8 Defining Features of Modern Architecture

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8 Defining Features of Modern

term “modern architecture” has been in use since at least the 1800s. At the
time, the “gilded” styles of the time were considered “modern”, just as many
new buildings and architectural styles are recognizably “modern” today.


If you
ask ten different residential or commercial
architecture firms, “what is modern
architecture?”, you will likely receive ten different answers. Architecture is
both an art and a science—what is recognizably “modern” is often rather
difficult (and arbitrary) to define. Furthermore, most of the buildings that
have been built in the past decade can be better defined by some other
architectural style, such as neo-futuristic, gothic revival, and many others.


a trend that has been observable throughout the broader architectural community
has been an increased blending of
architectural schools and styles. In both residential and commercial design
spaces, styles of past architectural trailblazers—like
Frank Lloyd Wright—are consistently mixed with modern
technologies, values, and tastes.


while the term modern architecture is indeed rather subjective, there are still
some basic themes that most commercial and residential architects will agree
are characteristically “modern.” Below, we will discuss eight defining features
of modern architecture and the influence these features have had on modern

1. Minimalism

As a
direct rejection of ornamental and gaudy design schemes seen in years past,
modern architects typically prefer to use a minimalistic
design scheme. Minimalism, a broad movement adhered to by both architects
and interior designers can be described by Leo Babauta’s recognized need to
“Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.”


did not completely eliminate “decorative” features, but in modern architecture,
many incorporated decorations also provide some sort of structural function.
This is especially common when working with heavier, industrial materials like
brick or steel.

2. Clean Lines

lines are another feature of modern architecture. The benefit of incorporating
clean lines into a design scheme is that the lines can cause the space to feel
much larger and, well, cleaner.


lines are especially common in kitchens. Many of today’s leading
kitchen design experts will juxtapose broad, clean
lines next to a single very decorative feature (such as a decorative backsplash
or essential work of art). Clean lines—a natural consequence of minimalism—are
also useful for establishing distinctive spaces within a home.

3. Open Floor Plans

floor plans were one of the most important outcomes of the broader
mid-century modern movement. The movement grew in the United States between the 1940s and
1970s and was initially inspired by innovative European design schools. The
open floor plan captured the spirit of this movement entirely; rather than
having formal, segregated spaces throughout a home, an open floor plan makes it
possible to use the entire floor plan at once.


floor plans have become especially popular in commercial and residential spaces
with limited square footage. In addition to being able to see the entire room
at once—and thus allow the room to feel more spacious—an open floor also
minimizes the amount of space being consumed by walls, doors, and other
infrastructural pieces.

4. Industrial Touches

modern era has been shaped by the evolution of industry. In the late 1800s and
early 1900s, a period characterized by heavy industry in the Western World,
industrial features emerged as both utilitarian and a show of strength.


features are especially popular in urban rival design, which can be found
throughout Denver and in other major American cities. Industrial touches can
include exposed brick, overhead ventilation, ample use of steel, polished
concrete floors, and high ceilings. These revitalized spaces maintain the
character of the original space while still adapting to modern needs.

5. Connection to Outdoor

suggested, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie
of design has had a heavy influence on modern designers. Wright—who
is perhaps best known for his iconic
Falling Water design in Pennsylvania—sought to incorporate nature both in form and in


architecture often features ample balconies and entryways, making it easier to
connect to the outdoors. Sliding glass doors also
Marketing serve an important, utilitarian function.
Additionally, modern designers typically reject the slanted roof features that
characterized pre-war Europe in favor of open, flat, and readily accessible

6. Internationalist Design

The Internationalist Style, as the name
implies, can currently be found all around the world. Rather than trying to
create an architectural style that would be specific to one country or region,
the internationalists notably sought to develop a style that would “fit in” all
around the world.


Internationalist Style can be found in many buildings in Midtown Manhattan,
Berlin, Tokyo, and other major cities. Functional design, heavy use of glass,
focusing on volume over mass, and clean lines all help combine to create a
complete aesthetic.

7. Dematerialization

is a modern architectural philosophy that emphasizes specifically using the
“least” and “lightest” functional materials available. Like many other
components of modern architectural theory, dematerialization arose as a direct
rejection of previous design styles.


philosophy of dematerialization not only helps modern builders save money on
their designs—it also helps them reduce the carbon footprint of each building,
which has become an increasingly important need. Over the next few decades, the
global spread of this architectural approach will likely continue to grow.

8. Form Follows Function

perhaps the most important component of modern commercial and residential
architecture is the belief that form
follows function
. Essentially, this now widely held belief is the explicit
philosophy is that the way a particular building should look depends on what
the building will specifically be used for.


emphasizing functionality, architects can maximize the real, tangible value of
any given space. While some critics might argue that this approach tends to
neglect the importance of aesthetics, others would argue that functionality is
an important aesthetic of its own.



world of modern architecture is complex and constantly changing. Furthermore,
the term “modern architecture” is often used ambiguously. If you are in
Colorado, there are many
boulder architects in the area. No matter where
you are, if you are looking for a space that is recognizably modern, consider
incorporating these features and philosophies in your design.



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