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International Style

Related: minimalism - modern architecture - modernist architecture - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - Bauhaus

World Trade Center: designed by Japanese American architect Minoru Yamasaki with Antonio Brittiochi, a late implementation of the International Style, the WTC had its ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 4, 1973.

Key era: 1920s - 1930s


The International Style was a major architectural trend of the 1920s and 1930s. The basic design principles of the International Style are identical with those of modernism, but the term usually refers to the buildings and architects of the formative decades of modernism, before World War II. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_style_%28architecture%29 [Jan 2006]

International style, also known as the Modern movement, is a primarily American offshoot of Bauhaus architecture that was exported to various parts of the world. International style was a major architectural trend in the 1920s and 1930s and is considered the most minimal form of modernism.

International style was influenced by German and Dutch movements of Bauhaus, de Stijl and the Deutscher Werkbund. In 1927, one of the first and most defining manifestations of the international style was the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart as a component of the exhibition "Die Wohnung," organized by the Deutscher Werkbund. Major participants were:

Many of its ideas and ideals were formalized by the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne. Some of its most important architects (including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) fled the upcoming Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s and moved to the United States, which caused the International Style to spread worldwide.

The term international style came from the title of a book by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, written in 1932. In that same year, the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City spread the ideals of the style, making it one of the dominant architectural movements of the mid-20th Century.

Architects who worked in the international style wanted to break with architectural tradition and design simple, unornamented buildings. The most commonly used materials are glass for the facade, steel for exterior support, and concrete for the floors and interior supports; floor plans were functional and logical. The style became most evident in the design of skyscrapers. Perhaps its most famous/notorious manifestations include the United Nations headquarters and the Seagram Building in New York.

Detractors of the international style claim that its stark, uncompromisingly rectangular geometry is dehumanising. Le Corbusier once described buildings as "machines for living", but people are not machines and do not want to live in machines. Even Philip Johnson admitted he was "bored with the box." Since the early 1980s many architects have deliberately sought to move away from strictly geometrical designs. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_style_%28architecture%29 [Aug 2004]

The Barcelona Pavilion

The Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was the German Pavilion for the 1929 World's Fair in Barcelona. It was an important building in the history of modern architecture, known for its simple form and extravagant material, such as marble and travertine.

The building stood on a large podium alongside a pool. The structure itself consisted of eight steel posts supporting a flat roof, with curtain glass walling and a handful of paritition walls. The overall impression is of perpendicular planes in three dimensions forming a cool, luxurious space.

The Pavilion was demolished at the end of the exhibition, but a copy has since been built on the same site. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcelona_Pavilion [Feb 2005]


  • International Style: Modernist Architecture from 1925 to 1965 [1 book, Amazon US]
    "Modern architecture is not a new branch of an old tree - it is an altogether new shoot rising beside the old roots." Thus Walter Gropius, one of the pioneers of modern architecture, on the radical departures of the 20th century. In the 1930s, the term International Style came into use to describe a new form of architecture evolved from Bauhaus and its conviction that "form follows function". Until the 1980s, International Style set the standard in modern building, with its logical formal idiom and rational solutions to construction problems. Combining steel, glass and concrete, it established an aesthetic founded on the sheer thrill of pushing to the limits of technical and economic viability. Hence the exhil-arating skylines of metropolises worldwide - but also the desolate anonymity of modern suburban environments. This book traces the exciting evolution of a style while examining the individual and regional forms it took, and analyses the ideals and realities of architectural visions of utopia. [...]
  • The International Style - Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson [Amazon US] This work sets out to describe the aesthetic qualities intrinsic to the work of such architects as Le Corbusier, Oud, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. The authors observed the distinguishing features that made possible a definition of a new "style": emphasis on volume as opposed to mass; regularity as opposed to symmetry; and dependence on the intrinsic elegance of materials as opposed to applied decoration. First published in 1932 to coincide with an architectural exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, this reissue contains a new foreword by Philip Johnson reflecting on the impact of these principles over 60 years after they were first set forth.

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