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Picture Dictionary of Modern Architecture

Picture Dictionary of Modern Architecture

Modernism wasn't just another style. It presented a new way of thinking about architecture. These photos illustrate Modernist, Post-modernist, and other 20th century approaches to building design. As you view the images, you'll notice that 20th century architects often drew on several design philosophies to create buildings that are startling and unique. Click on the pictures below to begin your architectural journey.

Modernism

Modernist architecture emphasizes function. It attempts to provide for specific needs rather than imitate nature. The roots of Modernism may be found in the work of Berthold Luberkin (1901-1990), a Russian architect who settled in London and founded a group called Tecton. The Tecton architects believed in applying scientific, analytical methods to design. Their stark buildings ran counter to expectations and often seemed to defy gravity.

Modernist architecture can express a number of stylistic ideas, including:
Structuralism
Formalism
Bauhaus
The International Style
Brutalism
Minimalism

Modernist architecture has these features:
Little or no ornamentation
Factory-made parts
Man-made materials such as metal and concrete
Emphasis on function
Rebellion against traditional styles

ModernismThe Einstein Tower (Einsteinturm) in Potsdam is an Expressionist work by architect Erich Mendelsohn, 1920

ModernismI.M. Pei, Architect - Herbert F. Johnson

Museum of Art at Cornell Univers

FunctionalismFunctionalism

When American architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase "form follows function," he described what later became a dominant trend in Modernist architecture. Louis Sullivan and other architects were striving for "honest" approaches to building design that focused on functional efficiency. Functionalist architects believed that the ways buildings are used and the types of materials available should determine the design. Of course, Louis Sullivan lavished his buildings with ornamental details that did not serve any functional purpose. The philosophy of functionalism was followed more closely by Bauhaus and International Style architects.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the term Functionalism was used to describe any practical structure that was quickly constructed for purely practical purposes without an eye for artistry. However, for Bauhaus and other early Fuctionalists, the concept was a liberating philosophy that freed architecture from frilly excesses of the past.

Holocaust_MemorialStructuralism

Structuralism is based on the idea that all things are built from a system of signs and these signs are made up of opposites: male/female, hot/cold, old/young, etc. For Structuralists, design is a process of searching for the relationship between elements. Structuralists are also interested in the social structures and mental processes that contributed to the design.

 

Structuralist architecture will have a great deal of complexity within a highly structured framework. For example, a Structuralist design may consist of cell-like honeycomb shapes, intersecting planes, cubed grids, or densely clustered spaces with connecting courtyards.

Berlin Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman

MinimalismMinimalism

One important trend in Modernist architecture is the movement toward minimalist or reductivist design. Hallmarks of Minimalism include:
Buildings are stripped of all but the most essential elements
Emphasis is placed on the outline, or frame, of the struture
Interior walls are eliminated
Floor plans are open
Lighting is used to dramatize lines and planes
The negative spaces around the structure are part of the overall design
Buildings are stripped of all but the most essential elements
Emphasis is placed on the outline, or frame, of the struture
Interior walls are eliminated
Floor plans are open
Lighting is used to dramatize lines and planes
The negative spaces around the structure are part of the overall design

Modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe paved the way for Minimalism when he said, "Less is more." Minimalist architects drew much of their inspiration from the elegant simplicity of traditional Japanese architecture. Minimalists were also inspired by a movement of early twentieth century Dutch artists known as De Stijl. Valuing simplicity and abstraction, De Stijl artists used only straight lines and rectangular shapes.

The Mexico City home of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Luis Barragán is Minimalist in its emphasis on lines, planes, and open spaces.

The Minimalist Luis Barragan House, or Casa de Luis Barragán, was the home and studio of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. This building is a classic example of the Pritzker Prize Laureate's use of texture, bright colors, and diffused light.

BrutalismBrutalism

The term Brutalism was first used in the early 1950s to describe the simple concrete buildings designed by Le Corbusier. Stark and angular, Brutalism grew out of the International Style, but the designs may strike you as less refined. Brutalist buildings can be constructed quickly and economically.

Brutalist architecture has these features:
Precast concrete slabs
Rough, unfinished surfaces
Exposed steel beams
Massive, sculptural shapes

The Prizker Prize-winning architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha is often called a "Brazilian Brutalist" because his buildings are constructed of prefabricated and mass-produced concrete components. Shown here is his home in São Paulo, Brazil.

DeconstructivismDeconstructivism, or Deconstruction

Deconstructivism, or Deconstruction, is an approach to building design that attempts to view architecture in bits and pieces. The basic elements of architecture are dismantled. Deconstructivist buildings may seem to have no visual logic. They may appear to be made up of unrelated, disharmonious abstract forms. Deconstructive ideas are borrowed from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.