What Is Modern Architecture?

Generally speaking, the Modern Movement dates to the 1930s-1970s. There is an emphasis on building form rather than ornamentation, and in many cases, there is an altogether lack of ornamentation. Modernism is a rejection of historical precedent and avoids overt historical references. You might see new takes on a classic architectural element, such as a stylized column-like structure, but you will not see a traditional column that embodies any of the Classical orders. The whole idea was to create something entirely new and without precedent.

The Roulette Motel in Reno Modernism embraces the ideal of functionalism, which dictates that a building’s form should be determined based on its function. Sometimes this led to exceedingly utilitarian structures; in other instances, it simply made decoration secondary to utility.

New “modern” businesses of the era, propelled by the expanded use and availability of automobiles, often exemplified modernist features. Such buildings may include gas stations, motor courts (motels), diners, drive-thru service buildings, drive-in movie theaters, bowling alleys, and dry cleaners.

Common materials for modern architecture include brick, stone, concrete, steel, and glass. General characteristics include:

  • Sweeping horizontal and vertical lines, resulting in buildings appearing very horizontal or very vertical.
  • Clean appearance with sharp lines or angles.
  • Rectangular forms.

White Pine Hall at UNR in 1962 Flat, sloped, and folded plate (accordion) roofs. Distinctive angular roof extensions are common as well.

I am sure you can think of at least a few buildings that embody these characteristics, so share them with us!