Dozens of architectural designs have been employed over the centuries that are often aesthetically pleasing but hardly practical for modern living. Today’s building designs are heavily influenced by what is called the Chicago School of Architecture, a late-19th-century movement led by such men as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. This movement ushered in the modern skyscraper and residential style of simple, symmetrical interior and exterior designs that are also functional.
Modern architecture follows the simple design philosophy that “form follows function.” Modernist styles employ simple forms that are more related to functional uses but still pleasing to the eye. It’s the current popular architectural design used today mostly in commercial buildings in urban centers and suburban areas, according to greatbuildings.com.
Romanesque is a relatively modern interpretation of the architecture found in medieval Europe. Gothic styling and circular and pointed arches are primary components. Architect Henry Hobson Richardson designed Boston’s Trinity Church, which was built from 1872-1877, as a testament to Romanesque design, according to greatbuildings.com.
Victorian architecture was popular from about 1837 to 1901 and named for the reign of England’s Queen Victoria. It employs a combination of brick, sandstone and wood to execute eclectic flourishes, gingerbread styling, circular turrets and elaborate dormers. George Wyman’s 1889-1893 Bradbury Building in Los Angeles is a prime example, according to greatbuildings.com and victoriastation.com.
Art Deco personified the 1920s and 1930s decorative movement that was popularized in graphic design, automobiles and even wristwatches. Art Deco’s sweeping, if not majestic, lines defined industrial design. New York’s Chrysler and Empire State buildings illustrate the height of the movement, according to greatbuildings.com and archiseek.com.
Chicago architect Louis Sullivan employed early modern architecture that used elements of Neo-Gothic and Scottish Baronial designs as well as the Beaux-Arts movement in 19th-century France. These designs were overly ornamental and were not styled for practical use. Early Modernism bloomed, however, during the Industrial Revolution when materials for aesthetically pleasing designs could be inexpensively produced. Sullivan executed modern skyscraper designs, but provided Beaux-Arts flourishes at the top of some buildings, such as St. Louis’ 1890 Wainwright Building, according to jan.ucc.nau.edu.
Art Nouveau is very much the antithesis of Victorian architecture by resisting clutter or eclectic designs with well-composed lines and arches similar to Arts and Crafts. Popular in the 1880s and 1890s, much of the decorative moldings are harmonized and derived from floral or other plant forms. It also adopted shell stylings that ultimately helped influence the Art Deco movement, according to greatbuildings.com.
Arts and Crafts
The Arts and Crafts Movement, also known as Craftsman, originated chiefly among American architects from about 1880 and 1910. Applied most often to single family residences, these homes were immensely popular in California for its inexpensive wood construction, cross-ventilation system and decorative elements used in Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It also influenced interior design and furniture styling that remains popular today. The 1909 Gamble House in Pasadena, Calif., is an example of a Craftsman home, according to greatbuildings.com.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.