Modern architecture: what it is, origin, characteristics and works

Despite the name, modern architecture is not so "modern" like that. The movement began between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, lasting until the early 1980's when another idea of ​​architecture began to spread: contemporary or postmodern.

But what, then, is modern architecture?

Modern architecture is a milestone in mankind's own history, as it breaks with all the established standards so far and proposes an innovative concept of relating man to the environment in which he lives.

This same modernism that was making head of artists and designers quickly spread through the world of architecture, striking architects already saturated by previous styles and thirsting for new ideas.

The Industrial Revolution, which took place between 1740 and the mid-1840s, boosted and, to a certain extent, required new architecture and engineering solutions capable of attending to this new configuration of society, with the construction of buildings - public and private - including the first skyscrapers, bridges, roads, viaducts and town houses.

The emergence of the industry and the new technologies provided architects with the use of new materials, especially steel, iron, glass and reinforced concrete. Faced with a new social reality and with totally new materials, architects had the opportunity for the first time to create works with freedom of form, structurally lighter, tall and strong.

Finally, after many centuries, architecture came under the wings of the Church to become a stronger movement in its true ideals, as the Greeks and Romans viewed it one day.

Architecture now becomes functional, fluid, organic and, above all, human.

Modern architecture and the Bauhaus

Coal Mine Zeche zollverein

Impossible to speak of modern architecture without mentioning the Bauhaus School, the institution of arts, design and architecture created in the Weimar Republic in Germany in 1919.

The Bauhaus influenced modernist thinking and had a fundamental importance in modern architecture, and to this day it is a world reference in the field of arts and architecture.

But why was the school so prominent? The Bauhaus was much more than a school, it was the precursor of modernist ideals in Europe and laid the foundation of modern architecture.

It was at the Bauhaus that the concept of functionality emerged guided by the famous phrase of the architect Louis Sullivan "form follows function". But for the Bauhaus the functionality was not something boring, boring, bureaucratic or aesthetically uninteresting. On the contrary, architecture and design needed to come together to propose structures as functional and objective as visually appealing and impactful.

The Bauhaus also proposed a style of architecture still unexplored for the time, where architectural designs should be thought on a large scale and at the same time capable of reaching all types of public. From then on, the first apartments for workers in the suburbs of Berlin began to appear, among them the project commissioned by the Siemens company from the architect Walter Groupis, director of the Bauhaus.

Student dormitories and office towers are also a landmark that emerged at that time.

It was at the Bauhaus that steel and glass began to be used on a large scale in architecture. The school also helped integrate arts and design into architectural designs and put urbanism as an integral part of the architectural concept.

Even with all its importance to the arts and architecture, the Bauhaus was closed in 1933 by the rising Nazi government in Germany.

Characteristics of modern architecture

Modern architecture has revolutionized the cities and can be easily identified by some characteristics of the style, which are:


One of the highlights of modern architecture is to propose integration and coexistence between people. For this reason it is very common for works of modern style to have a free floor plan, with columns instead of walls, allowing people to live in spacious environments.


Functionality is another important feature of modern architecture. Here, exaggerated adornments leave the scene to give way to traces and structures that are practical, functional and necessary. In modern architecture everything that does not add function is discarded. Even the famous phrase "less is more" is credited to the German modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, one of the icons of architecture in the world.

Free spaces

If there is integration, there are free areas. But the spans are not limited to the circulation space. They are also present in the vertical structures, creating areas of respite and bringing light and ventilation into the buildings.


Straight lines, well-defined lines and simplicity in shapes also mark modern architecture.


Steel, glass and reinforced concrete are the main materials used by modern architects. These materials embody the aesthetics of modern architecture, but also contribute to the functionality of the work, making it lighter, simpler and brighter.

In addition to all these outstanding features, other aspects proposed by the architect Le Coubesier are also known. They are called "The 5 Points of Modern Architecture", namely:

  • Free Facade;
  • Windows on Tape;
  • Pilotis;
  • Garden Terrace;
  • Free Plant;

The architect was able to demonstrate in practice all these concepts with the work Villa Savoye, created in 1928.

Modern Architects of Brazil and the World

Mies Van Der Rohe barcelona pavilion

Mies Van Der Rohe

Mies Van Der Rohe's famous phrase "less is more" accurately portrays the style practiced by the architect throughout his career. Born in Germany in the year 1886, Rohe was professor and director of the Bauhaus school.

The works of Mies Van Der Rohe exalt the simplicity, practicality and functionality allied to the integration between the environments. To this day the works of the German architect are references in the world of architecture, among them we can highlight the German Pavilion of the Universal Fair of Barcelona, ​​built in 1929. Although it was a temporary structure, demolished in 1930, the work expressed a presenting glass and concrete walls complemented by straight, clean and horizontal lines.

Rohe is considered one of the greatest modernist architects in the world, even after his death in 1969.

Le Coubesier

Le Corbusier is another great name in world architecture. Born in 1887 in France, the architect has in his portfolio around 30 works spread throughout the world, more than half of which is considered World Heritage by UNESCO.

The main feature of Le Corbusier's works is reinforced concrete. The clean look, the long windows and the pilotis are also constant mark in its works.

These features include "The 5 Points of Modern Architecture," a principle he created and which summarizes in an objective way what a project needs to be considered modern.

Le Corbusier passed away in 1965, but before that he left to mankind one of his most expressive works, the Unité d'Habitation, a housing project delivered in 1952 in Marseilles, France. The architect's idea was to design a kind of vertical "garden-city" where community life was privileged with spaces of public use.

Urban planning concerns were another strong feature of the work of the French architect.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is the father of organic architecture, an innovative conception of construction that unites man to nature again. Frank created a new chain within modern architecture by thinking of the work as a living organism, functional and integrated into the environment.

His main work is the Cascade House, located in the American state of Pennsylvania, an impressive structure erected literally on a waterfall. It was not long before the work became an icon of organic architecture and modern architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in the United States in 1867 and became one of the great names in American architecture.

Gregori Warchavchick

Contrary to what you can imagine, the first modernist architect in Brazil was not Oscar Niemeyer, but rather a Ukrainian naturalized Brazilian. Gregori Warchavchick was the first to build a modernist residence in Brazil, where he himself lived after his marriage.

Located on Rua Santa Cruz, in the neighborhood of Vila Mariana in SP, the house has an interesting history. They say that in order to approve the project with the city hall, Warchavchick had to camouflage some aspects of the work and after the conclusion he claimed that he did not have enough money to complete it.

Oscar Niemeyer

The Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer does not need more presentations. It was a landmark in the history of Brazilian architecture and a great reference for the world. Niemeyerteve's career began in 1935 in the office of the architect Lucio Costa.

Among so many important works of the architect, the most outstanding is the architectural design of the new capital of Brazil. Brasília was the first city in the world built on the basis of modern thought.

Among the main works of the planned city are the Alvorada Palace, the National Congress and the Planalto Palace. Other outstanding works of the architect are Pampulha, in Minas Gerais and the Copan Building, in São Paulo, built between the years of 1951 and 1966.

Niemeyer passed away in 2012 leaving a sinuous and curvilinear mark in the history of world architecture.

Lucio Costa

Lucio Costa is another great name in Brazilian architecture. He was responsible for building the headquarters of the Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro and for the urban development project of the new federal capital, Brasília.

In 1960, Lucio Costa received the title of Honorary Professor of Harvard.

Lina Bo Bardi

Lina Bo Bardi is one of the few female names on the list of the great Brazilian modernist architects. One of the most expressive projects of the artist is the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), a typical example of modern architecture.

But the first project of the Italian-Brazilian architect's career is Casa de Vidro, located in the Morumbi neighborhood of São Paulo. Completed in 1951, the project became the residence of Lina and her husband P.M. Bardi. Currently, the place is open to the public and houses the Bardi Institute.

Large and emblematic works of modern architecture in Brazil and the World

1. Masp


The Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MASP) was inaugurated in 1947 and designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi. The art museum has all the features that modern architecture prioritizes.

2. Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro

About Me

The Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro is another landmark in the history of modern Brazilian architecture. Designed by the architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy, it was inaugurated in 1948 and receives annually about 250 thousand visitors.

3. Brasília


The capital Brasilia is the first city in the world designed and built on the basis of modernist ideals. The architects responsible for building the city are Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa.

Niemeyer was in charge of designing public buildings, such as the Planalto Palace and the National Congress, and Lúcio Costa was the founder of the capital's urban project.

4. World Trade Center

World Trade Center

The towers that were part of the World Trade Center complex are also on the list of the greatest modernist works in the world until the tragic accident in 2001. Designed by the architect Minoru Yamasaki, the towers were built between 1966 and 1971. The 110 floors were built in steel and concrete.

5. United Nations Headquarters

Headquarters of the United Nations

The United Nations headquarters building in New York was designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and cost the trifling $ 600 million. The 155-meter high building was inaugurated in 1952.

6. Casa da Cascata

The Cascade House was built in 1938 in the American state of Pennsylvania. Whoever signs the work is the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house is a perfect representation of the harmony that can be established between man and nature. The Cascade House is a landmark in organic architecture created by Wright.

7. Unité d'habitation

Unité d'habitation

The Unité d'Habitation, in Marseilles, France, is a project written by Le Corbusier, which is perhaps one of the architect's main works. The Unité d'Habitation has all the features of a typically modern architecture.

8. Seagram Building

The skyscraper built in 1958 changed the scenery of New York City. Designed by architects Miles van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, the Seagram building is 157 meters high and 38 floors high.

Loading ..

Recent Posts

Loading ..