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The Villa Savoye, a renowned modern structure


Use on Buildings

Modern architecture emerged in many western countries within ten years following the Second World War.It was based on the "rational" use of modern materials, the principles of functionalist planning, and the rejection of historical precedent and ornament.

This style has been generally designated as modern, although the labels International style, Neue Sachlichkeit, and functionalism have also been used.


Joseph Paxton's

Since the mid-19th century there had been repeated attempts to assimilate modern technology in practice and theory and to formulate a modern style of architecture suitable to its age.

A functionalist approach eventually replaced the formerly eclectic approach to design. Technical progress in the use of iron and glass made possible the construction of Sir Joseph Paxton's celebrated Crystal Palace in London (1851), in which a remarkable delicacy was achieved.

In the ensuing years iron, steel, and glass enabled architects and engineers to enclose the vast interior spaces of train sheds, department stores, and market halls, but often the structural forms were left in plain sight.

Modern Characteristics

Palais Georgia in Vancouver; built using modern principles

Modern architects believed that form follows function. This is why modern structures are free of most aesthetics. The purpose is to provide space for their occupants and modern architects had no qualms in catering structures to do just that.

These architects saw beauty in minimalism and as such had no problems in using open floor plans encompassing exposed beams and trusses as a means to reveal the structural elements of the building. Modernists also implement an extensive use of Linear lines both horizontally and vertically, these lines are rarely curved.[1]

Another identifying feature of modern structures are the roofs. Modern architects did away with clandestine triangle roofs and instead opted for multiple roof lines, vaulted ceilings and extended overhangs. The purpose of the architecture is to create an artistic statement while adhering to the structures functionalist principles.

Less is More

Functionality is at the heart of modern architecture. Buildings are not supposed to be elaborate works of art or immaculate sculpture, they are meant to provide floor space. This was the mentality that dominated the modern movement.

Modern architects took a rationalist approach to their structure that saw emphasized geometry, shape and transparency. Even if it came at the expense of decorative embellishment.[2]

A new generation of architects would protest these ideologies through their adoption of Postmodernism. While postmodernists appreciated the the functionality of modern architecture, they also viewed them as a bland and not appealing to the the eye or the imagination, causing many postmodernists to adopt the phrase less is bore.


  1. Modern Architecture Defining Characteristics
  2. Columbia University

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