natural light into the interior.

  • Clear and well-defined floor plans. As modern architecture focuses on form rather than function, the architects sought to incorporate large, spacious floor plans where the dining and living spaces flow into each other.

  • Modern and traditional building materials. Some common materials in modern homes include steel, concrete block, iron and glass. More traditional building materials such as wood, brick and stone were used in simpler ways to show off their natural beauty.

  • Relationship with the external environment. Needs to put a lot of thought into when on construction sites and how buildings will relate to the natural landscape that surrounds them.

  • Asymmetrical designs. Modern architects played with large, smooth shapes and asymmetrical compositions that were cleanly planned and devoid of any additional decoration.

Interesting facts

The most common theme is the elimination of embellishments. Earlier styles of modern architecture still used some ornamentation. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright would use art glass windows so that no additional artwork is needed. Beyond that, modern architecture is mostly analytical and not ostentatious. Modern architecture is different from contemporary architecture. For some people, modern and contemporary architecture are the same thing. However, modern architecture is inspired by an art movement known as modernism that lasted until the 1960s. Contemporary architecture combines architecture from the 1960s to the present. In short, contemporary architecture reflects styles in this very diverse present moment. Eventually, modern homes seemed too cold for everyday life. Modern homes were revolutionary as they embraced the concept of free-flowing space. The ideology also rejected clutter and excess items. However, as the design era progressed, many architects challenged this concept of solid space and the lack of cold and impersonal materials. This evolution has spawned more contemporary designs that work to combine embellishment and color. In contemporary homes, you can have an open concept floor plan but also have an element of privacy. In a nutshell, modern architecture began in the early 1900s and ended in the 1960s with the introduction of more contemporary designs. Key principles of modern architecture include form-following function, clean lines, and lack of ornamentation. Eventually, modern principles became too cold for everyday life due to the excess space and harsh nature of building materials.

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