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What is Modern Architecture?

written by: Raunekk•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 12/19/2009

Modern Architecture, also known as neo-traditional architecture, evolved during the World War I era. All the modern buildings that we see around today have evolved and been inspired from modern architecture. Find out here what "modern architecture" exactly means.

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    Modern architecture is a style of architecture that first evolved in the Western countries during the World War I era. More than a particular manner, it was the wise use of modern materials, adaptation of methods based on functionality planning, and the abandonment of traditional methods that made the construction style very urban. Modern architecture is also popularly known by the names "neo-traditional architecture" and "functionalism."

    The realization of genuine architecture, which increased during the World War era, was more of a need than a craze. It was believed that if the real significance or beauty was to be achieved in a structure, the aspects of functions and materials should be inclusive in the definition of that building’s architecture.

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    Modern Architecture

    Modern or neoclassical architecture is a way of designing buildings with similar features. Under this style of architecture, the structures are simpler and less decorative. Some believe its origin to be a result of social and political revolution. However, others assume it to be driven by technological and engineering developments. Modern architecture follows the principle in which the materials and functional requirements determine the result, by making more use of machines. In this field, an architect is expected to design an expressed structure which has been assigned a function or is mainly purpose driven.

    During the late 18th and 19th centuries, the fields of manufacturing, agriculture, production and transportation underwent a sudden change. This also had a huge impact on the world of architecture. Creations of renowned architects such as Sir Joseph Paxton, William Baron Jenny, and Louis Henri Sullivan are the testimonials to the extraordinary development of modern architecture. By the 1920s, Le Cobusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Wasmuth Portfolio had become popular for the structures built by them. Frank Lloyd Wright was another American architect who had been involved in more than 1000 projects which resulted in more than 500 great structures.

    A wave of development in the business and commercial areas during 1932-1984 also led to increase in the importance of modern architecture. Modernism was at that time considered to be a matter of taste, a reaction against eclecticism. Eclecticism is a type of combined style of the fine arts which includes the borrowing of a variety of Art movements from different sources and combining them for the purpose of construction.

    It was when the engineers and architects started using iron, steel, and glass to enclose the huge open interior spaces of train sheds, department stores, and market halls that modern architecture was established. Some examples of the modern structures were the construction of Crystal Palace in London in 1851 and the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889. Moreover, famous architects like Francois Hennebique, Aususte Perret, and Ernest Ransome conducted various experiments in France and in the United States which brought transformation in the former styles of architecture.


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    More Information

    The Lovell House or Lovell Health House is another fine example of a modern residential building – designed and made by Richard Neutra between the years 1927 – 1929 in California. Unfortunately, there were some architects who didn’t carry the same opinion for these kinds of architectural styles and who claimed it to be dehumanizing because of odd geometrical shapes. According to Le Corbusier, buildings are machines in which for men to live. But detractors had opposed these views and suggested for construction of certain buildings that would be fit for residential purpose. Gradually, they shifted from the rectilinear designs to more eclectic styles. Thus, their interest moved to organic forms which according to them were more human– and made way for the mid-century modern architecture.

    Thus, though modern architecture is not as old as religious architecture, there is a higher possibility of it being lost due to demolition, neglect, or alterations. As a result, a general awareness amongst the people works as a savior. One such effort has been made by the associations of World Monument Fund who came forward and assisted in architectural restoration work. These and other such organizations are dedicated to the historic preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage through various channels such as advocacy, fieldwork, grant making, education, and training.


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    References and Image Credits