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  4. Architecture Guide
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  6. Early Modern

c. 20th century
Europe and North America

Influence: Industrial Revolution; Styles: American Early Modern, Art Deco, International Style, Post-war Modernism, Futurism, Expressionism

Industrialization in the late 19th century laid the foundation for Early Modern architecture. Innovation and great architects were celebrated, buildings were taken to greater heights. Particularly after World War II when many cities had been destroyed and manufactured material became affordable and readily available, the world moved into the Machine Age with global advancements in technology and innovation such as reinforced steel. New, creative expressions continue to develop out of earlier stark forms focused purely on function.

American Early Modern, United States

National pride created an American Renaissance of architecture led by the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, influenced by the Classical and Beaux-Arts styles and the autonomous ideals of democracy and capitalism. Increased industrial innovations in materials such as steel, reinforced concrete, and plate glass allowed the birth of the skyscraper.

Art Deco, United States and Cuba

Art Deco rose to prominence after World War I during the Jazz Age, using streamlined, geometric patterns with references to primitive motifs and symbols found in the Mayan stepped temple, Babylonian ziggurat, and in ancient Egypt after the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. This sleeker style was inspired by futuristic visions brought on through innovation, later evolving to include more curvilinear motifs.

International Style, Europe

Lead by architect Peter Behrens, architecture purely based on functional, efficient construction with no unnecessary ornamentation created the International Style movement of De Stijl from Piet Mondrian and Gerrit Rietveld, Bauhaus from Walter Gropius, and Art Moderne Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

Post-war Modernism

After World War II, re-construction focused on function worldwide. The complete rejection of historicism became the most prolific style worldwide. Architecture evolved into new contemporary forms of construction, particularly in urban centers like Rotterdam, Netherlands.

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Since the 1950s, Futurism imagines the future through technology and mechanization, like with the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington, or the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Space Needle, Seattle, Washington, USA


The 1960s opened a gateway for Expressionism, which seeks to elicit emotional responses through sculptural design forms or exposed engineering. The Sydney Opera House is an early example.