Modern architecture is generally characterized by simplification of form and an absence of applied decoration. It is a term applied to an overarching movement, with its exact definition and scope varying widely. In a broader sense, early modern architecture began at the turn of the 20th century with efforts to reconcile the principles underlying architectural design with rapid technological advancement and the modernization of society. It would take the form of numerous movements, schools of design, and architectural styles, some in tension with one another, and often equally defying such classification.
The concept of modernism is a central theme in these efforts. Gaining popularity after the Second World War, architectural modernism was adopted by many influential architects and architectural educators, and continues as a dominant architectural style for institutional and corporate buildings into the 21st century. Modernism eventually generated reactions, most notably Postmodernism which sought to preserve pre-modern elements, while Neomodernism emerged as a reaction to Postmodernism.
Notable architects important to the history and development of the modernist movement include Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Oscar Niemeyer and Alvar Aalto.
Common themes of modern architecture include:
- the notion that "Form follows function", a dictum originally expressed by Frank Lloyd Wright's early mentor Louis Sullivan, meaning that the result of design should derive directly from its purpose
- simplicity and clarity of forms and elimination of "unnecessary detail"
- visual expression of structure (as opposed to the hiding of structural elements)
- the related concept of "Truth to materials", meaning that the true nature or natural appearance of a material ought to be seen rather than concealed or altered to represent something else
- use of industrially-produced materials; adoption of the machine aesthetic
- particularly in International Style modernism, a visual emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines
Early modernism 
There are multiple lenses through which the evolution of modern architecture may be viewed. Some historians see it as a social matter, closely tied to the project of Modernity and thus the Enlightenment. Modern architecture developed, in their opinion, as a result of social and political revolutions. Others see Modern architecture as primarily driven by technological and engineering developments. Still other historians regard Modernism as a matter of taste, a reaction against eclecticism and the lavish stylistic excesses of Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
With the Industrial Revolution, the availability of newly-available building materials such as iron, steel, and sheet glass drove the invention of new building techniques. In 1796, Shrewsbury mill owner Charles Bage first used his 'fireproof' design, which relied on cast iron and brick with flag stone floors. Such construction greatly strengthened the structure of mills, which enabled them to accommodate much bigger machines. Due to poor knowledge of iron's properties as a construction material, a number of early mills collapsed. It was not until the early 1830s that Eaton Hodgkinson introduced the section beam, leading to widespread use of iron construction. This kind of austere industrial architecture utterly transformed the landscape of northern Britain, leading to the description of places like Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire as "Dark satanic mills". The Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton at the Great Exhibition of 1851 was an early example of iron and glass construction, followed in 1864 by the first glass and metal curtain wall. A further development was that of the steel-framed skyscraper in Chicago around 1890 by William Le Baron Jenney and Louis Sullivan.
Around 1900 a number of architects and designers around the world began developing new solutions to integrate traditional precedents (classicism or Gothic, for instance) with new technological possibilities. The work of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, Victor Horta in Brussels, Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, Otto Wagner and the Vienna Secession in Austria, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, among many others, can be seen as a common struggle between old and new. The work of some of these were a part of what is broadly categorized as Art Nouveau ("New Art"). Note that the Russian word for Art Nouveau, "Модерн", and the Spanish word for Art Nouveau, "Modernismo" are cognates of the English word "Modern" though they carry different meanings. An early use of the term in print around this time, approaching its later meaning, was in the title of a book by Otto Wagner. The fallout of the First World War resulted in additional experimentation and ideas. Following out of the experiments in Art Nouveau and its related movements around the world, modernism in architecture and design grew out of stylistic threads originating throughout world.
In the United States 
Wright's Larkin Building (1904) in Buffalo, New York, Unity Temple (1905) in Oak Park, Illinois, and the Robie House (1910) in Chicago, Illinois were some of the first examples of modern architecture in the United States. Frank Lloyd Wright was a major influence on European architects, including both Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as well as on the whole of organic architecture. Gropius claimed that his "bible" for forming the Bauhaus was 100 Frank Lloyd Wright drawings that the architect shared with Germany over a decade prior to this point, the Wasmuth Portfolio. While Wright's career would parallel that of European architects, he refused to be categorized with them, claiming that they copied his ideas. Many architects in Germany[who?] believed that Wright's life would be wasted in the United States, since the US was not ready for his newer architecture. During the 1930s, Wright would experiment with his Usonian ideas for a uniquely U.S. American (i.e. "US-onian") take on modernism. It would be several decades before European architects would in turn bring their version of modern architecture to the United States.
In Italy: Futurism 
Futurist architecture began in the early-20th century, characterized by anti-historicism and long horizontal lines suggesting speed, motion and urgency. Technology and even violence were among the themes of the Futurists. The movement was founded by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who produced its first manifesto, the Manifesto of Futurism in 1909. The movement attracted not only poets, musicians, artist (such as Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, and Enrico Prampolini) but also a number of architects. Among the latter there was Antonio Sant'Elia, who, though he built little (being killed in WWI), translated the Futurist vision into bold urban form. The unbuilt designs and theories of Futurists went on to influence both the Constructivists and a branch of Italian Fascist architecture.
In Russia: Constructivism 
Following the 1917 revolutions in Russia, the societal upheaval and change was coupled with a desire for a new aesthetic, one more in keeping with the Communist philosophy and societal goals of the new state, in contrast to the ornate Neoclassicism that had prevailed prior. This resulted in a new style, Constructivism.Konstantin Melnikov, a Russian Constructivist architect, designed the Melnikov House (1927-29) near Arbat Street in Moscow.
The style prospered, but fell markedly out of favor during the design competition for the Palace of the Soviets from 1931 to 1933, losing to a more traditional revivalism of Russian architecture with nationalistic overtones, afterwards termed Postconstructivism. This resulted in the ultimate demise of the Russian branch of early architectural modernism, though not before it had a chance to influence architects elsewhere, such as Le Corbusier.
In Western Europe 
Arts and Crafts movement 
Spanning the gap between the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Modernism of the 1920s, was the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) a German association of architects, designers and industrialists. It was founded in 1907 in Munich at the instigation of Hermann Muthesius. Muthesius was the author of a three-volume "The English House" of 1905, a survey of the practical lessons of the English Arts and Crafts movement and a leading political and cultural commentator. The purpose of the Werkbund was to sponsor the attempt to integrate traditional crafts with the techniques of industrial mass production. The organization originally included twelve architects and twelve business firms, but quickly expanded. The architects include Peter Behrens, Theodor Fischer (who served as its first president), Josef Hoffmann and Richard Riemerschmid. Joseph August Lux, an Austrian-born critic, helped formulate its agenda.
As a result of isolation during World War I, an art and design movement developed unique to the Netherlands, known as De Stijl (literally "the style"), characterized by its use of line and primary colors. While producing little architectural design overall (with notable exception of the Rietveld Schröder House of 1924), its ideas went on to influence the architects and designers of the 1920s.
Expressionism was an architectural movement that developed in Northern Europe during the first decades of the 20th century in parallel with the expressionist visual and performing arts. Making notable use of sculptural forms and the novel use of concrete as artistic elements, examples include Rudolf Steiner's Second Goetheanum, built from 1926 near Basel, Switzerland and the Einsteinturm in Potsdam, Germany.
The style was characterised by an early-modernist adoption of novel materials, formal innovation, and very unusual massing, sometimes inspired by natural biomorphic forms, sometimes by the new technical possibilities offered by the mass production of brick, steel and especially glass. Many expressionist architects fought in World War I and their experiences, combined with the political turmoil and social upheaval that followed the German Revolution of 1919, resulted in a utopian outlook and a romantic socialist agenda. Economic conditions severely limited the number of built commissions between 1914 and the mid-1920s, resulting in many of the most important expressionist works remaining as projects on paper, such as Bruno Taut's Alpine Architecture and Hermann Finsterlin's Formspiels. Ephemeral exhibition buildings were numerous and highly significant during this period. Scenography for theatre and films provided another outlet for the expressionist imagination, and provided supplemental incomes for designers attempting to challenge conventions in a harsh economic climate. A particular type, using bricks to create its forms (rather than concrete) is known as Brick Expressionism.
Modernism reaches critical mass 
It was at this time, during the 1920s, that the most important figures in Modern architecture established their reputations. The big three are commonly recognized as Le Corbusier in France, and Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Germany, all of whom trained under Peter Behrens.
Gropius and Mies van der Rohe both served as directors of the Bauhaus, one of a number of European schools and associations concerned with reconciling craft tradition and industrial technology. Mies van der Rohe designed the German pavilion (known afterward as the Barcelona Pavilion) at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. Villa Savoye, by Le Corbusier and his cousin, was built from 1928 to 1931. As in Russia, political pressures turned against the modernists. With the rise of Nazism in 1933, the German experiments in modernism were replaced by more traditionalist architectural forms.
Style Moderne: tradition and modernism 
Following World War I, a stylistic movement developed that embraced ideas of both modernism (or at least modernization) and traditionalism. It is characterized by the adoption of the machine aesthetic, glorification of technological advancement and new materials, while at the same time adopting or loosely retaining revivalist forms and motifs, and the continued use of ornament.
In the case of the Art deco, decorative motifs included both those evocative of technology (such as the lightning bolt (electricity) or the tire (the automobile)), and those of the exotic (such as drawing elements from Mesoamerican, African, and Ancient Egyptian designs). Frank Lloyd Wright himself experimented with Mayan Revival, culminating in the concrete cube-based Ennis House of 1924 in Los Angeles.
More restrained forms with national imagery were adopted. In the United States, it took the form of "Stripped Classicism" (alternatively, "PWA Moderne" or "WPA Moderne") a stark version of the Neoclassicism of Federal buildings earlier in the century. It application ranged in scale from local post-offices to the Pentagon). At the same time (as noted above), the rise in nationalism was reflected in the Stalinist architecture of the Soviet Union, Fascist architecture of Italy, and Nazi architecture of Germany, what historian Kenneth Frampton termed the "New Tradition". To a less political extent, such an idea of modernized tradition could also be seen in contemporaneous Mycenaean Revival architecture.
During and following World War II, this broad branch of modern architecture declined, with the rise of the International Style and other mid-century architecture.
Wartime innovation 
World War II (1939–1945) and its aftermath was a major factor in driving innovation in building technology, and in turn, architectural possibilities. The wartime industrial demands resulting in a supply shortage (of such things as steel and other metals), in turn leading to the adoption of new materials, and advancement or novel use of old ones. Similarly, surplus postwar industrial capacity accelerated the use of new materials and techniques, particular architectural aluminium (as a result of advances made in its use in aircraft, etc., during the war). At the same time, there was a rapid demand for structures during the war (such as military and governmental facilities) as well as for housing after the war.
These factors encouraged experiments with prefabricated building. Though examples of prefabrication have existed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, with notable examples during the Interwar period such as the diner, the semi-circular metal Nissen hut of World War I revived as the Quonset hut, the post-war enameled-steel Lustron house (1947–1950), and Buckminster Fuller's experimental aluminum Dymaxion House.
International Style 
In 1932 (prior to World War II), the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Philip Johnson and collaborator Henry-Russell Hitchcock drew together many distinct threads and trends in architecture, identified them as stylistically similar and having a common purpose, and consolidated them into the International style. This was a turning point. However, for the remainder of the Interwar period, the Moderne styles overshadowed this movement.
With the labeling of modernist art and architecture in Germany as degenerate, followed by World War II, important figures of the Bauhaus and New Objectivity fled to the United States: Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius went to the Harvard Graduate School of Design (the former becoming part of a group known as the "Harvard Five"), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to Chicago, with others going to Black Mountain College. Still others fled to British Palestine, contributing to the design of the White City of Tel Aviv.
While high-style modernist architectural design never became dominant in single-dwelling residential buildings in the United States, in institutional and commercial architecture Modernism became the pre-eminent, and in the schools (for leaders of the architectural profession) the only acceptable, design solution from about 1932 to about 1984.
Architects who worked in the International style wanted to break with architectural tradition and design simple, unornamented buildings. The most commonly used materials are glass for the facade (usually a curtain wall), steel for exterior support, and concrete for the floors and interior supports; floor plans were functional and logical. The style became most evident in the design of skyscrapers. Perhaps its most famous manifestations include the United Nations headquarters (Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, Sir Howard Robertson), the Seagram Building and the Toronto-Dominion Centre (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe), and Lever House (Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill).
In the United States, a prominent early residential example was the Lovell House in Los Angeles, designed by Austrian expatriate Richard Neutra in the 1920s. Other examples include the Case Study Houses. Commissioned between 1945 and 1966, the twenty or so homes that were built primarily in and around Los Angeles, designed by architects such as Neutra and Americans Charles and Ray Eames (the Eames House) have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since their completion, and have influenced many architects over the years, notably the British architect, Michael Manser, whose domestic work is best exemplified by Capel Manor House in Kent. These and other Modern residences tend to focus on humanizing the otherwise harsh ideal, making them more livable and ultimately more appealing to real people. Many of these designs use a similar tactic: blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. This is achieved by embracing "the box" while at the same time dissolving it into the background with minimal structure and large glass walls, as was particularly the case with the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe and the Glass House by Philip Johnson, the later part of a set of residences by the "Harvard Five" in New Canaan, Connecticut. Some critics claim that these spaces remain too cold and static for the average person to function, however. The materials utilized in a large number of Modern homes are not hidden behind a softening facade. While this may make them somewhat less desirable for the general public, most modernist architects see this as a necessary and pivotal tenet of Modernism: uncluttered and purely Minimal design.
Urban design and mass housing 
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The Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) was a force in shaping modernist urban planning, and consequently the design of cities and the structures within, from 1928 to 1959. Its 1933 meeting resulted in the basis of what became the Athens Charter, which would drive urban planning practice for much of the mid-20th century. Following its principles, in the late 1950s the entirely-new city of Brasília was built as a new capital for Brazil, designed by Lucio Costa, with prominent works for it designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Le Corbusier applied CIAM's principles in his design for the city of Chandigarh in India.
The devastation that WWII wrought in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific and subsequent post-war housing shortages resulted in a vast building and rebuilding of cities, with a variety of techniques employed for the creation of mass-housing. One attempt to solve this was by using the Tower block. In the Eastern Bloc, mass housing took the form of prefabricated panel buildings, such as the Plattenbau of East Germany, Khrushchyovka of Russia and the Panelák of Czechoslovakia.
Later modern architecture 
Mid-Century reactions 
As the International Style took hold, others architects reacted to or strayed from its purely functionalist forms, while at the same time retaining highly modernist characteristics. Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer were three of the most prolific architects and designers in this movement, which has influenced contemporary modernism.
Le Corbusier once described buildings as "machines for living", but people are not machines and it was suggested that they do not want to live in machines. During the middle of the century, some architects began experimenting in organic forms that they felt were more human and accessible. Mid-century modernism, or organic modernism, was very popular, due to its democratic and playful nature. Expressionist exploration of form was revived, such as in the Sydney Opera House in Australia by Jørn Utzon. Eero Saarinen invoked suggestions of flight in his designs for the terminal at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C, or the TWA Terminal in New York, both finished in 1962. The Mission 66 project of the United States National Park Service was also built during this time.
Contributing to these expressions were structural advances that enabled new forms to be possible or desirable. Félix Candela, a Spanish expatriate living in Mexico, and Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, made particular strides in the use of reinforced concrete and concrete shell construction. In 1954, Buckminster Fuller patented the geodesic dome.
Another stylistic reaction was "New Formalism" (or "Neo-Formalism", sometimes shortened to "Formalism"). Like the pre-war "Stripped Classicism", "New Formalism" blended elements of classicism (at their most abstracted levels) with modernist designs. Characteristics drawing on classicism include rigid symmetry, use of columns and colonnades or arcades, and use of high-end materials (such as marble or granite), yet works in this vein also characteristically use the flat roofs common with the International Style. Architects working in this mode included Edward Durrell Stone, Minoru Yamasaki, and some of the middle-period work of Philip Johnson, with examples in the United States including the Kennedy Center (1971) and the National Museum of American History (1964) in Washington, D.C., and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (mid-1960s) in New York.
Arising shortly after the end of World War II, a particular set of stylistic tendencies in the United States during this time is known as Googie (or "populuxe"), derived from futuristic visions inspired by the imagery of the Atomic Age and Space Age, with motifs such as atomic orbital patterns and "flying saucers", respectively, such as in the Space Needle in Seattle. Though the style was unique to the United States, similar iconography can be seen in the Atomium in Brussels.
A distinctly Mexican take on modernism, "plastic integration", was a syncretization of Mexican artistic traditions (such as muralism) with International Style forms, and can be seen in the later works of Luis Barragán and Juan O'Gorman, epitomized by the Ciudad Universitaria of UNAM in Mexico City.
Brutalism and monumentality 
Architects such as Louis Kahn, Paul Rudolph, Marcel Breuer, I.M. Pei and others responded to the "light" glass curtain walls advocated by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, by creating architecture with an emphasis on more substantial materials, such as concrete and brick, and creating works with a "monumental" quality. "Brutalism" is a term derived from the use of "Béton brut" ("raw concrete"), unadorned, often with the mold marks remaining, though as a stylistic tendency, Brutalism would ultimately be applied more broadly to include the use of other materials such as brickwork in a similar fashion. The term was first used in architecture by Le Corbusier.
New structures, new forms 
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Tube architecture 
In 1963, a new structural system of framed tubes appeared in skyscraper design and construction. The Bangladeshi architect and structure engineer Fazlur Khan defined the framed tube structure as "a three dimensional space structure composed of three, four, or possibly more frames, braced frames, or shear walls, joined at or near their edges to form a vertical tube-like structural system capable of resisting lateral forces in any direction by cantilevering from the foundation." Closely spaced interconnected exterior columns form the tube. Horizontal loads, for example wind, are supported by the structure as a whole. About half the exterior surface is available for windows. Framed tubes allow fewer interior columns, and so create more usable floor space. Where larger openings like garage doors are required, the tube frame must be interrupted, with transfer girders used to maintain structural integrity.
The first building to apply the tube-frame construction was the DeWitt-Chestnut Apartment Building which Khan designed and was completed in Chicago by 1963. This laid the foundations for the tube structures of many other later skyscrapers, including his own John Hancock Center and Sears Tower, and can been seen in the construction of the World Trade Center and most other supertall skyscrapers since the 1960s, such as the Petronas Towers and the Jin Mao Building. The architecture of Chicago employing the ideas developed by Khan is often known as the "Second Chicago School".
Postmodern architecture 
Modern architecture met with some criticism, which began in the 1960s on the grounds that it seemed universal, elitist, and lacked meaning. Siegfried Giedion in the 1961 introduction to his evolving text, Space, Time and Architecture (first written in 1941), began "At the moment a certain confusion exists in contemporary architecture, as in painting; a kind of pause, even a kind of exhaustion." At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a 1961 symposium discussed the question "Modern Architecture: Death or Metamorphosis?"
The loss of traditionalist structures to make way for new modernist construction, especially via the Urban Renewal movement, led to further criticism, particularly the demolition of Penn Station in New York in 1963. That same year, controversy materialized around the Pan Am Building that loomed over Grand Central Terminal, taking advantage of the modernist real estate concept of "air rights", In criticism by Ada Louise Huxtable and Douglass Haskell it was seen to "sever" the Park Avenue streetscape and "tarnish" the reputations of its consortium of architects: Walter Gropius, Pietro Belluschi and the builders Emery Roth & Sons. The proposal for a tower over the terminal itself resulted in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, upholding the city's landmark laws. Alongside these preservation efforts came the increasing respectability and fashionability of more traditional styles.
Architects explored Postmodern architecture which offered a blend of some pre-modern elements, and deliberately sought to move away from rectilinear designs, towards more eclectic styles. Even Philip Johnson came to admit that he was "bored with the box." By the 1980s, postmodern architecture appeared to trend over modernism.
High Postmodern aesthetics lacked traction and by the mid-1990s, a new surge of modern architecture once again established international pre-eminence. As part of this revival, much of the criticism of the modernists was re-evaluated; and a modernistic style once again dominates in institutional and commercial contemporary practice. Although modern and postmodern design compete with a revival of traditional architectural design in commercial and institutional architecture; residential design continues to be dominated by a traditional aesthetic.
Neomodern architecture 
Neomodernism is a reaction to Postmodernism and its embrace of pre-modern elements of design. Examples of modern architecture in the 21st century include One World Trade Center (2013) in New York City and Tour First (2011), the tallest office building in the Paris metropolitan area. Emporis named Chicago's Modern Aqua Tower (2009) its skyscraper of the year.
Examples of contemporary modern architecture 
Warsaw Central railway station (1975) in Poland.
Several works or collections of modern architecture have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. In addition to the early experiments associated with Art Nouveau, these include a number of the structures mentioned above in this article: the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, the Bauhaus structures in Weimar and Dessau, the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, the White City of Tel Aviv, the city of Brasilia, the Ciudad Universitaria of UNAM in Mexico City and the University City of Caracas in Venezuela, and the Sydney Opera House.
Private organizations such as Docomomo International, the World Monuments Fund, and the Recent Past Preservation Network are working to safeguard and document imperiled Modern architecture. In 2006, the World Monuments Fund launched Modernism at Risk, an advocacy and conservation program.
Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, Modern structures in New Orleans have been increasingly slated for demolition. Plans are underway to demolish many of the city's Modern public schools, as well as large portions of the city's Civic Plaza. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds will contribute to razing the State Office Building and State Supreme Court Building, both designed by the collaborating architectural firms of August Perez and Associates; Goldstein, Parham and Labouisse; and Favrot, Reed, Mathes and Bergman. The New Orleans Recovery School District has proposed demolitions of schools designed by Charles R. Colbert, Curtis and Davis, and Ricciuti Associates. The 1959 Lawrence and Saunders building for the New Orleans International Longshoremen's Association Local 1419 is currently threatened with demolition although the union supports its conservation.
See also 
- Modern furniture
- Modern art
- International style (architecture)
- Organic architecture
- Critical regionalism
- Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Modern movement|
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