Princeton Capital Blog

Modern and Contemporary Architecture

October 17th, 2014

ContemporaryContemporary Architecture

Is there anything more confusing then wondering if something is modern or contemporary? Literally, contemporary means that which is being built right now. But the design esthetic is one looking forward and applying materials and designs in new and interesting ways.

Modern is a broader sense for homes that embraced the new industrial age with an minimal ornamentation, included structures of steel or concrete and large expanses of glass, and opted for open floor plans. We saw a version of this with the Eichler homes. Often, “modern” will get renamed to be “postmodern” or “neo-Classical,” etc.

Contemporary will often build upon Modern. Often, modern architecture was whitewashed over stucco. Contemporary will use metal or wood planks to act as siding, or paint with greys or adobe.

The bottom line is that there is no easy answer.

From Wikipedia:

The concept of modernism is a central theme in these efforts. Gaining popularity after the Second World War, architectural modernism was adopted by many influential architects and architectural educators, and continues as a dominant architectural style for institutional and corporate buildings into the 21st century. Modernism eventually generated reactions, most notably Postmodernism which sought to preserve pre-modern elements, while Neomodernism emerged as a reaction to Postmodernism.

Notable architects important to the history and development of the modernist movement include Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Oscar Niemeyer and Alvar Aalto.

The good news is that most modern homes were built to last if they were built prior to the 1960s.

Zillow notes that the common design elements of a modern or contemporary home are:

Following World War II, America experienced a boom in growth and innovation. Rather than seeking to reinvent home styles of previous years, architects were building sleek homes and experimenting with new shapes and materials. The development of post-and-beam construction allowed for exterior walls of glass and open floor plans.

Although many homes combine a mixture of architecture styles, there are few defining features of a true mid-century modern or contemporary home:

  • low, over-sized flat roofs
  • open-beamed ceilings
  • open floor plans
  • extensive, large windows and/or exterior glass walls
  • simple, clean lines

We may see a resurgence of these modern design elements thanks to the popularity of AMC’s show Mad Men.

Clare from Projectphile put together a blog making fun of how poorly modern architecture would do in today’s safety conscious world. Hopefully it will bring back some memories of when you were a child.

What modern and contemporary design elements do you like?

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