Modern Architecture: Examples and Characteristics

In this article we will see some of the best Examples of Modern Architecture, modern houses that correspond to the rationalist architecture of the 20th century. 

We will analyze examples of modern houses and their characteristics, and we will make a summary of the International Style.

Examples of Rationalist Architecture - Projects and Plans of Modern Houses

Examples of Rationalist Architecture – Summary and Characteristics of the International Style

When you want to understand and apprehend the essence of a trend (others call it “style”) in architectural, interior or industrial design, you will always have to study and know the causes and roots and the economic and socio-cultural context in which it occurs. arise.

This also applies to the design and plans of modern houses, as we will see below, with examples of Rationalist Architecture.

Everything that has been created by man is born due to man’s needs (spiritual, material needs, etc.) and in turn due to the influence of existing social and economic conditions on man himself as a species.

A clear example of this is how rationalist architecture emerged (within the “International Style” movement) in the 1920s, towards the second half.

If we analyze the conditions that led to it, we have that the Second Industrial Revolution had already started at the end of the 19th century, so that the industrial production of rolled steel, glass and reinforced CONCRETE was spreading in Europe and the USA.

At the same time, in 1925, in many of the most developed countries at the time, they began to try to get out of the damage caused by the First World War.

In other words, the availability and technological development achieved and necessary to massively build new homes and public buildings, together with the deficiencies left by the First World War (1914-1918), came together so that the young architects of At that time they tried and could create a new way of doing architecture.

American architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) .
American architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) .

It was an architecture adjusted to the historical moment, economical, with simple house designs in the geometries it used and far from unnecessary ornaments, which relied on industrial mass production.

After the international exhibition of modern architecture in 1932, organized in New York and led by the American architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005), a new style for architecture was promulgated: the so-called International Style arose and within it, Rationalist Architecture. .

An example of rationalist architecture, German Pavilion at the Barcelona International Exposition (1929), by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
German pavilion at the Barcelona International Exposition (1929), by the Swiss-French architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe .

As its name indicates, it was about rationalizing, simplifying the forms in new projects and constructions. Then the famous phrase of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier ( 1887-1965) arises: “Less is More” that has reached our days and is still fully valid.

The Rationalist Architecture or International Movement was very concerned with the improvement of society, with influencing the improvement of people’s lives.

He was looking for new ways to build and interpret the relationship of the human being with his environment, with a language that broke with the eclecticist tradition and classical ornamentation.

He identified himself with the needs of the people and tried to solve the insufficiencies of houses and other architectural spaces with new architectural solutions.

View of the Double House, designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (1927), Stuttgart, Germany.
View of the Double House, designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (1927), Stuttgart, Germany.

Double House. This built house project seeks to be efficient and economical, based on the standardization of its component elements and the industrialization of its materials. In this way, a shorter execution time of the work was achieved, and therefore a reduction in costs.

The garden terrace shared by both houses is an ideal space to disconnect and enjoy the views of Stuttgart, Germany.
The garden terrace shared by both houses is an ideal space to disconnect and enjoy the views of Stuttgart, Germany.

Despite the interventions that the house has undergone, it continues to look like the first day, thanks to the work of the restorers and the original documentation.
Despite the interventions that the house has undergone, it continues to look like the first day, thanks to the work of the restorers and the original documentation.

Interiors of “Double House” designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (1927), Stuttgart, Germany. Characteristics of the new architectural style can be seen: open spaces and horizontal strips of windows.

“Double House” (1927), Stuttgart, Germany. You can see the wide smooth concrete surfaces.

Rationalist architecture was rather a heterogeneous movement, where depending on its author (architect) some features could be appreciated more evident than others, although in all cases the most common elements were volumetric simplicity, large continuous surfaces, open and bright spaces. .

In addition, the use of landscaped roofs (roof garden) and support in industrialization and standardization, use of visible materials such as steel, concrete and glass.

In addition, he stated that the buildings “must be on columns”, in this way the soil is intervened to a lesser extent, achieving a rational use of resources and mitigating the impact on the environment.

DESIGN OF THE SAVOYE HOUSE (Villa Savoye), Poissy, just outside Paris. (1929).

More examples of rationalist architecture.

The Villa Savoye, by the architect Le Corbusier, is considered the paradigm of the Modern Rationalist Movement and the new way of constructing residential buildings of the 20th century. Le Corbusier argued that the home is and should be a machine for living (  machine à habiter ).

In this HOUSE DESIGN (Villa Savoye) he raises the five points on which the new way of planning must be based:

  • Building that rests on stilts (columns) on the ground floor, leaving the surface mostly free to allow the landscape to remain autonomous from the building.
  • Covered in terrace, on which a garden is located.
  • Free interior space, due to the structure based on pillars and that there are no load-bearing walls, only partitions.
  • Facade free of structural elements, so that the glass openings can be multiplied and designed without constraints or impediments.
  • Continuous windows on the facades to achieve profuse natural light inside ( fenêtre en longeur ).

Within this architectural movement, the German Walter Gropius also stands out, who helps create one of the most paradigmatic schools of architecture of the 20th century: The Bauhaus.

The theories of Walter Gropius also influenced many in the development of architecture at this time and he was the creator of another of the famous phrases: The form follows the function:  the most important thing in the building was its function and the form had to follow the first before than to its aesthetic appeal.

The ornaments were not necessary and the aesthetic aspect was “secondary”.

examples of rationalist architecture
Bauhaus School (1919), designed by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), founder and director of the School during the period 1919-1928.

Another renowned architect within rationalist architecture was Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), who is considered the greatest American architect.

He was the forerunner of the branch of rationalism, organic architecture , which is that the work of architecture must be derived directly from the environment that surrounds it.

examples of rationalist architecture
An example of BRICK houses : Robie House (1910, Chicago), by architect F.LL. Wright. You can appreciate the continuous planes, wide eaves, the simple geometry and the use of exposed brick linked to the environment.

On organic architecture he expressed:.. .

And here I am before you preaching organic architecture, declaring that organic architecture is the modern ideal and the teaching so necessary if we are to see the whole of life, and now serve the whole of life, without putting any “tradition” before the great tradition.

Not by exalting any fixed form above us, be it past, present or future, but by exalting the simple laws of common sense —or super-sense, if you prefer— which determines the form by means of the nature of the materials, of the nature of purpose… Does form follow function? Yes, but what matters more now is that form and function are one….

examples of rationalist architecture
Cascade House (1939, Pennsylvania, United States) designed by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

Among the main exponents of rationalist architecture we can mention Peter Behrens,  Auguste PerretAdolf Loo , Mies Van der Roe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropios, Frank Lloyd Wright , ichard Neutra, the Brazilians Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa, Pier Luigi Nervi , Gio Ponti, Kenzō Tange, and among others.

By the middle of the 20th century… to be continued…

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