The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Architecture and Design

What is the International Style?

The International Style of architecture, sometimes referred to as International Modernism, began in France, the Netherlands, and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. It spread across countries around the globe, but is most associated with Europe and the United States. It lasted until the 1970s as the preeminent modernist mode of building design. The International Style was inspired by Cubism, de Stijl, and elements of the Arts and Crafts movement. Architects working within the movement include Walter Gropius (first director of the Bauhaus), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Cor-busier, and sometimes Frank Lloyd Wright, whose later works were inspired by the International Style. Buildings such as Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (built in the village of Poissy, outside of Paris, France, between 1920 and 1931) reflect the International Style’s emphasis on flat, rectilinear forms, simple decoration, and open interiors.

In 1932, an exhibition called “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York helped to promote the International Style on a large scale (and gave the movement its name). Practitioners of the movement embraced industrialism and mass-produced materials such as stone, concrete, and glass. The style evolved over the course of the following decades to include monolithic glass-covered skyscrapers such as the Lakeshore Drive Apartments, designed between 1948 and 1951 in Chicago by van der Rohe, and the Seagram Building in New York (1954–1958) also designed by van der Rohe, with Philip Johnson.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and opened in 1959. The shape of the museum has been described as an inverted ziggurat.


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