Society - Culture
By: - at June 15, 2015

15 Amazing Architectural Style Types From Old to Modern

Architectural style is a form of construction as well as an overall aesthetic design that changes over time. Styles can also include the materials that are used to create the buildings, as well as any regional character. Most architecture can be dated by the style in which it was made and how it appears due to changing fashions and the evolving nature of human design.


Throughout history, we see new designs appear as well as traditional designs reappearing with modern twists. Styles can easily spread to other places, and so, as the style begins to move, it also begins to change, creating a wealth of styles that span the world. Then, when a style has gone out of fashion, it will often be revived, which was seen with classicism, which later became neoclassicism. We have listed 15 of the most significant architectural styles from the last 300 years that have gradually become the style that we have today.

15)  Neoclassical
Neoclassical is a term that means ‘new’ classical, and the architectural style takes influence from the buildings found in Greece and Rome. If you look at neoclassical buildings, it is easy to see a number of features that reflect the designs that we used in Ancient Greece. Some features include domed roofs and tall columns.

Cathedral of Vilnius
Cathedral of Vilnius
By Juliux via Wikimedia Commons

Neoclassicism first appeared in Europe as a movement in the 18th century. It was at this time, the Age of Enlightenment, that theater, literature and the visual arts began booming, and in turn, architecture began expressing the artistic endeavors of the people.

This reincarnated classical style soon spread from Europe and was adopted in American colonies, which is why today, you can see a huge neoclassical influence on many early 20th century American buildings. Thomas Jefferson, one of the most famous founding fathers of the United States, even used neoclassical design when he was designing the structure of the new nation, the United States.


14)  Federal Architecture
Federal architecture is a style that was used predominantly in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The name ‘Federal architecture’ comes from the fact that it appeared during the Federal Period, and the term Federal style is also used to explain the style of furniture that was created in the United States during the early 1800s.

Old Town Hall, Salem, Massachusetts
Federal Architecture
By Fletcher6 via Wikimedia Commons

Federal Architecture can be compared to the classicism of Biedermeier styles. This form of architecture is often compared to the architecture of the French and the British, during the time of the British Empire.

Hamilton Hall, Salem, Massachusetts
By Fletcher6 via Wikimedia Commons

In early America, Federal Architecture was immensely popular, and it combined the symmetry of Georgian architecture with the designs of neoclassical architecture. The first Federal style project to be undertaken by founding father Thomas Jefferson was the University of Virginia, which began work in 1817. The library of the university was designed around the Pantheon of Rome. Later, Thomas Jefferson used the Federal style to plan the capital city, and today, Washington DC is the best example of what Federal style architecture is all about.

13)  Russian Revival
Russian Revival architecture refers to a number of different movements that existed in Russia during the middle of the 19th century. This kind of architecture included a number of styles that were being tried, with a view to creating a new artistic direction for the nation. The revival style became particularly popular when national architecture once again became significant in the country, and it later began influencing Europe in the same century.

Thon's Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Thon's Cathedral of Christ the Savior
By Alex Zelenko via Wikimedia Commons

The styles of famous buildings like Thon’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior became influential across the world. Often, the revival style is called Old-Russian architecture, but in reality, the style took little influence from the old architecture of the country. Instead, a number of new styles were thought up by architects, and these ideas were combined with the romanticism of the early 19th century, creating the grand and often eccentric designs of national buildings.

Igumnov House
Igumnov House

During the period of the Russian Revival, a vast number of Russian Orthodox Churches began being built. Huge cathedrals started being built in, not just the big cities and wealthy areas, but also working-class areas in the nation. Remote locations were chosen with a view to expanding the reach of the church, and the designs of the church were a symbol of the significance of the religion, and thought to be an attempt at attracting new people to the religion.

12)  Victorian
Victorian architecture takes the name of the Victorian era, which was the time when Queen Victoria ruled in the late 1800s, until her death in 1901. The style spread across the world, and was found in the British colonies. The United Kingdom, Northern India and even some Islamic countries began adopting the styles.

Central Hall of the Natural History Museum in London
 Natural History Museum in London
By Minn Pongpaibul via Wikimedia Commons

Famous Victorian architects included Charles Jones, John Low and William Mangnall, and these famous designers began using a number of materials that, previously, had not been used. For instance, iron and glass played a huge role in Victorian architecture. A good example of this would be the Palm House in the famous British Kew Gardens, which is a large Victorian glass building.

Palm House
Palm House
By Trevor Harris via Wikimedia Commons

Iron and stone were combined in many instances, too, with the Victorian Railway Station design being a great example of how this was done. The influence of Victorian architecture spread to near enough all forms of buildings, not only in the United Kingdom and India, but also the United States. Post offices, hospitals, legal offices, fountains, cemeteries, factories, homes and churches were all designed with the Victorian style in mind during the late 1800s.

11)  Queen Anne Style
Queen Anne style architecture is a set of British designs that were used during the reign of Queen Anne, but were later revived and became significant in the early 20th century. The style includes a number of features, like stone quoins that emphasize the corners of buildings. There are also rows of windows on buildings and a large sweep of stairs at the front of a building that leads up to a stone door-case.

Carson Mansion
Carson Mansion
By LostDogPhotos via Wikimedia Commons

The Queen Anne style is very different in the United States, however. In the US, Queen Anne style is a term used to describe the non-Gothic Revival buildings. The Queen Anne style became popular in New York City, and later became popular across the United States. The style took some influence from the English style, but it generally included overhanging eaves, round and square towers, Dutch gables, porches and asymmetrical facades.

Australian Queen Anne Style
Australian Queen Anne Style

The style is most significant in the United Kingdom and became immensely popular when it was revived in the early 1900s. Many popular Queen Anne style buildings had a large amount of windows symmetrical to one another, and often these windows were simply oblong in shape.

10)  Shingle Style
Shingle style architecture is an American style that was popular from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. The style was made popular due to the rise of New England style architecture which combined styles taken from Queen Anne buildings and Eastlake style architecture. There was also an English influence in these buildings, which generally features flat and shingled surfaces. The houses had a general horizontal shape, making the most of the land beneath the home, as opposed to building upwards.

Watts-Sherman House
Shingle Style

Shingle style houses were considerably similar to colonial houses, and some architects designed the buildings to look as if they were older than they really were. For this reason, many architects used cedar shakes that had been dipped in buttermilk, which left a grey and weather look on the façade of the house.

Victorian Shingle Style Architecture
shingle style
By Burnhamandroot via Wikimedia Commons

9)  American Renaissance
The American Renaissance was a period in history that was characterized by an increase in the creation of literature, arts and a greater interest in architecture. This was a period that began in 1876 and into the early 1900s, and as a result, a whole new style of architecture appeared in the United States that remained popular throughout the 1900s.

American Renaissance Painted Decor
American Renaissance

It was during this time that the Americans felt that their civilization was uniquely modern, and that as a result, it deserved a new artistic theme. This resulted in a new American style of art, literature and architecture that took influence from everything they had already embraced as a nation.

Bankers Trust Building
Bankers Trust Building

The architecture was in fact largely based on the architecture that was shown at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in the year 1893. The American Renaissance, though short lived, was later revived in terms of academic interest in 1979 by the Brooklyn Museum.

8)  American Craftsman
American Craftsman is not solely an architectural style, but is an artistic movement that appeared in the United States in the 1930s. This movement involved architecture and interior design, as well as decorative and applied arts, philosophy and landscape designing. This movement resulted in a whole new theme of housing and restoration projects.

American Craftsman
By David Sawyer via Wikimedia Commons

During this period, common features of buildings included mixed materials and handcrafted woodwork and stonework. There were also double-hung windows and overhanging eaves (much like the American Queen Anne style), as well as low-pitched rooflines and front porches that were found under the main roof. Square columns were also a popular feature on American Craftsman homes.

American Craftsman
By Brian K. Chatham via Wikimedia Commons

This form of architecture also appeared due to the increase of middle class citizens who were spending more on their homes and moving to wealthier suburban areas.

7)  Nordic Classicism
Nordic Classicism is a form of architecture that was not so popular in the United States, but became immensely influential in the Nordic countries. Throughout Denmark, Norway, Finland and other nearby countries, between 1910 and the 1930s, Nordic Classicism became one of the primary building styles for homes and public buildings. This was no single phenomenon that took place in just one specific area, but instead, it became hugely fashionable and took inspiration from previous architecture in Nordic countries.

Parliament of Finland Building
Nordic Classicism
By Jyrki Kasvi via Wikimedia Commons

There was a modernist influence that didn’t just influence the plain aesthetics with curves combined with angles. Instead, the building techniques were also completely modern. The new style of building, town planning and appearance of buildings is largely credited to the ideological shift towards the left in the political sphere during these decades.

Haugesund Townhouse, Norway
Nordic Classicism
By Sjoehest via Wikimedia Commons

It was during the 1930s, however, that Nordic Classicism lost its charm to many and became unpopular. The Stockholm exhibition was held in 1930, and it was here that purist Modernism was unveiled to the general public. This new form of design and structure was chosen as the way forward for Nordic countries that were intending to the lead the way in modern society.

6)  Bauhaus
Bauhaus was a school in Germany that took interest in the fine arts and crafts in general, and between its operation from 1919 to 1933, it became hugely influential in German construction. The word Bauhaus is German for ‘house of construction’, and the organization was intended to be a ‘School of Building’.

Bauhaus Building in Dessau, Germany

The school was created by Walter Gropius who was an architect, but paradoxically, the school did not have any kind of formal architectural department in its first few years of existence. It was only later that it began considering architecture as an area of the arts. The school only began offering classes in architecture in 1927, and the influence can still be seen in many standing buildings across Germany.

While at first the architectural focus considered a more modern approach to design important, it later became more focused on function instead of appearance. One of the most important commissions from the school was an apartment building called Laubenganghauser, but these projects never began appearing until the 1930s.

By M_H.DE via Wikimedia Commons

The Bauhaus had a huge impact on the design of architectural projects across the whole of Europe, and later, Canada and the United States. Architects started utilizing space better than they had before, simplifying exterior aesthetics and ensuring that buildings were as efficient as possible, in true German style.

5)  Fascist Architecture
Fascist architecture is a style of building that appeared in the early 20th Century with the rise of numerous fascist civilizations. The style became particularly popular in the 1920s as nationalism rose across Western Europe, and the style can be compared to the architecture of Ancient Rome. The fascist era considered symmetry incredibly important in building, and there was no sense of ornateness in the buildings build under the rule of Mussolini or Hitler.

New Reichchancellory Berlin, Germany
By Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

Today, fascist architecture is hard to find as most of it has been destroyed, but some examples still remain. The style of architecture was initially made to reflect the values of the fascist ideology, which was concerned with being a strong and disciplined people. Morality was important, and so, the buildings of the era reflected an organized people.

By Luis Fernández García via Wikimedia Commons

Fascist architecture is actually a branch of modernist architecture that became popular in the 20th century. The style is also influenced by the Italians of the 1920s. Nazi Germany had particularly large architecture, as architects decided that space must be used efficiently, and of course, the larger the building was, the grander it appeared. Aesthetics were incredibly important under fascist rule, as can be seen with Nazi uniforms and Hitler’s swastika.

4)  Art Deco
Art Deco is a style of art and architecture that boomed in the 1930s. The style became less popular after the Second World War, but the significance of the style can be seen in buildings across the world, that still stand today. One particularly recognizable example of Art Deco architecture is the Chrysler Building in New York City, which was completed in 1930. The tower has a large spire with an Art Deco triangular design.

Chrysler Building
Chrysler Building

Historians have suggested that Art Deco can be traced back as far as 1900, during the Universal Exposition, which was a group of artists who promoted French crafts. However, the ‘official’ date of the birth of Art Deco is 1925, when the International Exhibition of Art Decorations and Modern Industry was held in France.

In Art Deco, geometric forms are particularly important. Shapes are used to create designs, and a range of new materials was used in the in architecture. For instance, stainless steel, Bakelite and chrome became commonly used in objects designed in the style of Art Deco, as well as in architecture. Stained glass was very popular on doors of Art Deco-inspired building, and the style became popular across the globe. In fact, Art Deco did more than just influence architecture. The style became recognizable in fashion, graphic arts, cinema and industrial design. Railway stations and ocean liners were designed with Art Deco in mind, as well as jewelry and even toiletries.

Bullocks Willshire
Bullocks Willshire
By Antoine Taveneaux via Wikimedia Commons

The boom in Art Deco design disappeared after WWII, but soon became popular again in the 1960s, once again influencing fashion and jewelry.

3)  Modernism
Modernism was an aesthetic movement that resulted in what we call modern architecture, today. Modern architecture can be recognized due to its lack of decoration that was seen in classicism, neoclassicism and other forms of traditional architecture.

Seagram Building, New York

Modern architecture appeared in the early 20th century but became significant in the middle of the century. The concept became particularly popular after the Second World War as architects were looking to recreate buildings that were looked inexpensively and as simply as possible. The designs were considered bold, despite lacking the traditional applied decorations of times gone by.

Some of the most recognizable architects who dealt with modern architecture include Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier and Lugwid Miles van der Rohe.

Brazil's National Congress

Some of the most recognizable characteristics of modern architecture include an emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines, and the use of perpendicular angles. Simplicity is a key feature of modern architecture, as well as the visual expression of the structure of the building, instead of trying to hide structural elements, which was common under classicism. Modern architecture also made no effort to make different materials look as if they were in fact the same.

2)  Postmodernist
Postmodernist is much different to modernism, and it first became significant in the 1950s. This style did not, however, become a full-scale movement until the 1970s. Today, postmodernism still influences the building of new structures.

The postmodernist movement became in the 1960s in the United States and soon spread across Europe and to the rest of the world. The aim of the movement was to react to modernism, in that it tried to deal with the limitations that modernism created. It was said that postmodernism attempted to communicate ideas in a witty way, which seemed to make no sense to many modernist architects of the time.

Sony Building, New York
Sony Building, New York
By David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons

The communication, however, came by ‘referencing’ architectural styles from the past, and this often meant including influences from a wide range of architectural styles of the past. Postmodernism also took away the focus of functionalism and decide that buildings did not just need to be physically comfortable, but also needed to be appealing to the human eye in order to be a success.

By Zereshk via Wikimedia Commons

Some of the most common characteristics of postmodernist architecture include unique forms and the implementation of an ‘anything goes’ attitude. Architects had no set rules or definitions for buildings they created, which often results in buildings that simply have never been built before. Walls were no longer straight, bridges no longer entirely horizontal and windows no longer flat. Structural definition depended entirely on the ideas that individual architects had.

This lack of set definitions in postmodernism meant that architecture found across the world could not be traced to any specific era, and there was no longer a trend in architecture within cities and suburban areas.

1)  Structural Expressionism
Structural expressionism is one of the most modern forms of architecture, and it is often referred to as high-tech architecture. This style of building design emerged in the 1970s, and today still has a huge influence on how we design and create buildings and structures.

One of the defining features of structural expressionism is that the structure is revealed on the outside, taking some inspiration from the postmodernist movement. There is often no attempt to hide the inner structure of the buildings, and in fact the steel skeletons of buildings are often used for aesthetic purposes on the outside of the structure.

Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto
By paul via Wikimedia Commons

Many structural elements on the outside don’t even appear to have any real purpose, but it is all in the name of the design. Initially, these kinds of buildings were made in Europe and North America, but today they can be found all over the world. The design is thought to be connected with the Second School of Chicago. This is a movement that pioneered new forms of structures in buildings, and created a wide range of building styles that can now be seen across the United States.

Lloyds Building

By Mcginnly via Wikimedia Commons

The aim of structural expressionism was to replace modern architecture with something more visually appealing. The movement created buildings with exaggerated technical elements, with the likes of the John Hancock Tower showing a patterned skeleton rising in an angular double helix, right to the top of the building. Structural expressionism is also considered orderly, and can today be found all across cities like Hong Kong.

Over time, styles change, and while structural expressionism and postmodernism are the two primary designs that we see in the 21st century, that is not to say that the styles will not continue to change. As society changes, new artistic influences emerge and past trends begin to reappear, it is logical to suggest that the many styles we have seen throughout the last 100 years will begin to reappear.

This could mean that, even in a democratic society, we could see a return to fascist architecture. The 2030s may see a return to the Art Deco style of buildings, and we may even see a return to neoclassicism in the near future. That being said, we may also see brand new styles appearing developed by pioneering contemporary artists and schools.





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