April 9, 2011
What is modern: characteristics of modern architecture
What is different about modern architecture? a2 modern member, Greg Jones, A.I.A., summarizes some of the common characteristics of this period of architecture.
Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern:
- Lack of ornament: Decorative moldings and elaborate trim are eliminated or greatly simplified, giving way to a clean aesthetic where materials meet in simple, well-executed joints.
- Emphasis of rectangular forms and horizontal and vertical lines: Shapes of houses are based boxes, or linked boxes. Materials are often used in well-defined planes and vertical forms juxtaposed against horizontal elements for dramatic effect.
- Low, horizontal massing, flat roofs, emphasis on horizontal planes and broad roof overhangs: Modern homes tend to be on generous sites, and thus many, but not all, have to have meandering one-story plans. Many examples hug the ground and appear of the site, not in contrast to it.
- Use of modern materials and systems: Steel columns are used in exposed applications, concrete block is used as a finished material, concrete floors are stained and exposed, long-span steel trusses permit open column-free spaces, and radiant heating systems enhance human comfort.
- Use of traditional materials in new ways: Materials such as wood, brick and stone are used in simplified ways reflecting a modern aesthetic. Traditional clapboard siding are replaced with simple vertical board cladding used in large, smooth planes. Brick and stonework are simple, unornamented, and used in rectilinear masses and planes.
- Emphasis on honesty of materials: Wood is often stained rather than painted to express its natural character. In many cases exterior wood is also stained so that the texture and character of the wood can be expressed.
- Relationship between interior spaces and sites: Use of large expanses of glass in effect brings the building’s site into the building, taking advantage of dramatic views and natural landscaping.
- Emphasis on open, flowing interior spaces: Living spaces are no longer defined by walls, doors and hallways. Living, dining and kitchen spaces tend to flow together as part of one contiguous interior space, reflecting a more casual and relaxed way of life.
- Generous use of glass and natural light: Windows are no longer portholes to the outside, but large expanses of floor to ceiling glass providing dramatic views and introducing natural light deep into the interior of homes.
- Use of sun and shading to enhance human comfort: The best modern homes are efficient. They are oriented to take advantage of nature’s forces to provide passive solar heating in the winter, while long overhangs and recessed openings provide shading to keep homes cool in the summer.