Do you find boxy modern houses peculiar? The contrast of modern architecture with that rooted in classic, medieval or vernacular style offers an opportunity to absorb the theory of modern design and the ability to appreciate those differences. Modernism, by definition, examines new methods of technology, and specifically for architecture, how materials are used in new ways. Mies van der Rohe’s 1930 Villa Tugendhat, one of his early European creations and done in the International style, exemplifies what was new at the time.
Design schools promote the progressive ideology of making buildings of their time. This practice can cause conflicts when engaging the general public. That which is familiar makes us comfortable, and as we are all surrounded by all types of architecture, the new and innovative may not always be easily understood. Architects’ hearts stop when their houses are referenced in comments such as: “It looks like an office building”; “It’s boxy”; “It’s too cold” and “Where can I put all my stuff?”
Not that architects dismiss practicality; on the contrary, their designs based in modern theory strive to take advantage of and respect modern life. Take into consideration the variations of 20th-century modern home design, which show the broad spectrum of interpretations.
The International style developed in Europe after the creation of the modern Prairie and Craftsman styles, and more clearly defined modern architecture that we reference today: rectilinear, sharp and with practical details. The International style migrated to North America via the progressive European architects who created the discipline, seeking safer havens before World War II. Not until after the war did more Americans discover and begin their affection for this type of modern architecture. Consider the 1951 Farnsworth House, which planted Mies van der Rohe’s modernism right into the American heartland.
Roots of Style: International Style Celebrates Pure Form.