Modernist Architecture History

Modern architecture looks quite different than early architecture. Whereas many older architectural styles were focused on being as elaborate as possible, modern architecture is about simplicity and widespread functionality.

True modern architecture, most scholars agree, gets it start around the beginning of the 20th century. The world at this time was changing and growing rapidly, and thus, architectural styles had to do the same.

Modernist architecture first became popular in North America but would eventually become favored among many important architects around the world, retaining its place of importance into the present day.

Early architects who embraced modernism include Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Gerrit.

Modernist Architecture Characteristics: Distinctive Features of Modernist Architecture

While modernist architecture can sometimes be difficult to classify exactly, certain features are commonly seen. These include:

  • Purpose considered in design
  • Simplistic forms
  • Lack of  original decoration
  • Explicit structure
  • Industrial materials

Nationalism’s Influence on Architecture

Soon after World War I, a combination of modernist and traditionalist concepts were used to create architecture. However, among countries, nationalism began to play a factor, and, in its own way, would influence modernist architecture as it is now known.

Russia, for example, showed its pride by creating Stalinist architecture. Italy created its own fascist architecture, and Germany created Nazi architecture. A desire to show pride in one’s country and time has since been an important factor in the creation of all architectural designs, though many would argue that that desire and its architectural manifestations is only subconsciously realized.

Functional Architecture

While exploring the feelings, subconscious or not, that go into architectural design is fascinating, many of the architectural styles leading up to the modernist style were merely functional in nature.

For example, the interwar period saw a lot of functional architecture, such as affordable housing for large masses of people. European cities such as Berlin and Rotterdam made particularly notable advancements in this area.

In some ways, it was almost as if architecture, particularly architecture found in Berlin, could predict the future. Berlin created affordable housing estates shortly before National Socialism took hold.

Ever-Changing Architecture

Modernist architecture, from its humble beginnings to its present incarnation, has always been ever-changing. In fact, that is, ironically, the only thing that hasn’t changed about it. This ability of modern architecture to change and grow along with its surroundings and to be influenced by the society in which it exists is perhaps what has made it last and evolve until the present day.

Courses that cover the Modernist Period:

History of Ideas in Architecture 4: Modernist (c.1750 – c.1970)

  • Three Belief Systems in Western Architecture c.17500-c.1860 
  1. New Town, Edinburgh
  2. Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Paris
  3. U.S. Capital
  4. University of Virginia Charlottesville
  5. Parliament Buildings, London.
  6. also:  Space museum, Wapakoneta Ohio; Ledoux’s model  guard house; Chaux Saltworks; Vendome column; Bourse,  St. Petersburg; Victor Considerant’s plan for a phalanstery;  St. Croix Orleans, Notre-Dame Montreal; Parliament Buildings Ottaw.
  • From Crystal Palace to Pravda Project: Mechanistic Theory in search of Architectural Form 
  1. Crystal Palace, London
  2. Science Museum, Oxford
  3. Paris Opera
  4. Viollet-le-Duc’s “Primaeval Hut”
  5. Eiffel Tower
  6. Einstein Tower, Berlin
  7. Project for Leningradskaya Pravda
  8. also:  prefabricated iron palace, Nigeria; Haussmann’s Paris plan;  Odeon Theatre, Paris; prehistoric reconstructions:  Terra Amata,  Mezarich; Sacre Coeur, Paris; Sagrada Familia, Barcelona; Paris  Metro; Unity Temple, Chicago; Larkin Factory/Office, Buffalo;  projects for the University of Minsk
  • The War Between the Wars:  Modernism Takes Command c.1920-1950.
  1. Viceroy’s Palace, New Delhi
  2. Stockholm City Hall
  3. Chrysler Tower, New York
  4. Dauhaus, Dessau
  5. Villa Savoye
  6. Marchfield, Nuremberg
  7. Colonial Williamsburg restoration
  8. Fallingwater
  9. Crown Hall, I.I.T., Chicago
  10. also:  “Greywalls” Gullane; Engelbrekt Church, Stockholm;  WCTU Building (Root) Chicago; Moscow University;  Rockefeller Center; prefab bungalows; Gropius/Breuer house,  Lincoln; “prairie house” by Frank Lloyd Wright, and suburban  house in “Prairie” style
  • Forever Future: The Modernist Moment c.1950-c1970
  1. UN Building, New York
  2. Seagram Building, New York
  3. Chandigarh
  4. Florida Southern College, Lakeland
  5. Expo 67, Montreal
  6. Pruitt-Igoe, St. Louis.
  7. also:  Bacardi Rum building,  Mexico City; Ronchamp; “Cite  Contemporaine”, City in the Sky, Tokyo; Hilberseimer’s  Ideal Skyscraper City; Roehampton; Akalla
  1. Bamberg vcy
  2. Boullee’s projected monument to Sir Isaac Newton
  3. New Town, Edinburgh
  4. Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Paris
  5. United States Capitol, Washington
  6. University of Virginia campus, Charlottesville
  7. Westminster New Palace (Parliament Buildings) London
  8. Crystal Palace, London
  9. Physical Sciences Museum, Oxford
  10. Paris Opera
  11. Viollet-le-Duc’s primeval hut
  12. 99. Eiffel Tower, Potsdam
  13. Einstein Tower, Potsdam
  14. Leningradskaya Pravda building (project)
  15. Viceroy’s Palace, New Delhi
  16. Stockholm City Hall
  17. Chrysler Tower, New York
  18. The Bauhaus, Dessau
  19. Villa Savoye, Paris
  20. Marzfeld, Nuremberg
  21. Old Virginia Capitol in Historic Williamsburg
  22. Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania
  23. Crown Hall, Ill. Inst. Of Tech., Chicago
  24. United Nations Headquarters, New York
  25. Seagram Building, New York
  26. Chandigarh, Punjab
  27. Florida Southern College, Lakeland
  28. Expo 67, Montreal
  29. Pruitt-Igoe housing project, St. Louis