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The Modern Era is broadly defined in the United States as the period from 1930 through the 1970s. Buildings or sites of the period often looked to the future without overt references to historical precedent; expressed functional, technical or spatial properties; and was conscious of being modern, expressing the principles of modern design. The architecture produced during this period took on many forms and represented a range of complex ideology. The terms included here represent a means of categorizing these disparate resources based on design similarities, but are in no way intended to limit or fully define them. 

Robinson, Judith Helm., and Stephanie S. Foell. Growth, efficiency and modernism: GSA buildings of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Washington, D.C.?: U.S. General Services Administration, Office of the Chief Architect, Center for Historic Buildings, 2005. Print.



Styles of the Modern Era



Art Deco

Art Deco is first of all a style of ornament. This ornament is predominantly rectilinear, with geometrical curves playing a secondary role. The commonest motifs of all are fluting and reeding, often flanking doors or windows or forming horizontal bands above them. 



Brutalist buildings have a look of weight and massiveness that immediately sets them apart from those of other predominantly rectangular, flat-roofed styles. Windows are treated as holes in the walls or as voids in the solids of the walls, and not (as in the International Style) as continuations of the "skin" of the building. Indeed, Brutalist buildings have no skin; this might be described as a "flesh-and-bones architecture."


california Modernism

Used to describe the modernist movement in architecture as it evolved in California, specifically Los Angeles and the area surrounding it, from the 1930s through the 1960s. Hallmarks of this style are attention to indoor-outdoor living, open plans, rectilinear structures often constructed with steel frames, and extensive use of glass.



In architecture, the style is characterized by a purposeful displacement of structural elements, resulting in buildings with no specific purpose. 



The term eclecticism is used to describe the combination, in a single work, of elements from different historical styles, chiefly in architecture and, by implication, in the fine and decorative arts. The term is sometimes also loosely applied to the general stylistic variety of 19th-century architecture after Neo-classicism (c. 1820), although the revivals of styles in that period have, since the 1970s, generally been referred to as aspects of historicism. 



In Neo-Expressionist buildings unity is achieved by continuity of form rather than proportional or geometrical means. Hence, sweeping curves, convex, concave, or faceted surfaces, and a tendency to avoid the rectangular wherever practicable; even structural columns and piers may "lean". When continuity is broken, the break is emphatic and even violent, with the result that cute angles and sharp-pointed gables are also characteristic. 



Style of architecture and design first popular in the United States in the 1950s, typified by roadside buildings such as coffee shops, motels, gas stations, and signs. The style is characterized by bold, angular forms and an intensive use of steel, glass, and neon inspired by The Space Age, science fiction, and car culture. Although origin of the term is unknown, it is speculated to have come from Googie's Coffee shop in Los Angeles, California, and has since been used to describe similar designs. 


International Style

The International Style is characterized by a complete absence of ornament and by forms in which effects of mass and weight are minimized for the sake of an effect of pure volume; compositionally, a balance of unlike parts is more often than not substituted for axial symmetry. Flat roofs, smooth and uniform wall surfaces, windows with minimal exterior reveals (which are perceived as continuations of the surface in another material rather than as holes in the wall), and windows that turn the corner of the building are among the means by which the effect of volume is obtained. 


Late Modern

Nearly everything that was said earlier of the International Style is true to some degree of Late Modern architecture. The essential difference is that while an International Style building is rational, or at least has the semblance of rationality, a Late Modern one tends to be rhetorical. That is to say, it will embody one or more of the rhetorical devices of exaggeration, repetition, and paradox – such as, in architectural terms, the exaggeration of structure, the repetition of a single form to the point that it loses its individuality and becomes simply a part of an overall pattern, the paradox of a building with glass walls and no windows. 



Japanese architectural movement of the 1960s and 1970s, dedicated to urban-scale issues based on biologic principles of dynamic growth and change.  


Mid-Century Modern

Refers to the architecture, interior and product design style that generally describes mid-20th century trends from ca. 1933 to 1965. The term was first used in the book "Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s" (1983) by Cara Greenberg. In architecture, the style is characterized by the International Style and Bauhaus movements, the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. In design, sleek Scandinavian style furniture and objects were influential.  



Rectangular forms of the utmost regularity and precision, a modular pattern established by the structural frame (which is most typically of steel, though fire regulations may cause it to be clad in concrete), glass walls, and overall symmetry characterize Miesian architecture. In high buildings the ground-story walls are set back behind the outer piers; in some the grid of the frame is frankly expressed, while in others verticality is stressed with I-beams or "fins" rising uninterrupted through the upper stories.   



A style developed in the mid 20th century, characterized by simplicity and lack of decoration to the point of starkness. The movement advocated reducing art to the state of non-art by removing nature and culture, resulting in artwork in pure, simple forms and objects placed randomly.  


Modern Movement

The modern movement includes a series of architectural movements and advancements that derives from the stylistic and creative remnants of the Art Nouveau, Cubist and Art Deco periods; incorporates the Zweckkunst of the German Neues Bauen; French ferro-concrete experiments; American health programs and industrial design; social and political bases of Russian Constructivism, that lead to the 'functionalist' buildings of the International Style and its seminal regional variation.  


Streamline Moderne

Streamline Moderne is a horizontal style. In the overall form of the building as a rule, and always in the main elevations, horizontality prevails, with vertical features (if employed at all) reserved for the entrance. Secondly, it is a style of curved surfaces – curved end walls, curved corners, curved bays, and cylindrical projections. Thirdly, it is a style quite without ornament, apart from stringcourse and other trim emphasizing the horizontality of the design.   


New Formalist

The buildings of the New Formalism are typically self-contained, freestanding blocks, with strictly symmetrical elevations. Skylines are level, the building often being defined at the top by a heavy, projecting roof slab. Wall surfaces are always smooth and often glossy, a wide range of materials, natural and artificial, being used for facing. Columnar supports tend to be thicker and more fully modeled than in the International and Miesian styles, while the arch – altogether absent from both of them – appears in various shapes and may constitute the ruling motif of the design. Ornament is employed, most frequently in the form of patterned screens or grills of metal, cast stone, or concrete. 



A philosophy of architectural design, emerging in the early 20th century, asserting that in structure and appearance a building should be based on organic forms and should harmonize with its natural environment.



A definitive description of the Post-Modern style, if such a thing could be written, would require far more space than is available here, for it embraces a number of sub styles or modes and its central principle is eclecticism, the choosing and using of features from other styles – perhaps from two or more in the same design. 


Prairie School / Wrightian

Fundamentally homogeneous though superficially varied, Wrightian architecture is more easily recognized than described. A prevailing horizontality is one characteristic of nearly all of it; another is the importance given to the roof as a character-giving feature, whether it is a flat slab or of some pitched or "folded" form. 

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