Modern Architecture: History and Characteristics

Modern architecture is characterized by its emphasis on function, simplicity, and abstraction. Learn more about the history and characteristics of modern architecture.

Modern Architecture: History and Characteristics

What is Modern Architecture?

It is an architectural style that focuses on the functionality of a building more than any other aspects and factors. So Modern Architecture abandoned the ornamentation of the Victorian and Gothic Revival styles which was an essential part of enhancing a building aesthetically. According to architects, Modern design depends on minimalism and functionalism.

History of Modern Architecture

Historians don’t agree on the starting date of modern style but there are some key moments in history that paved the way for it to emerge. At the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, American architect Louis Sullivan presented the first skyscrapers. Sullivan expressed his design philosophy as "form follows function," a phrase that would become the unofficial motto of every designer who follows modern style. Later on, In 1919, Walter Gropius established the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany, which was the first of its kind because it taught modern design principles to students. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Streamline Moderne, a new modern style, was born. In this style, The buildings are modeled after the shape of ocean liners and inspired by aerodynamic principles.

Related: Learn about 3D Design in Architecture.

modern skyscrapers in modern architecture

What Defines Modern Architecture from Other Styles:

Although the techniques and styles of architects are different, but there are key features that make spotting a modern design easy. The following are the most essential characteristics to look for in modern architecture design.

1. Clean lines:

Lines in the modern design are minimal and the surfaces are clear, consistent, and clear.

2. Use of glass:

Because modern architects embrace natural light it is crucial to design the building with large windows, floor-to-ceiling windows. These windows make the entire building look as if made of glass.

3. Flat roofs:

Modern homes tend to be on large sites. Low and broad horizontal roofs are adapted to the building with overhangs. Thus it complies with nature around it.

4. Open and well-defined floorplans:

As functionality is a key factor in designing a modern building, designers choose to make the spaces open and large to be useful for living or working.

5. Use of modern materials and systems:

Steel columns are employed in exposed applications, concrete block is used as a finished material, concrete floors are stained and exposed, long-span steel trusses allow for open column-free areas, and radiant heating systems improve human comfort.

Related: Learn about 2D Design in Architecture.

Principles of Modern Architecture


This principle asserts that architects should consider solely the purpose of a building and how to maximize its functionality. Factors like use, material, and structure, are thought of when designing a modern building. Moreover, some see that functionalism is not limited to the building itself, but its role is prolonged to help develop a better world while building homes or offices.


It is an art movement that flourished between 1915 and 1925 and influenced French painters and architects. According to purism, art has a hierarchy of its different forms. Ornaments and decorative art are at the base while the human figure is at the summit. Purism embraces technology and machines, so it tries to give them a timeless quality.


The design in this approach praises simplicity. Designers eliminate parts, details, and joinery to a stage where removing anything further doesn’t improve the design. This style focuses on structure, light, materials, and space. It glorifies the essential structural elements of a building, drawing attention to its simplest form.

Related: Introducing 3D Design: How it Works.


The expressionist architect used techniques such as Distortion of form to produce an emotional effect. They also exploit realism to show symbolic or stylistic expressions of inner experience.

Related: Modernity and Creativity in Istanbul Modern Projects.

Sydney Opera House

Is Modern Architecture Sustainable?

The debate about the sustainability of modern architecture is not settled down. Some say it is sustainable architecure because it provides better insulation and reduces energy consumption, as modern building depends on natural light mainly. On the other hand, some people still believe that modern architecture doesn’t take human nature into consideration when we compare body size and the spaces we occupy.

Iconic Modern Architecture Buildings

The Fallingwater House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935)

The Fallingwater House

Fallingwater is made up of levels of reinforced concrete terraces, contrasting vertical columns, and piers of locally quarried stone. It is perched atop a rock and cantilevered over a waterfall at the client's preferred Bear Run stream swimming location.

Seagram Building (designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1958)

seagram Building

A corporate headquarters monolith that symbolizes the strength and might of the steel I-beam (all in black), the Seagram Building on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan also featured a unique public fountained plaza.

Glass House (designed by Philip Johnson, 1949)

Glass House

That home was created by Philip Johnson to be his own. His design was simple and made use of glass's reflective and translucent properties. Additionally, he experimented with sizes and geometric proportions, which gave the house its status as a local landmark and a modern architectural symbol.

Build Your Dream Home with Mimari Expert

The variety of architectural styles is glorious. Architects can build many houses that serve different purposes. Some of them could be masterpieces. So, Architecture design plays a vital role in promoting the beauty of our life. In fact, a good design is a sign of a good life. Mimari Expert is one of the best companies in the field of architecture and interior design. It has a team of experts who can help you design your home according to your needs and wants. With Mimari Expert you can turn your envisioned house into a real cosy home.
Contact us now, speak to one of our experts, and express your thoughts to get immediate feedback and recommendations.

2023-09-08 Last update   2024-03-02
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