Modern Architecture

Modern architecture is based on a set of currents or styles, which are not based on chronology, but on contemporary architectural productions, not on modern architecture.

The change occurs in the revolution of the art world, in this area architecture had great changes and developments in the Bauhaus school at the International Congress of Modern Architecture, which are marked by the opposition between rationalist and organicist functionalism.

Modern architecture, in its conceptualization, is characterized by the stylism of itself, it is also characterized by the major lack of ornamentation and the renunciation of the classical academic composition that was replaced by a simpler and less loaded trend. Contemporary architecture is the architecture that tries to solve and implement an urban organization, left by the modern movement.


  • What is Modern Architecture?
  • Origin of Modern Architecture
  • Modern Architecture and its Principles
  • Famous Architects of Modernism
  • Characteristics of Modern Architecture
  • Elements of Modern Architecture
  • Types and Styles
  • Images of Modern Architecture
  • What is Modern Architecture?

Modern architecture is an architectural style that emerged in the early twentieth century as a response to changes in scale in both technology and society.

This architectural style and its evolution formal characteristics of modern architecture are associated with the function of houses and buildings, approached from an analytical point of view, and the rational use of materials, the elimination of ornamentation and decoration, and openness to structural innovation.

Modern architecture or architectural styles developed in all artistic fields, not only in architecture, as a means to adapt and respond to new technologies in machines, automation and urban design.

In the early 20th century, modern architecture developed slowly with the Arts and Crafts movement, an association of artists and architects with the aim of restoring the creative fullness of craftsmanship, in conjunction with the Art Nouveau movement and the Deutscher Werkbund, which was also an association of artists, architects, craftsmen and industrialists.

The concern and basis of the modern architecture movement for these artistic entities was the search for a new understanding of architecture and design through "purpose", "material" and "construction".

The current modern era began after the end of World War I and included several streams of modern architecture that often could not be clearly distinguished from each other.

Therefore, it undoubtedly has a special role, although many will question its character as art. Since its arrival, modern architecture (pdf) is immediately and essentially measured by its usability.

It does not enjoy the same space for the international congress of modern architecture who achieved a progressive development as other arts. This argumentation has led to a certain dispute about the quality of modern architecture in small town houses as art, as, for example, is still reflected in the German word for architecture, "Baukunst".

Now, if we look at the critical history of modern architecture, it is clear that no building has automatically developed from the application of functional and technical specifications.

On the contrary, even in the case of what are known as functionalists, basic assumptions of an aesthetic nature have been introduced into the creation of form. As in art, the self-referential expression of an architect as the creator of a building should not necessarily be accepted uncritically. After all, he is a creative person through whom spontaneous assumptions are translated into experience.

Modern architecture does not mean the use of new materials, but the use of existing materials in a more humane way. Alvar Aalto


History and Origin of Modern Architecture

The general aesthetic and architectural principles of modern classical architecture as we know it today were based on building materials such as steel, glass and reinforced concrete.

How does modern architecture affect a historic district? The guidelines of this period were inspired by renowned architects, who continue to shape the modern era today.

Louis Sullivan's term "Form Follows Function", meaning "form follows function", i.e. an architectural object should not only look beautiful, but should also always serve a purpose.

Adolf Loos, a great representative of this architectural style, was the enemy of the ornamental elements that adorned the facades and interiors of modern houses at the turn of the century used the title "Ornament and Crime" in a self-written essay.

A characteristic of modern design is the urgent renunciation of decorative ornamentation. This strict rejection stems from a counter-movement of ornamental overload. Later, the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau added modern architecture to the style of Modernism in its own right.

The state Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius in Weimar as an art school. It was an unprecedented form of education. For this purpose, the disciplines of art and crafts were combined in the classroom.

The Bauhaus existed from 1919 to 1933, seven years in Dessau and the last year in Berlin. In 1933 the Bauhaus was finally forced to disband due to National Socialism. To this day, the Bauhaus era is considered the worldwide home of avant-garde and Classical modernist architecture.

There are many early sources for the ideology of modern and contemporary architecture. English artist and writer William Morris helped inspire the Arts and Crafts movement, arguing that utility was as important as aesthetics, and that handmade products were preferable to machine-made ones.

Thus, two European architects of the modern movement emerged who, above all others, would be most associated with the new modernist style. One was Walter Gropius, the leader of the Bauhaus in Germany. Gropius taught architects to reject historical orthodoxies and embrace the new and innovative ideologies of modern industry.

The other was Le Corbusier, who drew inspiration for his buildings and urban designs from modern engineering developments such as airliners, cruise ships, automobiles, grain silos, etc. In his most famous book, "Towards a New Architecture," he argued that "a house is a machine in which to live."

During the 1930s, the United States attracted many progressive modernists away from Europe, and modernism became synonymous with America's emergence as the world's new superpower, with highways, skyscrapers, and vast urban landscapes.

 The crisis of modern architecture continued in various forms around the world, eventually being replaced as the dominant style by postmodernism in the 1970s and 1980s.

Modern Architecture and its Principles

Form follows function is one of the general principles of modernism, which means that the design should derive directly from the purpose. Moreover, the form of the building should be simple and clear, eliminating unnecessary details.

The concept of "Truth to Materials," which held that rather than concealing or altering the natural appearance of a material, it should be visible and celebrated.

Famous Modernist Architects

Throughout the characteristic evolution of modern architecture, there have been many prominent modernist architects, of which the most notable we include such as:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Le Corbusier.
  • Ieoh Ming Pei.
  • Erich Mendelsohn.
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Characteristics of Modern Architecture

Lack of embellishment: decorative moldings and elaborate trim are eliminated or greatly simplified, giving way to a clean aesthetic in which materials are joined in simple, well-executed joints.

Emphasis on rectangular shapes and horizontal and vertical lines: House forms are box-based boxes, or linked boxes. Materials are generally used in well-defined planes, and vertical forms are juxtaposed with horizontal modern architectural elements for dramatic effect.

Low, horizontal, flat ceilings, emphasis on horizontal planes and wide overhangs: Modern homes tend to be on generous sites, and therefore many, but not all, have to have meandering one-story plans. Many examples hug the ground and appear off the site, not in contrast to it.

Use of modern materials and systems: steel columns are used in exposed applications, concrete blocks are used as a finished material, concrete floors are stained and exposed, long-span steel trusses allow open spaces without columns, and radiant heating systems enhance human comfort.

Use of traditional materials in new ways: Materials used in modern architectural homes such as wood, brick and stone are used in simplified ways, reflecting a modern aesthetic. Traditional clapboard siding is replaced with simple vertical board siding used on large, smooth planes. Brick and stone are simple, unadorned, and used in masses and rectilinear planes.

Emphasis on honesty of materials: Wood is often stained rather than painted to express its natural character. In many cases, exterior wood is also stained so that the texture and character of the wood can be expressed.

Relationship between interior spaces and sites: The use of large expanses of glass in effect brings the building site into the building, taking advantage of the spectacular views and natural landscape.

Emphasis on open, flowing interior spaces: Living spaces are no longer defined by walls, doors and corridors. Living, dining and kitchen spaces tend to flow together as part of a contiguous interior space, reflecting a more casual and relaxed way of living.

Generous use of glass and natural light: Windows are no longer portholes to the outside, but large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass that provide spectacular views and bring natural light inside homes.

Use of sun and shade to enhance human comfort: The best modern homes are efficient. They are geared to harness the forces of nature to provide passive solar heating in winter, while long overhangs and recessed openings provide shade to keep homes cool in summer.

Elements of modern architecture

  • Elements placed at 90 degrees to each other and with emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines.
  • The use of reinforced concrete and steel.
  • Visual manifestation of the structure rather than hiding structural elements.
  • Accompanying the 'aesthetics of the machine' in the use of materials produced by industrial processes.
  • Rectangular, cylindrical and cubic shapes.
  • Asymmetrical compositions.
  • Absence of ornaments or moldings.
  • Large windows in horizontal bands.
  • Open plan floors.
  • White or cream facades.

Types and Styles

In general, modernism until the 1960s was dominated by rectangular building forms, with an emphasis on bold, straight lines. Beginning in the 1960s, more fluid and organic designs began to replace the more orderly postwar style.

Modern architecture can be subdivided into:

  • International Style.
  • Expressionist style.
  • Constructivist style.

However, some also include Structural Expressionism in this category as it serves as a transition to the architecture of postmodernism. This category lasted from about the 1970s through the early part of the mid-1980s.

Modern architecture is often reduced to strict orthogonality and there is no denying that the right angle was on the rise.

On the other hand, other architects of the modern architecture movement developed a preference for curved forms and took advantage of the then still new possibilities of concrete construction. The expressionist style can also be attributed to Classical Modernism and largely dispenses with the use of right angles.

Although the architecture of Classical Modernism is based on certain principles, it is not a clearly defined style in the true sense, but rather an epoch. The attitude toward the right angle or toward the curved form, for example, determines different aesthetic positions. For the architect Mies van der Rohe, the declared goal was total space: the connection of interior and exterior space.

During the modernist period the construction of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, where load-bearing walls were completely dispensed with and only constructed with glass, was particularly successful in eliminating boundaries. Another trend in modern architecture was Brutalism, which, unlike Mies van der Rohe's design for the museum building, is based on solid concrete and achieves a completely different effect.

Today, the concrete trend continues and has become an integral part of architecture and interior design.

Modern architecture in Mexico

Mexico City became one of the centers of architectural modernism in the Americas in the first half of the 20th century.

Prompted by insights drawn from early published histories of Mexican colonial architecture suggesting that Mexico possessed a distinctive architecture and culture, beginning in the 1920s a new generation of architects created profoundly visual modern buildings intended to convey Mexico's unique cultural character.

By mid-century, these architects and their students had rewritten the country's modern architectural history and transformed the capital into a metropolis where new buildings evoking pre-conquest, colonial, and international-style architecture coexisted.

Modern Brazilian architecture

In the late 1930s, Brazil was identified with modernist architecture because of the high profile of two architects, Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer.

Between 1956 and 1961, it became synonymous with the construction of the new capital, Brasilia. Niemeyer's government buildings became emblematic structures of modern architecture. However, these works were interrupted after the military coup of 1964, and many modernist architects, including Niemeyer, emigrated to Europe and America.

Modern architecture in Italy

In the early 20th century, Italian architects sought a unique modernist language and identity, constrained by the fascist government of the time. The Futurist style emerged, with long horizontal lines and streamlined forms that inspired visions of speed, dynamism and urgency.

Modern architecture in the united states

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright developed an approach to housing design before World War I, known as the "Grassland Style," which laid the groundwork for the influx of modern European architecture during the 1920s and 1930s, especially in Art Deco.

The "International Style," as it was called, flourished in the United States after World War II, and was most famously identified by the design of high-rise corporate office buildings by the likes of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

As a result of this architectural migration, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius created the Chicago School of Architecture, which educated young architects as they did at the Bauhaus.

Modernism in architecture developed further in the 1960s, when architects such as Louis Kahn and Eero Saarinen began to react against the International Style, disenchanted by the sterile aestheticism of much postwar urban design. Kahn introduced the principles of the Beaux-Arts style, while Robert Venturi encouraged the study of vernacular and commercial landscapes.

Gradually, these developments led to Postmodernism in architecture as the most dominant style in the United States in the early 1980s, with many countries around the world following suit.

Modern British architecture

In Britain, Classicism remained a strong influence well into the 20th century, with an emphasis on Tudor Revival and the Arts and Crafts movement. Modern materials such as steel and concrete were adopted by architects, but more often than not, they would be obscured by traditional Portland stone.

In the 1920s, Art Deco began to emerge throughout Britain, particularly in the design of the increasingly popular new cinemas. Peter Behrens' New Ways in Northampton was one of the first modernist buildings in 1925, but it and others like it were seen as "exercises in modernism" rather than a genuine model for a new type of urban design.

With the arrival of several renowned European architects in the interwar period, Britain began to develop more modernist architecture, such as the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill, and Highpoint I - among the best in the world.

By the mid-1950s, modernism had evolved, inspired by the work of Le Corbusier, into what became known as New Brutalism, with its emphasis on rigid lines and hard concrete forms.

A landmark building of the period was Denys Lasdun's Royal National Theatre on London's Southbank, while Brutalism became the style of choice for the functional urban design of shopping malls, social housing, office buildings, multi-storey parking lots, etc. The leading prominent designers of the modern movement were the Smithsons and James Stirling.

New urban developments, such as Milton Keynes in 1967, began to adopt the more neo-vernacular post modernist styles, inspired by those taking shape in America.

Nordic modern architecture

Nordic modernism gradually emerged from the ideas of Nordic Classicism, culminating in the Stockholm Exposition of 1930, where a more purist modernism was proposed as design for modern societies.

For the Nordic countries, the influence of modern architecture went beyond aesthetics, into the regulation of buildings and urban planning, as well as the social movements that gave rise to the welfare state and public building programs for new hospitals and schools of the modern movement.

The dominant modern architectural style was functionalism, based on the principle that the design of a building should be based solely on its purpose.

The Danish functionalists focused on functionality rather than modern architecture at the expense of aesthetics, producing buildings with right angles, flat roofs, and minimalist, concrete, brutalist-inspired forms.

Modern Dutch architecture

In the development of modern architecture, Dutch architects played a key role. The rationalist architecture of Berlage in the early 20th century gave way to several groups that embraced postmodern architecture, with protagonists such as Michel de Klerk and Nieuwe Boouwen.

The de Stijl Style developed at this time and was characterized by the use of strong geometric lines, bold primary colors, and the articulation of different functional elements. Although relatively little modern architecture was actually produced, the influence of buildings such as the Rietveld Schröder House (1924) can be seen in the work of architects such as Mies van der Rohe.

Germanic Modernism

The Deutscher Werkbund (German Federation of Labor) was an association of architects, designers and industrialists founded in Munich in 1907. It sought to integrate traditional craftsmanship with mass production techniques to produce high-quality machine-made objects. This is believed to represent the beginning of industrial design.

In Germany, modern architecture was synonymous with the Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. This became the most influential school of art and architecture in the world. It closed with the rise to power of the Nazis and the mass migration of its members around the world, particularly to the United States.

In the postwar reconstruction period, important landmarks were restored and rebuilt, often in simplified form. Modern cities adopted a more functional, modernist style, rather than rebuilding to historical appearances.