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Key architectural movements of the 20th & 21st century

Alissa Ugolini—homify UK Alissa Ugolini—homify UK
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The architecture and design of today has its predecessors to thank for the innovative heights and styles we currently see. As with each movement, it either builds upon the existing vernacular or completely rejects it. This of course, has a lot to do with the societal demands of the time. In this particular timeline we see how in the past 100 years, how design and architecture has been effected by war, industrial revolutions, the growing needs of people and not to be forgotten, the diminishing state of the environment.

Therefore, today we are showcasing some of the most influential styles of architectural design from the 1900s onwards. This will be shown to you through a timeline created via examples from the amazing work of our homify experts. Take a look..


Modernist architecture is easily recognised by features such as exposed steel and simple, clean geometric forms. The design process pays homage to the motto 'Less is more'. Generally speaking, the overall shape of a typical building is square, using a very limited colour range. The internal design of the house mimics the exterior; open plan with little decoration and inclusive of functional furniture.

This particular design, so to speak, got the ball rolling with its ideals and teachings forming and shaping the minds of many of the architects and designer responsible for the proceeding styles.  It was such a revolutionary time for architecture and design, and it is likely that the group of people behind this movement had absolutely no idea what kind of effect they would have on future generations.


 Houses by Architekturbüro Sauer-Scholta
Architekturbüro Sauer-Scholta

Einheit im Ganzen, Vielfalt in Teilen

Architekturbüro Sauer-Scholta

Forming during the Modernist era, the Bauhaus style is easily one of the most recognised and well-known architecture movements in history. It became a worldwide phenomenon, representing the rejection of the popular bourgeois style (which was incredibly popular at the time), and instead, welcomed practical, honest and contemporary design. Some of the most famous examples of modern architecture and furniture were subsequently born during this era. It was also during this time that the most famous design related quote was coined: ’Form ever follows function’. This statement is universally recognised.

International style

Capel Manor House, Kent:  Houses by Ewan Cameron Architects
Ewan Cameron Architects

Capel Manor House, Kent

Ewan Cameron Architects

The international style touched the world of design in all aspects, from industrial design, graphic design through to art. Also commonly referred to as the Swiss style, this movement favoured a muted colour palette, open plan interior spaces, strong geometry and buildings which appear weightless and light. Concrete, glass and a steel framework were again the favoured building materials, as well as prefabricated design.

The main idea was to encourage the building and growth of high-density living inside of cities and to aid population growth. The style was relatively easy to replicate, and did not need much consideration in the early design stages in terms of aesthetics. Nonetheless, the International style is a period which has had a significant impact on paving the way for architecture and design today.

Structural expressionism

Emerging in the late 1970s, structural expressionism is a direct response to the dawn of the technological era. Since WWII ended over twenty-five years ago, materials have reached a surplus again, as well as industrial factories returning to full manufacturing order. Now that the world has settled back down, it is time to start building on-wards and upwards, and explore shapes and forms unseen to humans before. Steel and glass were exceptionally popular during this period, and showing the skeleton and framework of the building was desired.


 Museums by Marcela Grassi Photography
Marcela Grassi Photography

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo en Niteroi.Oscar Niemeyer

Marcela Grassi Photography

Deconstructivism was born after post-modern architecture with the notion of deconstructing the constructed. Frank Gehry is one of the most well known architects to execute this style with precision, time and time again. Key characteristics include exterior surfaces which appear to be bent, folded and skewed out of proportion. As with most striking forms of architecture, they were dreamt up to reject their predecessor. In this day and age, given the help of machinery and technology then why can we not say goodbye to the rules of ’form follows function, purity of form, and truth to materials’ that we have lived by for so long? 


Courtyard House  -  East Dulwich:  Terrace by Designcubed

Courtyard House — East Dulwich


With the current state of the environment, it is without a doubt that architects and designers would shift away from the overbuilt and consumerists buildings of the past in favour of sustainable design. Reused and recycled materials that would ordinarily end up dumped in landfill, as well as the positioning of the building to ensure glazing adequately ventilates the space in summer and stores solar heat gains in winter. These principles have been put in place to ensure our carbon footprint gets smaller each year and to hopefully turn back some of the damage from years gone by.

For more exciting architecture and design project see ’Vitra design museum Basel and Museum of contemporary art Brazil’.

Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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