Modernism: The Architecture of Today!

Modern Architecture started coming into its form at the end of the 19th century but became dominant only after World War II. Modernism stayed in practice until the 1980s, which was then replaced by postmodern architecture. However, it was one of the most influential architectural styles that ever existed. A number of architects around the world still extract influence from buildings constructed in this particular style.


The main desire of modern architecture was to incorporate new functional technologies and to give a break to the historical architectural styles. It was implemented as a solution to meet basic social needs which were not there in previous styles of architecture. It was based upon the use of new building materials, mainly the glass, steel, cast iron, and reinforced concrete. These materials were used to make structures that were stronger, taller, and lighter in weight. The idea of functionalism i.e. form should follow function was another innovation. Minimalism was also adopted with a rejection of ornamentation which was in existence from ever since.

Frank Lloyd Wright (One of the most prominent architects who adapted to Modernism)
(Image by 272447 from Pixabay)


The first building to be seen with the use of glass and cast iron was the Crystal Palace in 1851, followed by the first glass and metal curtain wall.  All these developments also resulted in the first skyscraper, ten-story tall Home Insurance Building in Chicago.

The roots of modern architecture started sprouting in Chicago World’s Fair held in 1893.  Many architects attended the fair, of which Sir Frank Lloyd Wright, the leading architect who shaped American architecture got inspired the most. Wright started implementing all these features into his designs. Many other Architects got inspired by Wright’s use of bold abstract forms and started incorporating the same in their own works. This is how modern architecture came into shape and architects around the world became more prominent in designing a skyscraper.

The famous architects who adapted these new techniques into their works were Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Walter Gropius.

Modern Architecture was first visible in Europe and then made its way to America. Later, it became an international style and took over the whole world.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (one of the most prominent examples of Post Modern Architecture)
Image by Txemi López from Pixabay


Postmodern architecture started emerging in the 1960s, as a result, to enhance what was missing in modern architecture. The style was introduced by Architects Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. The style was famous during the 1980s and 1990s, practiced by Scott Brown, Venturi, Philip Johnson, Charles Moore, and Michael Graves. In the late 1990s, it was divided into many new styles which include high-tech architecture, neo-futurism, and deconstructivism.  

Following additions were seen in postmodern architecture-

  • Postmodern buildings started having curved or sculptural forms, decorative elements, bright colors, and details from history.
  • In postmodern architecture, the large buildings were divided into different structures depending upon their function.
  • Asymmetric compositions were made.

The Fallingwater House (A house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Modern style)
Photo by Yuhan Du on Unsplash


The main characteristics to identify the modern buildings are-

  • Buildings with clear lines, basic forms, and shapes.
  • Lack of Ornamentation.
  • More use of glass to allow natural light.
  • Use of modern materials and systems like steel columns, concrete blocks, column-free spaces.
  • Use of traditional materials in a new way.
  • Flat and broad overhangs in roofs.
  • The connection between the interior spaces and the surroundings.
  • Shading elements were used to protect from the sun and create comfort.
  • Open and flowing interior plans.


The architecture produced during this period started having too many forms, making chaos. Thereafter, elements from these styles were further categorized based on design similarities. Let’s have a look at how did they got sub-categorized further.


The International style came into existence during the 1920s and 1930s in many countries. The style has no ornamentation. Mass and weight are also minimized to gain an effect of pure volume. Smooth and balanced wall surfaces with flat roof buildings are seen in this style.

The major buildings falling under this style are Villa Savoye in France, Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

Chrysler Building, New York, designed by William Van Alen
(Image by Roberto Bellasio from Pixabay)


Art deco is a style of richness. It is bold, luxurious, elegant and functional. The art deco style is characterized by smooth lines, geometric shapes, and bright colors. It became the most fashionable design movement internationally from 1925 until the 1940s. In short, it is the decorative art of all time. Some of the buildings having the richness of art deco are Chrysler Building in New York, The Delano in Miami, The Empire State Building again in New York.


Brutalist architecture is a style for massive buildings and is characterized by simple and block-like structures. The style popularized in the late 1950s has a touch of exposed concrete and lasted till the late 1970s. The buildings of brutalism are seen in unfinished surfaces, heavy-looking materials, and unusual shapes. Also, windows in this style act as holes in the walls, i.e. the level of windows and the building skin are not the same.  The style can be mostly seen in institutional buildings and is described as the “flesh and bones architecture”.

The Breuer Building in New York, Preston Bus Station in Preston, Queen Elizabeth Hall again in London are some of the buildings to study brutalism.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
(Photo by Dean McQuade on Unsplash)


As the name suggests, the expressionist style was invented to evoke inner feelings and extreme emotions. The buildings of this style had a statement to make. Often distorted unusual forms were used and innovative building techniques were introduced using brick, steel, and glass. Expressionism is not defined by what it is but what it is not. These buildings tend towards abstraction like The Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Chilehaus in Hamburg, Sydney Opera House in Sydney.


The design style most popular in the 1950s mostly seen in roadside buildings such as coffee shops, motels, gas stations. The main characteristics of this style are angular and bold forms with the use of steel and glass. Buildings built in this style of architecture can be seen with sloping roofs at an upward angle. Starbursts are the common ornament visible in this style.

The buildings with such characteristics are Johnie’s Coffee Shop in Los Angeles, The Caribbean Motel in New Jersey.

The Dancing House, Prague, designed by Frank Gehry
(Image by ivabalk from Pixabay)


Deconstructivism falls under the movement of postmodern architecture. Displacement of elements could be seen in this style with no harmony, symmetry or continuity. This is the abstract art form among all the styles having the contrast of shapes and colors.

Large coverage of single material can be seen with smooth surfaces. Moreover, window frames are generally hidden in the walls and simple metal door frames are used.  Deconstructive buildings have sculptural look some of which are Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, The Dancing House in Prague, Walt Disney Concert Hal in Los Angeles.


Developed in the mid 20th century, the style has a very simple look. The buildings can be seen in a pure and simple look with no ornamentation at all. The style has simple elements like geometric forms, simple materials, clean lines and repetitive use for the sense of order. Some of the perfect examples of minimalism are Church of the Light in Osaka, Wabi House in Mexico.

A Modern House
(Image by giovanni gargiulo from Pixabay)


Modern is the term for the present, so modern houses are built with the latest technologies. There are varieties of options for building houses in modern styles. The focus is to create simple homes with functional spaces, removing unnecessary details.

Modern houses should be planned in such a way that no space goes wasted and every space is used to its full extent. Also, modern houses are not bold but simple with the use of neutral colors such as white, beige, greys, and browns with some focusing splashes of bright colors.

Facades play an important role in the look of modern homes. Materials like exposed concrete, glass and cladding materials can be used.

The construction of houses in modern architecture is still into practice and is the most famous one.

Modern architecture has made a long journey and will continue its establishment as new technologies and materials grow with time. It is getting more simplified as we are moving in the future. Simplicity is the key to modern architecture.

Modern architecture will always remain the architecture of today!