- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 27 Nov 2018
[Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe]
Striving to create a new modern form and functional theory of architecture, these architects abandoned tradition to create a pared down, un-ornamented style that emphasised geometric shapes, viewing it as architecture for the modern age.
Utilising new construction techniques and materials, buildings of the International Style were starkly different than those of previous eras, and not just appearance-wise. Flat roofed, asymmetrical and with bands of windows set into a rectangular form, International Style buildings were a dramatic departure from past eras.
Many European architects came to the United States in the period preceding World War II, bringing their new ideas about modern design with them. In the 1930s, American architects began experimenting with the International Style, building upon the early-20th century American trends like the Commercial, Bungalow and Prairie styles, and the development of skyscrapers.
The influence of the International Style continued long beyond its period of popularity. By creating a new philosophy of architecture dedicated to the pure functionality of form, the International Style had a lasting impact on modern design. Strict observance of the International Style design elements gave way to the development of various modern forms and styles, but the new way of looking at the design of buildings remained.
Pure examples of architect-designed International Style buildings are somewhat rare, but many buildings of the era between 1930-1950 show its influence. Many schools built at the mid century show the basic design principles of the International Style. While the International Style was popular in Europe for residential design in the 1920s and 1930s, it was less commonly used for houses in the United States.
Wealthy followers of the avant garde in architecture commissioned prominent architects to design International Style homes, but the style was not much embraced for more ordinary working class house construction in the USA. However, the design principles of the International Style of functionality and open floor plans could be seen in the tract homes that developed in the post-WWII years.
Some of the identifiable features of buildings in the International Style include:
- Rectangular forms, often with round projections.
- Flat roof.
- Lack of ornamentation or decorative details.
- Ribbon windows.
- Curtain walls of glass.
- Cantilevered projections.
- Smooth wall surfaces.
- Asymmetrical façade.
This article was written by PHMC.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural styles.
- Art Deco.
- Art Moderne.
- Chicago school of architecture.
- Commercial style.
- Expressionist architecture.
- Form follows function.
- Futurist architecture.
- High-tech architecture.
- Minimalist architecture.
- Modernist architecture.
- Prairie School style.
- Seagram Building
- The architectural profession.
- Villa Savoye.
Featured articles and news
Still going strong...one of the great buildings of the 20th century.
Review of the bible for heritage assets and their management.
The David Lloyd Lymington Sports Village was 'Commended' in CIAT's 2018 AT Awards.
How do we make the smart city a reality?
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw has been awarded the UK’s highest honour for architecture.
Protecting the construction industry from Brexit.
Conceiving buildings collaboratively, testing them virtually.
Effective collaboration in post-disaster response and recovery
How do you prepare a claim for an extension of time and ensure it isn't rejected?
How innovative ‘design thinking’ may lead to new surface-water solutions.
What will be this year's office design trends?