March 27, 2023

The world of construction offers a rich and varied architectural tapestry. You will easily find different styles around the world, adapting to different climates, landscapes and cultural needs. Here is an overview of 15 popular architectural styles throughout history.

Architecture occupies an essential place in the culture of many countries of northern Europe. The famous Scandinavian minimalism, the mixtures of styles specific to British constructions, or even the oldest structures of the “old towns” of Europe, architecture is always an integral part of the discovery of a destination and the visits linked to it. It sometimes helps to better understand the culture and lifestyle of the inhabitants of a country and often takes a good place in the photo albums of travelers. A brief overview of the most original architectures of these northern countries in this top 10 where we take you from west to east, from Reykjavik the northernmost capital of Europe, to the dynamic Helsinki, passing by Oslo, Belfast or Glasgow, a flagship of British architecture and design.

Brutalist architecture

Brutalist architecture (1950s-1970s) is characterized by simple, massive, blocky concrete structures. With simple, graphic lines, a heavy appearance, a monochromatic palette, and a lack of ornamentation, Brutalism is a bold and polarizing style. A branch of Modernism, Brutalist architecture has become a popular, if still controversial, choice for institutional buildings around the world. It will fade in the 1980s, giving way to postmodernism and the contemporary styles of today.

Gothic architecture

From the Parisian center, the Gothic gradually invaded all of Western Europe. The churches that are built or rebuilt wear the clothes of this French style. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Gothic made its way to Prague or crossed the sea to establish itself in Scandinavia. A great international success. Almost as much as champagne. The adjective “Gothic” appears in the 16th century, in the middle of the Renaissance, at a time when fewer and fewer Gothic churches were being built. We build Renaissance churches. In the mouths of the inventors of the term, certainly Italian artists, the word has a pejorative value. Indeed, “Gothic” refers to the Goths, a Germanic people who plundered Rome in the year 410. In other words, in the spirit of the Renaissance, Gothic art is the art of the Barbarians, it is is the art of the Middle Ages. It was decadent art that replaced the refined art of the ancient Romans and Greeks.

In some countries, France or Italy in particular, Gothic architects did not try to break height records by towers. They wanted to impress the crowds on another criterion: the height of the vaults. And that is especially noticeable on the inside. The pillars carry arches which intersect at the level of the keystone.

Modern architecture

It refers to the style of architecture that flourished in the early to mid-twentieth century. Rejecting the ornamental styles of the past, modern architecture favors clean lines, functional design, and open floor plans. But that’s not all ! You will also find:

  • built-in cupboards
  • materials such as steel, concrete, iron, glass, wood, brick and stone
  • the integration of architecture into the natural landscape
  • the use of large windows to let in natural light and air.

Modern architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright have redefined a new world of architecture where form follows functional design. And a host of mid-century designers transformed the landscape and the world of interior design with modern furniture that continues to be hugely popular today.

Roman architecture

Roman architecture continued the legacy left by Greek architects and established architectural orders, especially the Corinthian. The Romans were also innovators and they combined new building techniques and materials with creative design to produce a whole series of entirely new architectural structures. Typically innovative Roman buildings include the basilica, the triumphal arch, the monumental aqueduct, the amphitheater and the residential building.

Most Roman architectural innovations were a response to the changing practical needs of Roman society, and these projects were all supported by a state apparatus which financed, organized and disseminated them throughout the Roman world, thus guaranteeing their durability, so that many of these great buildings still stand today.

Greek architecture

Greek Revival architecture draws inspiration from the symmetry, proportion, simplicity and elegance of ancient Greek temples from the 5th century BC. In the United States, the Greek Revival reached its peak from 1825 to 1860. Then it became the first dominant national style of architecture as it spread from the east coast of the country to the west coast.

Americans borrowed classical elements to design buildings for what was then a still-new democracy. We can cite examples such as:

  • columns with Doric, Ionic or Corinthian details, painted white
  • the gently sloping roofs with gabled fronts
  • elaborate door frames.

The interiors featured simple, generously proportioned layouts with large windows and doors. The ceilings and walls are decorated with plaster, the floors are made with wide planks.

Baroque architecture

From the middle of the 16th century to the 18th century, the Baroque style marked European art and architecture, without forgetting the fields of music and dance Characterized by a taste for movement, dramatization and decorative exuberance, Baroque is a complex aesthetic paradigm that aims to surprise and move viewers. A large-scale movement, it quickly spread from Italy to the major countries of Europe. Rubens, Vélasquez, Caravaggio, Bernini… These few famous names reveal the influence on a European scale of the Baroque, which could be defined as a spirit contrary to that of classicism.

Art deco architecture

Art Deco architecture is part of the Art Deco movement, a period of inventive design in the United States and Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. This movement spanned the fields of fashion, art, homewares and building styles throughout the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. The earliest examples of Art Deco architecture are found in Paris before the style spread to the United States, forever influencing the Manhattan skyline with now iconic skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler building.

Art Deco-style buildings use materials like stucco, terracotta, decorative glass, chrome, steel, and aluminum. They feature ornate geometric details such as chevrons, pyramids, stylized sunbeams or flowers and other geometric shapes. Many buildings in this style feature bright, opulent colors accented with contrasting black, white, gold, or silver. And they often feature fragmented triangular shapes, decorative and geometric windows and parapets.

Japanese architecture

Its traditional structures have aesthetic roots in China while modern Japanese buildings borrow from Western concepts that have been re-interpreted to suit the landscape and needs of Japan. From ancient temples to modern-day structures, Japan is home to stunning architecture. Japan has given the world some of its most treasured architects, with buildings by Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma found across the globe. Visitors to Japan can see firsthand how Japan has left its mark on the world of modern architecture. The single most defining characteristic of traditional Japanese architecture is the use of wood. Stone buildings were not an option for earthquake-prone ancient Japan, so wood was the chosen material. To express this reverence, ancient architects developed ways of erecting wooden structures without the use of nails.

Neoclassical architecture

Neoclassical architecture refers to a style of buildings constructed during the revival of classical Greek and Roman architecture. It began around 1750 and flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thus, while Greek Revival architecture uses classical elements, Neoclassicism is characterized by a revival on a larger scale. Some of the most famous and easily recognizable institutional and government buildings in Europe and the United States are in the neoclassical style. Examples include the White House and the US Capitol.

Art nouveau architecture

Art Nouveau, as its name suggests, breaks moorings with the past. The end of the 19th century saw the flourishing of the Napoleon III style, which had only been a simple adaptation of all previous periods. In other words, no modernism, in the sense of novelty, marked the end of this era. This new aesthetic is beginning to take hold in Belgium, where Brussels is a high place. The formal principles of an Art Nouveau architecture are defined there. Little by little, the movement, which took on different names depending on the country, took hold throughout Europe, and even in the United States. It’s sudden, and very fast! In Italy, the Art Nouveau movement takes the name of Liberty, in Germany, it will be Jugendstil, and finally, the Secession for Vienna.

Victorian architecture

This term does not refer to a particular style but to an era: the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. The style originated in England and still largely defines the architecture of its towns and villages. However, various styles of Victorian architecture are also spreading to North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Victorian architecture is marked by its unwavering devotion to ornament and ornate interior design. Some features that will help you spot a Victorian home from the outside include:

  • steeply pitched roofs
  • plain or colored bricks
  • ornate gables
  • the roof finials
  • sliding frames and bay windows
  • octagonal or round towers
  • the generous porches.

Interiors often include:

  • big stairs
  • complicated layouts
  • high ceilings
  • finely carved woodwork
  • decorative fireplaces.

Bauhaus architecture

Bauhaus architecture originated from the influential German school founded by Walter Gropius in the early 20th century. This school had the utopian goal of creating a radically new form of architecture and design to help rebuild society after the First World War. Fine arts, crafts, design, architecture and technology, the Bauhaus promoted rational and functional design.

Not all Bauhaus buildings are alike, but in general they eschew ornamentation to focus on simple, streamlined, and functional design. Simple geometric shapes such as triangle, square and circle are present with a touch of asymmetry. There is also the use of modern materials such as steel, glass or even concrete. The roofs are flat and the facades smooth. Bauhaus became the International Style when Gropius and other prominent Bauhaus members emigrated to the United States in the 1930s and later influenced the development of Modernism in the 1950s and 1960s. Architecture and design principles of the Bauhaus still influence the shape and appearance of everyday objects.

Tudor architecture

Originating in England during the Tudor period from 1485, this architecture evokes storybook cottages and old world charm. Tudor homes were built by craftsmen who combined Renaissance and Gothic design elements to create a transitional style. The latter spread throughout England until it was supplanted by Elizabethan architecture in 1558. The Tudor style was revived in the United States in the 1890s and remained popular into the 1940s.

The Tudor houses feature signature half-timbered details along with long, vertically placed wooden beams that create a two-tone exterior. However, Tudor Revival homes often eschewed this original look for red-toned brickwork with ornate detailing around windows, fireplaces, and entryways.

Contemporary architecture

Contemporary architecture followed the modern period of the first half of the 20th century and the postmodern period until the 1990s. Using innovative materials and construction methods such as computer-generated curves, laser cutting technology and 3D printing, contemporary architects often embrace rounded shapes, curved lines, unconventional volumes, asymmetry, and open floor plans. Sustainability is an important feature of contemporary architecture.

Beaux-Arts architecture

It is a style of building that emerged from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the late 1800s and spread to the United States during the Gilded Age. The Beaux-Arts buildings are grand, theatrical, and highly ornate. They are inspired by Roman and Greek classicism and French and Italian Renaissance and Baroque building styles, such as the Musée d’Orsay.

Notable American architects such as Richard Morris, HH Richardson and Charles McKim were educated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. And the Beaux-Arts style was adopted for major construction projects in the United States. We can cite examples such as:

  • the Library of Congress in Washington DC
  • important buildings like Grand Central Terminal
  • the main branch of the New York Public Library. Beaux-Arts architecture faded around 1930 with the onset of the Depression, rendering these displays of opulence out of reach and obsolete.

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