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