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International Style and Expressionism – Modern Architecture (Part-2)

International style developed between 1920 and 1930 and was closely related to Modern architecture. The style emerged in Germany, Holland, and France and spread throughout the world.

Glass curtain wall is a most common feature adopted in International Style.

Characteristics and Features of International Style

  • Free plans
  • Rectilinear forms
  • Interlocking spaces
  • The emphasis of volume over mass
  • Universality
  • Light-weight materials
  • Mass production of Industrial materials – Steel, concrete, and glass
  • Dematerialization
  • Piloti or Piers ( Stilted structures)
  • Lack of ornamentation and color
  • Repetitive modular forms
  • Flat surfaces

Examples of International Style

1. Villa Savoye

International style
Image source: flickr.com
  • Building: Villa Savoye
  • Function/Use: Villa
  • Location: Poissy, Paris, France
  • Date of construction: 1928-31
  • Architect: Le Corbusier
  • Key Features: Five points of new architecture
  • Materials Used: Reinforced concrete
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Structure: Villa Savoye is one of the finest and most renowned examples of International style in which Le Corbusier excels in his design with his “five points.” The five points include:
    • Pilotis – elevating the building from the earth
    • Free ground floor – ground floor for parking and greenery
    • Free façade – separation of load-bearing columns from the walls
    • Ribbon window – Long horizontal windows for ventilation
    • Terrace garden – Roof serving as a garden
  • Façade: The design of the villa explores the relationship between surface and volume. Modularity, pure color, simplicity, and lack of ornamentation are other key features of this villa.

2. German Pavilion

International style
Image source: flickr.com
  • Building: German Pavilion
  • Function/Use: Exhibition building
  • Location: Barcelona, Spain
  • Date of construction: 1928 – 29
  • Architect: Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe
  • Key Features: Simple form and spectacular use of materials and water bodies
  • Materials Used: Polished stone, glass, steel frame
  • Structure: The built form is simplistic and emphasizes horizontal and vertical lines depicting solids and voids as well as the presence of a water body that compliments the built form.
  • Façade: The pavilion was designed bare only as a structure to exhibit art with only a single sculpture, a specially designed chair as well as a water feature that finely reflects the pavilion.

3. Farnsworth House

International style
Image source: wikipedia.org
  • Building: Farnsworth House
  • Function/Use: one room weekend retreat
  • Location: Plano, Illinois
  • Date of construction: 1945 – 51
  • Architect: Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe
  • Key Features: Simple cuboidal form
  • Materials Used: Steel frame structure, glass curtain wall
  • Universal Value: U.S. National Register of Historic Places, U.S. National Historic Landmark
  • Structure: Farnsworth house is one of the finest examples of International style with its simple cuboidal form built of steel frame structure and glass curtain wall. It is elevated 1.6m high from the ground by steel columns.
  • Façade: The façade is painted in pure white color and the glass curtain wall that runs from floor to ceiling blends the interior with the exterior of the building. The elevated deck, horizontal slabs, and the glass in combination with nature appear to be visually lightweight.

4. S.R. Crown Hall

International style
Image source: docomomo-chicago.org
  • Building: S.R. Crown Hall
  • Function/Use: IIT Campus
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Date of construction: 1950-56
  • Architect: Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe
  • Key Features: Simple cuboidal form
  • Materials Used: Steel structural frames, glass walls
  • Universal Value: U.S. National Register of Historic Places, U.S. National Historic Landmark
  • Structure: The structure is designed in a simple cuboidal form with an emphasis on industrial materials of exposed steel structural frames and glass walls.
  • Façade: Architect Mies Van der Rohe refined the basic steel and glass into an appealing simplistic and openness for end users. This was achieved by pure rectangular form, raised platform, suspended roof, equal division of steel frames, and free-flowing plan.

Monolithic Style

The monolithic style is an extension of the International style where the form is given prominence and emphasis in this style. The structures vary in different forms such as cuboidal, twin cuboidal, circular, grape-bunch (Repetitive of a single form), and Metastasis.

Architectural Features

  • Monolithic – one and unified geometric form
  • The form is given emphasis than the function
  • Buildings are categorized into clusters

Examples of Monolithic Style

1. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)(Cuboidal)

Image source: wikipedia.org
  • Building: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • Function/Use: Art Museum
  • Location: Manhattan, New York City
  • Date of construction: 1929
  • Architect: Philip Goodwin
  • Key Features: Cuboidal form
  • Materials Used: Concrete, Brick, Glass curtain wall
  • Structure and Façade: The structure is a box-like form with extensions and cantilevers – the features adhering to the International style. The landscape elements are also designed using geometrical forms that blend with the visual language of the building.

2. Lake Shore Drive Apartments (Twin Cuboidal)

Image source: archdaily.com
  • Building: Lake Shore Drive Apartments
  • Function/Use: Apartment towers
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Date of construction: 1949-51
  • Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Key Features: Twin cuboidal form in glass and steel
  • Materials Used: Glass and steel
  • Structure and Façade: Two cuboidal structures (26 floors ) are arranged at a 90-degree angle and are shared by common facilities. They are built using grids of steel and glass curtain walls and completely lack ornamentation.

Other examples include

Borodino Panorama Building (Circular) Image source – Wikipedia
Kimbell art Museum ( Grape bunch – repeated forms) Image source – Wikipedia
Sainte Marie de la Tourette (Metastasis form); Image source: fondationlecorbusier.fr


Expressionism was born to design that evokes emotion. It was predominant in Europe during the first decades of the 21st century. It was a conception of architecture as a work of art.

Architectural Features

  • Distortion of forms to evoke emotion
  • Dramatic gestures of form
  • Expressive form through abstraction of arts
  • Free-flowing organic forms
  • Non-geometry
  • Mixture of colors
  • Expression of artists by artwork
  • Mixture of colors
  • Monolithic material choices

Examples of Expressionism

1. Einstein Observatory Tower

Image source: architecture-history.org
  • Building: Einstein Observatory Tower
  • Function/Use: Observatory
  • Location: Albert Einstein science park, Potsdam, Germany
  • Date of construction: 1919-21
  • Architect: Erich Mendelsohn
  • Key Features: Expressive and organic form
  • Materials Used: Brick, Stucco
  • Structure and façade: The design of the structure reflects Einstein’s groundbreaking theories. The building is designed as a research facility that focuses on the theory of relativity. Mendelsohn depicted that the form evolved from the “mystique around Einstein’s universe”. The building form curves and bends (twists and turns), as if rising from the landscape. Windows appear to be carved from the surface.

2. Second Goetheanum

Image source: metalocus.es
  • Building: Goetheanum
  • Function/Use: Centre for Anthroposophical Movement
  • Location: Dornach, Switzerland
  • Date of construction: 1924-28
  • Architect: Rudolf Steiner
  • Key Features: sweeping and organic form
  • Materials Used: cast concrete
  • Structure and façade: The building’s sweeping and monolithic form explores the potential qualities of reinforced concrete. It appears as a cave from the outside with rectilinear curves. It constitutes library, galleries, and auditorium spaces.

3. Grundtvig’s Church

Image source: flickr.com
  • Building: Grundtvig’s Church
  • Function/Use: Church
  • Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Date of construction: 1927 – 1940
  • Architect: Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint
  • Key Features: Facade’s strong verticality
  • Materials Used: Brick and other traditional building materials
  • Structure and façade: The church is a rare example of expressionist-style architecture. The church exhibits a strong vertical façade that draws our eye toward heaven. Klint merged the modern geometric forms of brick expressionism with the classical vertical of Gothic architecture.

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