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Understanding the Times

Written by  Thursday, 15 October 2015 08:29
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Understanding the Times

How Architecture Got to Where it is Today…  

The modern movement in architecture, which emerged in the early 20th century, responded to sweeping changes in technology and society. A new world of machines and cities forced artists to think anew about their environment, and soon revolutionized the way they perceived, portrayed, and participated in the world.

The Modern Movement of architecture represents a significant shift in the design of buildings, away from the traditional forms and construction techniques of the past and toward a new era of design. The styles of the Modern Movement, Art Deco, Moderne and International, began in Europe and spread to the United States in the 1920s. This paper will be focusing on presenting a detailed, yet concise, account of the Modern Movement in architecture (also referred to as Modernism or Modern Architecture in some texts).



JFK Airport, New York.

(Architect: Eero Sarinen)



The Modern Movement coincides with 20th century modernization in visual arts, like the abstract art of Cubism and De Stijl. This style of architecture basically has a preference for white and primary colours. A ban seems to have been placed on ornament. The most important principle of the Modern Movement is that it does not intend to be a style. It would make an end to historical styles and aesthetics. A building has to be a technical, economical and functional answer to a question. A functional building automatically an attractive building according to the principle of form follows function. As such, a functionally designed claw-hammer is also a beautiful design.    

Ten Attributes that Define Modern Architecture



Falling Water/ Kaufmann Residence, Mill Run, Pennsylvania

(Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright)


      Inspired by Function: Modern architecture breaks away from “ornament-obsessed” design and traditional aesthetics. It strives to create home designs that go beyond “standard” ideas and instead pursues projects inspired by layout, location, and function. Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor, Louis Sullivan famously stated that, “Form follows function”. This idea is expressed by Modernism’s tendency t have land or the function of a project dictate much of design ideas. For example, Wright was famous for building with the land- his residential homes almost always relied on the lot to determine how the building was to be laid out. Wright believed that a building should be “one with the land” and not simply plopped down on top of it.


      Simplicity in Form and Design: Modern architecture is typically free of clutter and unnecessary elements. The goals of the project are clarified at the start, and only the features that are required are included in the design. Residential homes are often stripped of the home- the focus will be on the space itself, rather than on any décor or details not relevant to the overall design.


      Nothing to Hide: Rather than concealing the nature of the home, Modern style wants the viewer to see the inner- workings and the true nature of the project. Materials are shown in the natural form and are showcased. Nothing is hidden or altered to look like something else. Structural elements are revealed to show the structure and supports. Exposed beams, open floor plans, and structural elements are exposed to the viewer. The idea of a sense of “Truth” is present in the home, where all materials and architectural elements are bare and revealed honestly.



      Love of All Things Linear: Modern architects seemed to have been in love with lines; in many modern designs, one will find strong linear elements and bold horizontal and vertical features. Beams, posts, cutouts, windows, staircases, fireplaces, rooflines, and other structural elements all assist the architect in creating a linear-inspired space. This focus is much more prominent in Modern design and is less important in other, more traditional, building styles. Lines of Modern architecture tend to be straight and angled rather than curved. However, organic lines sneak their way into Modern home design. 


      Bold Roof Lines: Instead of opting for the traditional triangular-based or craftsman style roof lines, Modern architecture dares to push the envelope on roof design. Homes might have multiple roof lines at different levels, showing off the complexity of the overall design and the uncommon silhouette of the structure. Varying lines and elongated vaulted ceilings, as well as interesting overhangs or unusual linear elements are mixed to create a mire unique statement.


      Windows as Design: Many mid-century homes use windows extensively to bring in light. These homes often feature floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of sliding doors. They may also include “clerestory” windows that are set high in the walls of a home to let in light while preserving privacy.



      Creative Open Floor Plans: Most include an open living/ dining/ kitchen area, often accented with a fireplace as a kind of gathering point. Mid- century homes played with their use of space, with floors divided on split levels or through “sunken” spaces designed for conversation or lounging. Prominent features of modern architecture include open interior floor plans with fewer walls.

      Post-and-Beam Architecture: Instead of interior walls functioning as support walls, they serve more as room dividers or for appearance. In many homes, “pony walls” extend from the floor to just below the ceiling, separating rooms while allowing them to share light.

      Revamped Outdoor Space: Multiple rooms open onto a large patio or atrium, designed to extend square footage and blur distinctions between the indoors and outdoors exterior building materials of glass and steel. Modern architecture almost always incorporates the topography of the land it is built on within the home’s design.

      Focus on Materials: Many mid-century modern homes blended established materials such as wood and brick with then-newer materials such as man-made floorings. They also incorporated new technologies- such as radiant floor heat- and building techniques such as construction atop concrete foundations.






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Online Editor at Interarchtiv Media Company

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