Despite what it may seem, modern architecture is not buildings or structures that were designed within the last few years.
Modern architecture comes from a historical moment, and in the history of architecture,
modern architecture begins in the 17th century and extends until the middle of the 20th century, ending around the 1950s.
However, the movement remains one of the most recognized and popular architectural styles today.
Modern architecture is the architectural style that dominated the Western world between the 1930s and the 1960s and is characterized by an analytical and functional approach to building design.
Style buildings are often defined by flat roofs, open floor plans, shutter windows, and minimal ornamentation.
Architects at that time were guided by the “rule” that “form follows function,”
which led designers to think about what a building should achieve for the user before what it should look like.
The aesthetic appeal of modern buildings was closely linked to a range of social and political philosophies including the idea that buildings could be answers to deep-rooted social inequality.
The style is also called International Style or International Modernism.
Modern architecture came into existence in the 19th century when the modern city created new functions and new models that did not exist before –
For example, a stock exchange, a prison, a railway station, or a hospital – thus requiring a new form, expression or style.
History of modern architecture
The emergence of modernist design is largely due to a group of European architects,
The most prominent are the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier and the German-American architect Walter Gropius.
Gropius also founded the Bauhaus school in Germany, which taught a design style and school of thought that greatly influenced modernist design.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, another center of modern architecture who taught at the Bauhaus and served as its third and final director, was also hugely influential.
In the end, the modernists fled Germany and came to the United States because of the Nazis.
This is how modernity arrived in the United States and then made its way from the East Coast to the West Coast.
By the 1930s, the style led by these men was spreading throughout the United States,
The American architect, Philip Johnson, organized an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York entitled “Modern Architecture: The International Exhibition”.
Which introduced the new style or architecture defined by geometric shapes and simple decoration.
International style and modern architecture
From here, the terms international style and modern architecture were born, and the exhibition expressed the basic principles of modern design.
Louis Sullivan, an influential Chicago School architect and mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright,
coined the term “form follows function” in 1893, which eventually became an important pillar of the Modernist movement.
A big part of modern design was to make homes more comfortable and healthier.
At that time, having plenty of natural light and open space was not a given;
Modern style sought to include these elements in order to make the people living inside feel happy and healthy.
The indoor-outdoor connection, the connection to the landscape,
the natural light, it’s really modernity that brought that to the architecture.
With these aesthetic elements also came structural advances, many of which are still used in contemporary architecture to this day.
The structural innovation of modernism is that they started using thin concrete, or steel reinforced concrete, or just steel structure themselves,
They removed the structure from the building envelope, so walls were no longer needed to support the building.
Before this, most buildings were designed with thick load-bearing walls, and this development allowed for greater experimentation with building layout and form.
And along with this change came the opportunity for curtain windows and other large openings, completely changing what had previously been possible.
With the invention of this structural steel frame, this was a major breakthrough.
The five rules of modern architecture
In the early 1920s, Corbusier published a manifesto entitled “The Five Points of Architecture,” which originally appeared in a publication the architect co-founded, L’Esprit Nouveau.
In the seminal essay, Corbusier explored five key elements of design that he believed should underlie this new architectural style – many of which related to the structural change noted by Dangarin and Hyde – and which became highly influential during the Modern Movement. The principles were as follows:
Buildings are raised on a set of reinforced supports (or columns) to round out the ground floor and to make room for cars or gardens.
Open floor plan design
Essentially an open plan, this principle links to the structural evolution and removal of load-bearing partition walls, allowing flexibility of the interior living spaces.
Open interface design
The structure is separated from the walls, allowing greater flexibility for windows and openings.
Horizontal ribbon windows run the length of the facade, providing more balanced lighting and a greater sense of space.
Modern homes should include roof gardens, which are flat roofs that allow for additional living space.
The difference between modern and postmodern architecture
In many respects, Modernism was the built expression of a series of utopian social ideas,
many of which were based on the ideas that buildings could improve and change social inequality.
Postmodernism rejected this idea and sought to explore architecture from a whimsical and sometimes humorous perspective.
Elements and characteristics of modern architecture
To better understand modern architecture, consider the following elements that often appear in this style of design.
Features of modern architecture
In addition to stunning structural advancement, there are many aesthetic components of modern design that are indicative of style.
- Rectangular shapes with clean lines
- Open floor plans
- Large horizontal windows or glass curtains
- Connection between inside and outside
- Lack of decoration
- The most prominent building materials are steel, glass, and reinforced concrete
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