Polite architecture is the term used to describe buildings that incorporate non-local styles and use designed features that go beyond functional requirements. These stylistic features may be used by the architect to make a particular statement or to achieve an aesthetically-pleasing effect.
As a concept of architectural theory it is often used as a contrast with vernacular architecture. The vernacular is a type of architecture which is indigenous to a specific time and place, and historically uses the skills and expertise of local builders as opposed to formally-trained architects. Polite architecture often incorporates national or international architectural fashions, styles and conventions and seldom pays any regard to materials or practices particular to a locality.
Although there are buildings that are either wholly vernacular or polite, the terms are often a matter of subjectivity and many buildings incorporate both.
 Historical context
Historically, buildings characterised as ‘polite’ were the reserve of wealthy individuals and institutions who could afford buildings that included individual style as opposed to being purely functional. Since the developed world’s industrialisation, elements of ‘the polite’ began to proliferate, due largely to the expansion and professionalisation of the field of architecture. The growing availability of more aesthetically-pleasing materials such as decorative bricks, metals, plastics and glass, as well as the infrastructure to be able to source them from beyond the immediate locale also played a role in the rise of ‘the polite’ form during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
As architects became increasingly influential figures, polite designs have continued to be in demand throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, despite some modernist designers attempting to abandon style altogether. The desire for architectural revivalism of many different styles, such as gothic and classical, has also played an important part in the continuing health of ‘the polite’ form.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural styles.
- Design methodology.
- English architectural stylistic periods.
- Nineteenth century architecture.
- The history of fabric structures.
- Vernacular architecture.
 External references
Featured articles and news
We review a book aiming to unpick the complexities of building physics.
An introduction to the categories, procedures and types of listed buildings.
This Australian robotics firm have developed a bricklaying machine capable of building a house in 3 days.
20bn devices will be online by 2020, generating huge volumes of information. Is society making the most of this rich data?
Built over a period of 632 years, Cologne Cathedral is considered one of the world's finest examples of Gothic architecture.
UandI adds £1.5bn to development pipeline.
Here are 5 things leaders can do to create a truly circular economy.
Find out about the different types of delays on construction projects.
Researchers at Wien university have developed new system to create an inflatable concrete structure.
Take a look at this newly-opened tower in Chicago with a remarkable 20:1 height-to-base ratio.
The principles, practice and formwork of one of the most important components of modern architecture.