The Architectural Design

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Architecture ・APA ・5 Sources

The International design is one of the most considerable architectural design styles owing to its dominance in the 20th century. It marked the wreck free from the conventional constructing design of the early twentieth century. The world dominance that it achieved makes it one of the most fascinating architectural styles to study. This paper discusses the worldwide style as one of the architectural style in regard to its history, its rise, characteristics, key pioneers and its eventual decline. The paper ends with a conclusion that summarizes the findings of this research. The term “international style” used to be for the first time used in the year 1932 through Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson in their essay “The International Style: Architecture Since 1922.” The essay was later used as an explanatory catalog during an architectural exhibition that took place at the Modern Museum of Art in 1932 (Hitchcock & Johnson, 1966). However, the term later gained prominence and is used to refer to an architectural design style that came up in France, Netherlands and Germany in 19020’s. Later, in 1930’s, the style spread to America where it became the dominant style around mid-20th century (Cardinal-Pett, 2015).

However, in the United States, the design was not perceived as stylish and hence was not preferred for single-family residential dwellings. Nevertheless, some of the notable persons who made efforts to popularize the style as fashionable for single-family residential include; Edward Durell Stone, William Lescaze and Richard Nuetra (Sommer, 1998). The international style was best suited for skyscraper architecture. Its sleek “modern” appearance marked with the absence of decorations and incorporation of glass and steel became substitutable with corporate modernism.

The style gained prominence and became the symbol of the modern western architecture. It remained largely dominant until in the 1960’s when post-modernism movement started (Sommer, 1998). Before its decline, the international style was dominant for commercial and even institutional buildings. Even though the traditional style was preferred for both school and buildings, the dominance of the international style in the 20thcentury replaced the traditional style in schools and churches alike (Cardinal-Pett, 2015). Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius are some of the most pioneering architects of the style (Cardinal-Pett, 2015). They made a lot of effort to achieve a lot in the architectural field. One of the most notable designs by Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is The Martin Luther King Jr Library in Washington D. C. which is the only library of his career (International, 2017).

The emergence of the international style can be largely attributed to four main factors that the building designers faced in the early 20th century. The need to put up more buildings, both for civic and commercial purposes to cater for the society that was undergoing a high rate of industrialization. Building designers were driven into seeking an economical yet utilitarian style that would employ new building techniques and raw materials developed during that time. However, the style had to have a satisfying aesthetic taste. Dissatisfaction among building designers with the designs that existed at the time. There was a burning desire to come up with modern designs since people too had become modern (Sommer, 1998). People were tired of too much ornamentation done on the buildings and thus needed simple designs. It was a new era and people wanted a shift from the building style of the previous eras. The new century came with new trends that favored simple designs that had significance to the function of the building (Hitchcock & Johnson, 1966).

Additionally, successful technological advancement in construction techniques in use of concrete, steel and glass. Technology made both iron and steel available at affordable costs. Technology made traditional building methods like brick and stone obsolete. Architects embraced the technology and started using steel-reinforced concrete for the floors and in the building support elements. Additionally, they used glass on the exterior of the buildings. The outcome was a strict kind of architecture founded on the maxim that modern buildings ought to depict clear harmony between function, appearance and technology like in the figure below (Allix, n.d).

The international style broke free from the traditional style of architecture. It was marked by a lot of characteristics that lacked in the conventional style that it replaced. Unlike the traditional style, it was characterized by simple buildings that lacked decorations, ornaments and a specified function (Hitchcock & Johnson, 1966). In many cases, the style is logical, functional and balanced signifying that all over the building the usage rate is the same. Upon gaining global popularity, various expressions of the international style came up such as expression of volume rather than mass where given spaces had higher priority than the solidity of the building.

Other expressions included an emphasis on balance rather than symmetry where form and shape were unlikely to be in balance. Other forms of the style included basic geometric forms characterized by open interiors. The style employed use of primary colors owing to the need to keep the design simple. It took into consideration the environment and thus both geographical and climatic conditions did not hamper their design(Sommer, 1998). Moreover, it featured the use of sliding panels on the exteriors. These allowed the occupants to adjust the interior to their convenience. In addition to that, the exterior was marked windows designed in a horizontal pattern of grid-like rows while the interiors were simple and devoid of clutter.

Just like the conventional style declined when the international style came up, the international style too declined in the 1970’s (Cardinal-Pett, 2015). during that time, the style was so dominant that it killed innovation. Even though architects like Mies van der Rohe continued to design great buildings, they were replicated almost everywhere (Sommer, 1998). It led to dissatisfaction among many architects who saw the international style as having too many limitations owing to its methodology. Their desire was to have designs with the individual character since the modern international style had eradicated too much of the historical designs.

The revolt witnessed against the international style resulted in exploration of how to come up with more innovative designs and ornamentation. Eventually, postmodernism took over and building designers started coming up with more creative structure designs. The structures used modern construction materials and had decorative features intended for different effects. Eventually, in late 1970’s, both modernism and the international style were finished and the movement became prominent (Cardinal-Pett, 2015). It came to be known as postmodernism.

For the international style, the things that mainly influenced the style leading to its rise include new social requirements, emerging technologies and mechanized production. It shows that architecture is dynamic and thus keeps changing with time. What is fashionable and stylish today could turn to be unfashionable in the future. The rise and dominance of the style in the 20th century show how the devotion of architects can go a long way in influencing building styles.


Allix, R (Photographer). (n.d) North Lake Show Drive [digital image]. Retrieved from

Cardinal-Pett, C. (2015). A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Americas. Routledge.

Hitchcock, H., & Johnson, P. (1966). The International Style. New York: Norton.

International. (2017). Retrieved from Architectural Styles of America and Europe:

Sommer, R. L. (1998). American Architecture: Colonial Styles to the Present Day. JG Press.


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