Modern Architecture From the Past

Modern Architecture From the Past

It might sound peculiar to reference century-old designs when discussing modern architecture. To some degree, one could argue that any design is “modern” during the period in which it was conceived. However, the tell-tale characteristics of what we define as modern are what I’m after here. Straight edges, “boxy” designs, and lots of glass make up what I consider “modern.”

Not-So-Modern Modernist

The Modernist style is very distinct. Among the many characteristics of this style, one will find everything works towards a sense of minimalism. Simple (yet elegant and often curious) lines are often accompanied by simple textures and materials. Simple, in this instance, refers to the visual experience. Marbles, highly-figured woods, and decorative patterns be damned; the modernists won’t have any of it! Modernism is as much a philosophy as it is a style. Architects of this style often approach design from a more analytical perspective, often employing cutting-edge techniques to simulate forces such as gravity. Designs of this style are characterized, at least in part, by these traits:

  • Prominent use of Concrete
  • Cubic and Cylindrical shapes
  • Flat roof structures
  • Lots of glass and metal framing
  • Asymmetry
  • Solid and “bland” colors

The Company One Keeps

Modernism was a very niche pursuit for many years. Architects that build within the context of this minimalist style were often criticised for their perversion of the craft. Many such architects have found their names lifted on high among critics several decades after their prime. One might call this the curse of being ahead of one’s time. Some famous Modernist architects you may recognize are:

  • Frank Llyod Wright
  • Philip Johnson
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Le Corbusier
  • Rem Koolhaas

Some of these architects are of days passed, others are still alive and aware of their fanbases. What all these designers have in common is their pursuit of a minimalistic impression of common architectural themes. There won’t be any ornate carvings or decorative elements here. These artisans choose to inspire us through what they choose to leave out rather than what they choose to include.

Famous Examples

What would a post on famous architecture be without some examples! Here are some of my personal favorite from many different eras of architecture. I find all of them to inspire a minimalist perspective when I consider my next project.

Bank of London and South America, Buenos Aires

Bank of London Brutalist Modern

This building was designed with a brutalists impression of modern architecture. Its almost-governmental spirit is contrasted by the softly-rounded recesses on the facade. This is one of my favorite buildings mostly because it’s located downtown around other common buildings without a care in the world.

Habitat 67, Montreal

Habitat 67, Montreal

This Safdie McGill design was first presented in the 1967 World’s Fair, though it had been an evolution in progress for some time. This design exemplifies the use of boxes, glass, and concrete common to Modernist styles. I love this work mostly because it maintains such a welcoming and granular impression while remaining a very large overall structure.

Geisel Library, San Diego

Geisel Library

Part brutalist brilliance, part spaceship; this is one of the most iconic designs in Modernist architecture. I’ll admit, it usually makes the “top ten lists” for brutalist feeds moreso than vanilla modernism. Still, this design illustrates how simple concrete can be used to create outlandish, yet efficient, designs. If I had to put my love for this design into a single phrase it’d be “form follows function.”

Keeping Inspired

Many of the best modern architectural designs have one thing in common: they were harshly criticised long before they were appreciated. There’s a place for recognizing constructive criticism from clients, peers, and mentors. There is not a place for giving credence to the wailing of those without constructive feedback. Those that would claim a building defies their diety of choice or “ruins” the surrounding area shouldn’t be given any consideration at all. Love your designs and follow your heart. Architecture is an art after all, not a science (mostly!)

Popular Modern Home Designs

Popular Modern Home Designs

Over the decades, homes have continued to undergo an evolution of style as designers have morphed, graphed, adapted, and flirted with modern trends that have inspired many. For this reason, modern home designs are at once diverse, while still containing ideas that overlap and even run together at times. However, there have been six home designs that have become classic since the mid-20th century, with many variations on these central themes. To gain a better understanding and a better appreciation of these home designs, consider these popular modern choices:

Craftsman Design is Centered Around the Porch

Oceanic Design


With some inspiration from traditional Asian trends, the Craftsman style home design is at once richly inviting and welcoming in its details. With a focus on wood materials and a bungalow-like appearance, this style conveys relaxation and warmth in its approach. Often highlighting gorgeous porches out front, they feature simple, yet elegant railings that have become synonymous with the style. Shingle siding is usually the most common for this style, but you may also occasionally see stucco or other materials with the same stylistic feel, while brick is reserved for decorative elements such as a column or two in addition to the chimney. Homes in this style are highly-sought after and often preserved in historic neighborhoods that focus on modern style.

Proportion Brings Together Prairie-Style Foursquare

Like many of our modern home styles, this one also features a focus on simplicity. With a box-like style, they also often include a porch out front, though not with the same emphasis that the Craftsman style does. Instead, the priority is put on a design that is stripped down and straightforward. In fact, the inside of the home is often cubed into 4 equal rooms. Symmetry is the design element most at play in this style of home, which gives it its name. While this style isn’t as well-known as the Craftsman, you’ll still find many homes with this approach, and many that draw from this tradition.

Japanese-inspired Modern Designs are Bold, Yet Graceful

Prairie Split Level Rancher


While this style can be incredibly diverse and still include aspects of more Western-style architecture, Japanese-inspired modern home design goes beyond the mere nod to Asian styles. It’s true that some of our other styles draw from Asian concepts, but in Japanese-inspired modern design, you’ll find more direct parallels to ideas that are wholly taken from traditional home design in Japan. For example, it’s not uncommon to find inside doors featuring windows paneled in paper or extensive use of exposed wood throughout the home. You may even see a focus on circles to complement that cleanliness of long rich lines and squares. This style remains at the top of trends for modern home design.

Art Deco For Something a Little Different

Skyscraper 3D Model


Once popular in the early part of the 20th-century, the Art Deco style is making a bit of a comeback in today’s home design. Its defining elements include a commitment to flat roofs and large expanses of stucco on the exterior of a home. While the style might feel basic, where it excels is in its interesting ornamentation, which often includes vertical pieces of ribbing, flute-like shapes, and others. Details are often symmetrical as well, aiding in the sense of harmony and unity of any home design. While seen less often than the other styles here, it still makes for a great choice for a style that is unique, yet classic.

Modernism with a Bit of European Internationalism



For a style that is at once breath-taking as it is economical, Modernism draws from European Internationalism still focuses on function over a form like many modern styles, but with a brilliance that can hardly be denied. Because modern design focuses on clean design and a simple approach, this style incorporates glass in a way that opens up spaces to their full potential while also including aspects that feel as if they’re floating. Exposed steel and concrete keep the home design composition equally as pared down, while glass seems to glitter and hold lighting in a beautiful way. Homes in this style are incredibly popular, and you’ll find many that use elements of this style in their approach.

Ranch-style Keeps a Balanced Approach

It might seem odd to include the Ranch-style design in this list, but really it has become a staple of modern design. As pedestrian as it is ubiquitous, it still holds a special place in modern home design. Also called “rambler,” this style encapsulates the feel of Western-style homes in the United States during the early part of the 20th-century. A low profile and little decoration ensure that this style is completely modern while still being traditional in its roots. It’s becoming more often to see homes in this style incorporating elements like steel roofs or simple front porch decks to increase the feeling of stability and fortitude inherent in them. This style remains incredibly popular for those searching for modern design.

Modern home design seems to have an almost unending amount of choices, but with this guide, you’ll be able to get a sense of the possibilities. From the quirky Art Deco to the traditional Ranch-style, these designs have remained as a foundation for designers and architects the world-over.