It’s easy to confuse modern architecture with contemporary architecture. In casual usage, the two words mean the same thing. But modern architecture refers to design inspired by the historical art movement of modernism. In fact, most examples of modern architecture are at least 50 years old, so they aren’t actually all that modern anymore.
Modernism was a rebellion against classic architecture traditions. Because it was a broad movement spanning almost 60 years, it encompasses several familiar architectural styles, like Arts and Crafts, art deco, and even ranch. It also produced some giants in the architecture pantheon: American Frank Lloyd Wright, German Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Swiss-born Le Corbusier, among others.
- Open living spaces. Wright and his contemporaries thought separate rooms impeded the flow of living. Modernist homes usually feature open floor plans that combine spaces for dining, relaxing and entertaining.
- Clean, geometric lines. Forget fussy arches and columns - modernist homes emphasize spare geometric forms.
- Technologically advanced materials. Rather than traditional wood and plaster, modernism advanced the use of new materials like iron, concrete, steel and glass.
- Function over form. You can thank modernist pioneer Mies van der Rohe for the present-day office cubicle. Mies thought buildings (including homes) should be large and open to accommodate any function, and then subdivided with movable walls and screens. He believed the open space would foster a feeling of community.
- Fallingwater. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1936 masterpiece, built in Bear Run, Pa., incorporates a waterfall, a forest and boulders into its serene profile.
- Villa Savoye. Located near Paris, this open, abstract, pure-white concoction by Le Corbusier is one of the most well-known modernist homes.