10 Essential Architectural Movements of the 20th Century

Sep 26th, 2010

Architecture is one of the most visible forms of art in our day-to-day lives. Many of the buildings that surround us were designed and constructed with an aesthetic purpose, and if they were done right, they immeasurably enhance the location in which they’re situated. The 20th century was an interesting time for architecture as several movements came and went, reflecting the styles, sensibilities and priorities of their eras. Here are 10 essential architectural movements from that time period.

  1. Art Nouveau
    Art nouveau architecture is characterized by odd shapes, an abundance of arches and curves, and surfaces that feature curvy floral and plant designs. The style came to prominence during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in European cities, particularly in Paris, where the Maison de l’Art Nouveau gallery operated by Siegfried Bing displayed the art style.
  2. ArtNouveau

  3. Arts and Crafts
    The arts and crafts movement coincided with the art nouveau movement, placing and increased emphasis on conforming to the structure’s surroundings while remaining aesthetically pleasing. One of the pioneers of the movement, William Morris, sought to depart from the overused Victorian architecture and bring forth a style based on the handicrafts movement. Houses during the era contained a more personable feel, as they were constructed as bungalows.
  4. ArtsAndCrafts

  5. Art Deco
    Art deco architecture is a combination of many different preexisting styles, but with a modern twist. These buildings feature materials such as stainless steel and aluminum, and often the sunburst motif, which can be seen on the Chrysler Building in New York – one of the most well-known art deco structures in the world. It was constructed between the two World Wars, when the style was at its peak in popularity.
  6. ArtDeco

  7. Futurist
    Unlike other architectural movements during the early 20th century, the futurist movement attempted to ignore past styles and devote itself to creating something entirely new. Antonio Sant’Elia was a major proponent of futurist architecture, writing the Manifesto of Futurist Architecture in 1914, which states the need to use only new technology and materials in the construction of these structures. During the ’50s, Googie Architecture notably emerged as a type of futurism.
  8. Futurist

  9. Modernist
    Modern architecture is simple and unornamental, differing from other movements in order to adapt to social and political changes. The German school for design, Bauhaus, is credited with influencing the modern movement. Founder Walter Gropius designed the Bauhaus building, which serves as an early example of the style. Modernist architecture became most popular after World War II and continues to be an often used style in major cities today.
  10. Modernist

  11. International Style
    International style is an offshoot of modernist architecture, but with a slightly different approach stylistically. A book authored by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock gave birth to the term, laying out three principles. The style became common in the developed world after World War II, featuring a square appearance as priority is given to the efficient use of space.
  12. InternationalStyle

  13. Expressionist
    Expressionist architecture is perhaps the most eye-catching style popularized during the 20th century. It’s characterized by a rejection of conventionalism for creativity, which is evident in its odd and inconsistent shapes and naturalistic themes. The final product is a reflection of the inner feelings of the designer, hence the use of the term “expressionism.”
  14. Expressionist

  15. Brutalism
    Concrete was heavily used in the formation of buildings during the mid-to-late 20th century in England, when communities needed cost-effective ways to rebuild after World War II. Brutalist buildings can be identified by their consistently blocky appearances, which many find aesthetically displeasing and downright ugly. Notably, Prince Charles has publically criticized the presence of the buildings in England.
  16. Brutalism

  17. Postmodern
    Postmodern architecture contrasts from modernism in that it requires creativity and ornamentation. The movement gained steam in the ’60s and ’70s as architects attempted to combine past styles while straying away from an overemphasis on functionalism. Appearance became a priority, as evidenced by the construction of Houston’s Bank of America Center and Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers in the latter years of the 20th century.
  18. Postmodern

  19. New Urbanism
    New Urbanism is the recent answer to urban sprawl. The goal is to facilitate a true sense of community within American cities by enabling foot traffic, increasing affordable housing, and practicing historic preservation and sustainability. An emphasis is placed on visual coherence in the construction of neighborhoods, incorporating a mostly historical architectural styles adapted to the setting.
  20. NewUrbanism

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