Contemporary architecture: What Is Contemporary Architecture?

What Is Contemporary Architecture?

It’s generally accepted that the characteristics of contemporary architecture include non-linear and unadorned structures. But while there is no clear definition of what constitutes contemporary architecture, it comprises a range of present-day building styles that often look radically different from one another and sometimes from anything that has come before. This is thanks to myriad innovations in building materials and techniques that have made contemporary architecture possible in all its infinite iterations. 

What Is Contemporary Architecture?

Contemporary architecture refers to the current style of architecture. Buildings from the late 20th century to the present moment might be referred to as works of contemporary architecture and may include elements such as unconventional forms, innovative materials, and sustainable building practices.

Some notable contemporary 21st century architects include Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando, Shigeru Ban, Santiago Calatrava and the late Zaha Hadid, who died at 65 in 2016 but whose oeuvre is still being built by the company she left behind. These contemporary “starchitects” are known for show-stoppingly expressive buildings rendered in unconventional, sometimes gravity-defying shapes that alter the landscape in places around the world.

While they have all built ambitious large-scale buildings like Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA or Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris, many have also built private residences such as the Hadid-designed luxury condominiums at 520 West 28th Street overlooking NYC’s High Line.

Turkel Design

But contemporary architecture isn’t limited to large-scale starchitect-designed buildings. It can also be more modestly expressed in the inventive spheroid-shaped sustainable Ecocapsule tiny house from Slovakia designed for off-grid living anywhere in the world. It could also be a prefab residential family house in suburban America, a mirrored cube treehouse hotel in a Swedish forest, or a cantilevered apartment building overlooking a European canal.

Jacek Kadaj / Getty Images

History of Contemporary Architecture

Contemporary architecture isn’t defined by a single style but is unified in its imperative to be unconventional and to break with the past using innovation and imagination rather than replicating older styles.  

The era of contemporary architecture is generally thought to have begun sometime after the modern period of the roughly first half of the 20th century and the postmodern period that was a reaction to it beginning in the 1960s and continuing through to the ’90s. Therefore, buildings from the late 20th century to the present moment might be referred to as works of contemporary architecture.

asbe / E+ / Getty Images

Contemporary architects are no longer limited to linear forms as they now have at their disposal an arsenal of innovative materials and building methods. This includes the ability to design computer-generated curves, or employ laser-cutting technology and 3D printing to build more challenging, precise and unprecedented forms.

Computer renderings conjure glimpses of the future in hyper-realistic detail, but what might once have seemed impossibly futuristic and purely conceptual is now achievable as a new generation of buildings that seem to defy logic, gravity, and often the boundaries of what is considered conventional good taste crop up around the world.

Sustainability is an important feature of contemporary architecture, with the use of recycled and natural materials and attention to eco-conscious water and temperature control building systems that are ever more seamlessly integrated and considered. This is vital in light of the climate change emergency that is in part a result of the environmental damage caused by buildings, which in the U.S account for 39 percent of CO2 emissions in 2011.

Vostok / Getty Images

Characteristics of Contemporary Architecture

Contemporary architecture is a free-for-all, but here are some key elements that might help you identify a contemporary building in the wild:

  • Curved lines
  • Rounded forms
  • Unconventional volumes
  • Asymmetry
  • Free-form shapes
  • Open floor plans
  • Large, abundant windows
  • Green roofs, living walls
  • Integration into the surrounding landscape
  • Integrated smart home technology 
  • Integrated customizable LED lighting

pamspix / Getty Images

Interesting Facts About Contemporary Architecture

In 2017, the Royal Mail commissioned a stamp collection featuring 10 of the most well known public buildings from the previous 20 years, to celebrate the UK’s “renaissance of contemporary architecture. ” The stamps featured photos by architectural photographers Hufton + Crow of buildings such as the London Aquatics Centre, Edinburgh’s Scottish Parliament, and the Tate Modern in London.

One of the most confusing things about trying to define contemporary architecture is the fact that it is often labeled as “modern.” This is likely due to the fact that modern is a two-syllable word that is perfectly understandable as a synonym for the five-syllable word contemporary. But the fact that modernism is a well-defined architectural style with its own distinct characteristics adds to the confusion. 

A new build can be modern without being contemporary and a contemporary building can be modern in the temporal sense of the word. And of course a new build can be modern, contemporary, or simply neither if it’s merely a copy of an earlier period style. The fact that real estate professionals, popular home renovation, and house-hunting shows and many online sources misuse the words doesn’t help.

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What is contemporary architecture? | Mansion Global

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What is contemporary architecture?

Updated June 12, 2023

Contemporary is the term used for architecture of the 21st century. Unlike some other architectural periods, contemporary isn’t a movement, but a style reflecting the trends of the time a home is built. 

While this style doesn’t represent any particular age, past movements can inspire contemporary design. Moreover, assorted elements from previous architectural styles––none of which will dominate more than another––often influence contemporary homes. 

Contemporary homes are about innovation, sustainability, asymmetry and often open-floor plans. They’re created in the 21st century. Credit: Avi Werde/Unsplash

The term “modern” is often mistaken for contemporary. People sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but the two styles are actually different. Modern architecture began at the turn of the 20th century and lasted through the mid-20th century. While modern design potentially helps shape contemporary architecture, this style is of the present day and aspires to present a fresh perspective.

Characteristics of Contemporary Architecture

  • Innovation

Adapting to new trends and ideas, stepping beyond the norm, and evolving with the times are themes in contemporary architecture. Innovation stands at the forefront of this style.

  • Sustainability

Passive houses are often contemporary, but not all contemporary homes are Passive. Still, sustainability ranks high and is almost always a design consideration in contemporary homes. These houses may use solar energy, be constructed with eco-friendly materials and architects and construction managers may adhere to green design and building standards.

  • Asymmetry

Facades usually highlight various geometric shapes and lack symmetry. As such, homes will look different from every angle.

  • Open-floor plans

Layouts tend to be more free-flowing than traditional house styles. Contemporary homes usually feature large public spaces for living and entertaining, with fewer doors and walls. Walls may also not extend to the ceiling for more openness.

  • Movement

Round, curved and free-form shapes and clean, geometric lines replace sharp edges. Some architects incorporate slanted walls and ceilings. 

  • Emphasis on nature

The outdoors is essential when designing a contemporary home, and the interior innately has a robust relationship with the exterior. Since the two are connected, the boundaries between indoors and outdoors fade.

  • A lot of glass and natural light

Glass walls, skylights, clerestory and large picture windows introduce an abundance of natural light to the interior of a contemporary home.

  • Mixing natural and sometimes unconventional materials

Concrete, reclaimed wood, natural stone and various types of metal––ranging from stainless steel to wrought iron to aluminum––often mingle on the exterior and in the interior. It’s not uncommon for architects to specify unusual materials such as paper and recycled waste products.

  • Minimalism

“Less-is-more” prevails, so rooms are carefully laid out and decorated sans clutter. Clean lines exist in both the architecture and furnishings––a contemporary house highlights the space more than what is in it. Function is always paramount. 

Examples of contemporary architecture

Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, Rafael Viñoly and Zaha Hadid are just a few of today’s most revered contemporary architects. While each designer’s work is distinct and their projects span various substyles, their portfolios provide prime examples of contemporary architecture.

Some of the world’s most notable contemporary buildings include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Shard in London, England; the Leeza SOHO in Beijing, China; 432 Park in New York City and the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

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Guggenheim Museum in Spain

(Photo: Uwe Kazmaier/Globallookpress)

Modern architecture is changing the face of megacities, creating a more comfortable and prosperous environment for living. Leading architects are increasingly choosing those forms and materials that increase the energy efficiency of future buildings. Futuristic buildings coexist with the legacy of the past and harmoniously fit into the style of the area. And the plasticity of their facades reflects the dynamism of modern cities. These projects differ from traditional buildings not only in their architectural appearance, but also in their rich infrastructure. In addition, they often embody the most daring and progressive ideas of their time.

RBC-Nedvizhimost has collected seven amazing buildings that have been designed over the past 100 years.

Guggenheim Museum, Spain

An unusual contemporary art museum built on the banks of the Nervión River in Bilbao. In 1997, he transformed what was once a tiny industrial town into a cultural metropolis and tourist hub. This phenomenon is called the “Bilbao effect”. To some, the huge steel structure resembles a roller coaster, to others it looks like an alien ship that has crashed. The local population protested against the construction of the museum for a long time: people wanted to use the allocated €85 million to modernize factories. These costs paid off: in the first year alone, the art object was visited by 1.3 million people. To accept everyone, the Bilbao authorities had to build a second airport and new hotels.

Guggenheim Museum in Spain

(Photo: Matthias Graben/Globallookpress)

The spectacular deconstructivist building was completed in four years. During this time, rusty shipyards disappeared from the surroundings and vast green embankments appeared. Externally, the Guggenheim Museum is a complex of connected buildings made of titanium and glass. The entrance to the building is decorated with huge sculptures: a nine-meter spider, a puppy made of flowers and a bouquet of tulips. The interior of the museum is no less interesting – it resembles a three-story labyrinth. Frank Gehry replaced all straight lines with curves, and the corners with waves and arches. The architect developed this project for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, but the idea could not be realized there. Customers were frightened by the high cost and too high risks.

Burj Khalifa, UAE

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It’s almost three Eiffel Towers stacked vertically. The 828 m high skyscraper was built in six years. More than 12 thousand specialists from different countries worked here every day, so every week the tower grew by one or two floors. To reduce the risk of cracking, the concrete was poured at night and further cooled with ice. All this time, the design height of the building was kept in strict confidence. Local authorities were worried that someone would decide to repeat their record. The $4.1 billion skyscraper was conceived as a “city within a city”. It is surrounded by its own boulevards, squares and parks. And at the foot of the tower is the world’s largest “dancing” fountain.

Burj Khalifa in the Emirates

(Photo: Moritz Wolf/Globallookpress)

Inside there is a private mosque, swimming pools, restaurants, offices, shopping malls, 57 elevators and hundreds of apartments. The asymmetric shape in the form of a stalagmite was not chosen by chance: it protects the skyscraper from strong gusts of wind. Interestingly, during earthquakes, this is one of the safest places in the emirate. The rugged design is able to withstand tremors of magnitude up to seven points. From the summer heat, glass thermal panels, which are used to decorate the facades, save. They do not pass dust, reflect ultraviolet and infrared radiation. And the air-conditioning system with sea water cools and aromatizes the air. A special fragrance was developed especially for the Burj Khalifa.

Beijing National Stadium, China

Because of its unusual geometric façade, the stadium is often referred to as the “Bird’s Nest”. It consists of an outer steel frame, a concrete bowl and 24 truss columns that support it. The “nest” effect is due to the intertwining of curved metal rods that replace the walls. Instead of a roof, a transparent waterproof film is stretched over the top of the steel structure, which allows sunlight to pass through. The project required 42,000 tons of steel and about $423 million. A retractable roof would cost the builders another $150 million. The stadium stands are designed in such a way that everything that happens on the field can be seen from anywhere. Today, 80 thousand people can be accommodated here at the same time.

Beijing National Stadium in China

(Photo: Guo Yong/Globallookpress)

Seismic resistance was taken into account when designing the sports complex: the stadium was built in an area with high tectonic activity. Especially for this, steel was developed with an almost complete absence of impurities. The new durable material made the welding work more difficult – they had to be carried out only at night. As a result, the steel frame not only made the building more stable, but also eliminated the need for a common ventilation system. Only shops and restaurants inside the stadium have walls. It was originally intended for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Now sports championships, concerts and festivals are held here. And in winter, you can go ice skating or skiing in the Bird’s Nest.

Reina Sofia Palace of the Arts, Spain

The world’s highest opera house is located in Valencia. It was built on the drained bottom of the Turia River by architect Santiago Calatrava and is part of the City of Arts and Sciences architectural ensemble. The shape of the palace evokes different associations. For some, this is the helmet of a medieval Spanish warrior, for others, it is a diving dolphin. From all sides, the Valencian opera is surrounded by pools and parks. And the most impressive part of it is the arc-shaped mosaic roof made of laminated steel. Despite the weight of 3 tons, it is attached with just two supports. The futuristic palace is made in the biotech style. Construction stretched over ten years, as a result, he became the last of the five bizarre buildings of the “city”.

Reina Sofia Palace of the Arts in Spain

(Photo: Jose Antonio Moreno/Globallookpress)

The opening of the opera was timed to coincide with the national holiday, Valencian Community Day. Initially, they wanted to put a 370-meter communication tower on this site. However, many criticized the idea, and the plan of the complex had to be changed. The theater building includes 17 floors and is divided into four large spaces. There is an amphitheater, a study area, a chamber theater and a main hall. The latter is decorated with blue mosaics and is designed for 1.5 thousand spectators. It also houses an orchestra pit for 120 musicians – the third largest in the world. Today, the palace hosts prestigious conferences, theatrical productions, musical performances and world-class festivals. This is not surprising: the architectural wonder of Valencia is famous for its excellent acoustics.

CCTV Headquarters, China

Because of its strange shape, the building of the Chinese television center is nicknamed “panties”. These are two inclined towers, which are connected by a 75-meter horizontal passage. This design allows you to resist seismic effects and reduces wind pressure. According to Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, his work resembles a curved skyscraper with no beginning or end. And if you look from different angles, it visually changes its shape and external outlines. Inside the 54-story building are numerous television studios, offices, broadcasting and production facilities. Previously, they were all scattered around different parts of Beijing. In addition, there is a public theatre, a five-star hotel, restaurants and exhibition space.

China CCTV headquarters

(Photo: Zhu Wanchang/Globallookpress)

The CCTV headquarters cost $800 million and was completed in 2009. And yet, its opening had to be postponed for several years. A fire broke out in the northern wing of the building, which was extinguished only six hours later. Firecrackers were the cause of the fire. As a result, the solemn ceremony took place only in 2012. And very soon, the International Council on Tall Buildings and the Urban Environment named the Koolhaas project the best skyscraper of 2013. True, the architect himself was not too pleased with the news: with this unusual work, he tried to declare war on all skyscrapers. Now the futuristic monument to the Chinese economy is visible from almost anywhere in Beijing.

Sydney Opera House, Australia

The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s most recognizable building. In 1957, the authorities announced a competition for the best design of the future building. Among 233 entries, a project by Danish architect Jorn Utzon was selected. After that, the judges several times refused the drawings of the young Dane in favor of more practical buildings, until they finally decided to take a chance. The building in Sydney Harbor was far ahead of the technology available at the time and changed the image of the whole country. But due to disagreements with the authorities, Utzon had to leave the project. He left no sketches and never returned to Australia. Not surprisingly, the theater was opened ten years later than the agreed date, and the project’s budget was 15 times higher than the original one.

Sydney Opera in Australia

(Photo: Thomas Haupt/Globallookpress)

The iconic Expressionist building occupies 22,000 square meters. m and rests on 580 piles that go into the ocean. Its legendary white roof is covered with over 1 million ceramic tiles. During the day, the “sails” seem perfectly white, but depending on the lighting, the color palette changes. The idea of ​​this form originated with the architect while peeling an orange. Looking at the ripe orange slices, Utzon saw in them strong and stable vaults of the future roof. The largest “sail” is equal to the height of a 22-story building. In 2007, the Sydney Opera House was included in the list of World Heritage Sites. Jorn Utzon was lucky enough to witness this event, and even earlier – to receive the Pritzker Prize. And yet, he never saw his creation “live”.

St Mary’s Ax 30 UK

St Mary’s Ax 30 is London’s first environmentally friendly skyscraper. It is an elongated, round biotech-style building that consists of 41 floors. Thanks to its unusual design and energy from solar panels, it is twice as economical as other skyscrapers of the same size. And its aerodynamic shape increases the amount of natural light and air. The skyscraper was named after the street on which it was built. Until 1992, the Baltic Exchange was located here, blown up during one of the terrorist attacks. Today, epitaphs on stone benches at the base of the tower remind of this. Another memorial points to the burial place of an ancient Roman girl, whose remains were found during the construction of the tower.

“St Mary’s Ex 30” in the UK

(Photo: Stefan Kiefer/Globallookpress)

Norman Foster’s 180-meter-high building is popularly known as the “cucumber”. It’s not just about character. It is almost completely covered with greenish glass – this is an important part of energy-saving systems. The total area of ​​the glass facade of “St. Mary’s Ax 30” is equal to the area of ​​five football fields. On the upper floors of the skyscraper there are banquet halls and restaurants overlooking the central part of London, below there are offices of large companies and shops. And right under the dome there is a conference hall, from which a 360-degree panorama of the British capital opens. Since opening in 2004, the project has won numerous awards, including the Stirling Prize and the Emporis Skyscraper Award for Architecture.

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Modern architecture: styles, features, examples of buildings

What is called modern architecture?

The directions of architecture are divided according to the periods of their occurrence:

  • Ancient Egyptian (3100 BC – 30 AD) – the use of stone and the construction of pyramids, temples and tombs.
  • Greek (9th century BC – 1st century AD) – temples, columns, arches and theaters based on proportion and symmetry.
  • Roman (circa 2nd century BC – 5th century AD) – arches, vaults and majestic amphitheatres, forums and baths.
  • Romanesque (11th-12th centuries) – massive walls, arches and vaults, as well as churches with rounded apses.
  • Gothic (12th-16th centuries) – high stone churches with sharp arches, rosettes and filigree flying buttresses.
  • Renaissance architecture (14th-17th century) – harmonious proportions, classical columns and arches, and symmetrical facades.
  • Baroque (17th – early 18th century) – exquisite detailing, decorative elements and curved lines.
  • Neoclassicism (18th-19th centuries) – the restoration of classical architectural forms based on ancient and renaissance ideals.
  • Modernism (late 19th – early 20th century) – functionality, simple lines and lack of decor.
  • Modern architecture (20th century – present) – from eclectic styles to innovative, experimental forms and designs.

In the period of modern architecture, artists strive to emphasize progress and ideas of functionality and practicality. New forms and designs have changed the face of cities since the 20th century. The buildings abandoned decor and ornaments, such as carved facades, columns, arches, statues and bas-reliefs. This is clearly seen in the first modernist buildings, which at the end of the 19century was built by the American architect Louis Sullivan, “the father of skyscrapers”.

Chicago Auditorium, Louis Sullivan

Photo: Marco Verch

The architects sought to move away from uniformity and embody a personal vision, new concepts and forms of buildings that would embody their functions and the needs of the client. They took into account climatic conditions, the environment, local cultural and historical features and reflected them in architecture.

Distinctive features of modern architecture:

  • Wide and long roof overhangs.
  • Minimalistic lines, devoid of patterns and additional embellishments.
  • Large windows, glass walls that let in a lot of street light.
  • Use of steel, glass, reinforced concrete instead of stone and brick. Later, closer to the 21st century, composite and recycled materials began to be used.
  • Open, spacious floor plans with flowing functional areas.
  • Unusual forms, consisting of a mixture of geometric shapes, fluid, curving edges, corners and surfaces, asymmetric, disproportionate, zigzag and stepped elements, sometimes randomly mixed, imitating movement and conveying the idea of ​​​​the functionality and content of the building.

How did modern architecture develop?

The development of modern architecture is divided into two stages:

  • Until the 1970s, the main styles, as in art, were formed under the influence of modernism. This period is called architectural modernism , sometimes this expression is even used as a synonym for modern architecture. Architectural modernism includes futurism, minimalism, functionalism (the Bauhaus movement in Germany), constructivism, rationalism in the 1920s (the Avangard movement in the USSR), brutalism, postmodernism, metabolism – and this is just a part of the directions.
  • The period from the 1970s to the present day is considered the time of modern architecture directly . Its dawn came with the advent of widespread automation and the development of computer technology. Architecture has become a reflection of progress. Architectural developments were carried out in the direction of abstract design concepts and innovative engineering and design solutions based on high technologies. Hence the name of the first and main style of modern architecture – high-tech. At the beginning of the 21st century, scientific and technological progress accelerated dramatically, which led to the emergence of new varieties such as bio-tech and eco-tech.

Trends in modern architecture

Futurism appeared in 1909 after the manifesto of the Italian writer and poet F. T. Marinetti, who proclaimed the destruction of the past and the cult of the future. Futurists imagined cities as a complex electrified and mechanized system of giant multi-level buildings, high-speed roads, factories and industrial enterprises, terraces and tunnels, interconnected by passages, galleries and bridges. These views were ahead of the development of architecture – and many ideas were embodied in subsequent styles. But at the same time, the futurists called for the destruction of all classical architecture and radical renewal. They saw themselves as the creators of a new world – without limits and restrictions.

Signs of futurism:

  • Metallic, white, silver exterior.
  • Abundant use of technical and industrial elements in buildings. The architects proposed the use of automatic doors, movable tables and furniture, robotic systems and other technological innovations that seemed fantastic at the time.
  • Movement effect: maximum dynamism of form, the visual impression that the building is frozen during transformation or movement.
  • Space and fantasy concepts that began to appear in science fiction cinema towards the end of the 20th century. Futurists imagined colony cities on other planets, huge micro-districts of many interconnected skyscrapers, computerized houses – today we call them smart, transforming houses, walking, hanging, flying and underwater buildings. Taking the idea of ​​technological progress as a basis, they brought it to the grotesque in architecture, creating surreal techno-worlds.

Example 1: Grand Theater in Berlin, architect Hans Poelzig Example 2: Fiat Lingotto factory in Italy with a racing track on top, architect Giacomo Matte-Trucco

Photo: Dgtmedia – Simone / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Example 3. Building of the Ministry of Roads in Georgia, architect Giorgi Chakhava

Photo: kartografi /, CC BY-SA 3.0

Functionalism. The appearance of functionalism in 1910-1940 is attributed to the Bauhaus Higher School of Construction and Art Design in Germany and in particular to its director Walter Gropius. He believed that architecture should be functional and oriented towards mass production. The iconic figure of this period was the French architect Le Corbusier, who coined the phrase “A house is a machine for living”.

Style tags:

  • Flat roof terraces instead of the traditional sloped roof, increasing the usable area.
  • Pillars that lift the house off the ground.
  • Strip windows along the front of the building.
  • Open floor plan to organize your space more efficiently.
  • Ramps instead of stairs.
  • Façade variability. Thanks to the installation of supports inside the house, the plane of the facade ceases to be a carrier, so it can be made of any material and have any shape.

Example 4 Weissenhof houses, Stuttgart, Germany, architect Le Corbusier

Photo: Pjt56 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Example 5 Fagus factory, Alfeld, Germany, architects Walter Gropius, Adolf Meyer

Photo: Olrik66 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4. 0

Example 6. Bauhaus school building, Dessau, Germany, architect Walter Gropius

Photo: Spyrosdrakopoulos / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

901 47 Constructivism . Soviet architects took the ideas of functionalism and began to use architecture to promote proletarian asceticism. Constructivist buildings are inspired by the rapid development of factory production and the industrial life of the working class. At this time, the merging of civil and industrial architecture took place, Palaces of Culture and Labor, working kitchens, communal houses, catering establishments began to appear. According to the architects, the buildings instilled in people the idea that the basis of human life is work for the benefit of the state.

The founders of the style are Vladimir Tatlin, the Vesnin brothers, Ilya Golosov. The latter built one of the most illustrative examples of constructivism – the Zuev House of Culture in Moscow. The massive building features large windows and a glass façade stretching around the circumference of the tower in the center of the building.

Style cues:

  • Borrowing factory elements: metal structures, beams, stairs and escalators, transparent facades, wide doorways, high ceilings and open interior spaces.
  • Strict horizontal and vertical lines.
  • Lots of free space inside buildings.
  • Refusal of decor and ornaments.
  • Solidity and scale.

Example 7. ZIL Cultural Center, architects Vesnin brothers

Photo: NVO / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Example 8. Zuev House of Culture in Moscow, architect Ilya Golosov

Photo: Martisha / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Example 9. Rusakov House of Culture, architect Konstantin Melnikov

Photo: Balakate /

Brutalism originated in the mid-twentieth century in Great Britain, but did not last long. In the post-war period, it became an anti-bourgeois protest expressing honesty and openness.

The starting point is the Residential Unit complex in Marseille by the architect Le Corbusier. Supporters of brutalism sought to maintain maximum functionality while minimizing costs in order to provide housing for the population. Therefore, brutalism was most widespread in the communist countries of Eastern Europe, where residential buildings, libraries, schools, government institutions, and sports complexes were built in this style.

Style features:

  • Massive forms, no color elements – only gray and black.
  • Rough materials, exposed concrete.
  • Functionality.
  • No decor or cladding.

Case 10 School, Hunstanton, England, architects Alison and Pete Smithson

Photo: Tiger / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Case 11, Royal National Theatre, UK, architects Denis Lasdan and Peter Softley

Photo: Saval / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Example 12. Institute for Biological Research, San Diego, architect Louis Kahn

Photo: Nagel Photography /

Metabolism originated in the late 50s years of the last century in Japan, where special attention has always been paid to the laws of nature. Architecture must develop according to the same biological laws, the ideologues of metabolism argued. One of them, Kiyonori Kikutake, believed that a building should consist of both permanent and temporary elements. It should provide for the possibility of restructuring, replacing its components. Therefore, the key feature of the style is understatement and incompleteness, which opens up the prospect for further development.

Example 13. Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo, architect Kisho Kurokawa

Photo: Kakidai / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Example 14. Conservatory, Montreuil, France, architect Claude Le Goa

Photo: Michaelstephaneboucher / Wikimedia Commons , CC BY-SA 4.0

Example 15 Shizuoka Broadcasting and Press Center, Tokyo, architect Kenzo Tange

Photo: image_vulture /

Hi-tech. The style was born in the course of the activities of the British group of architects “Arkigram” in 1960s. They were inspired by science fiction and took ideas from there for their architectural concepts. Their followers Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Nicholas Grimshaw, Jean Nouvel, Joseph Paxton became the founders of high-tech and were the first to use high technology to design and implement the ideas of the Archigrammers.

Signs of style:

  • Innovation, structure, maximum use of technological achievements.
  • Pragmatism in the use of space, filling the premises according to their functions, minimal use of decorative elements.
  • Strictly organized distribution of furniture and accessories in the premises.
  • Glass and metal frame walls.
  • Lots of light, spacious rooms.
  • Man-made materials: plastic, acrylic, fiberglass and polymers.
  • Technical elements in plain sight: metal frames, elevators, ventilation shafts, escalators, stairs, pipes, engineering systems.
  • Clear, simple shapes and straight lines, elements of constructivism and cubism.
  • Turned inside out effect.

Case Study 16 Center Pompidou, Paris, architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano

Photo: Takashi Images /

Case Study 17: Lloyds Building, London, UK, architect Richard Rogers

Photo: Songquan Deng / Shutterstock .com

Example 18 3M headquarters, Milan, Mario Cucinella Architects

Photo: 3M / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

What to read in order to understand modern architecture

1. Alexey Lepork, “Seduced Architecture”, 2023

The author, art critic and architectural critic, researcher at the State Hermitage, tells in a fascinating way about the main architectural projects of the 20th century that determined the view modern cities . You will learn how architects experimented with form, building design, materials, and what gave rise to new styles.

2. Jürgen Jodike, History of Modern Architecture, 1972

In the book, the author examines in detail the development of the appearance of buildings from the end of the 19th century to his own time.