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The International Style of Architecture, also known as the Modernist Architecture, emerged in the 1920s and 1930s and was characterized by a focus on functional design and the use of new materials, such as steel and glass.

The style is known for its emphasis on clean lines, simple forms, and a lack of ornamentation. Some of the most well-known architects associated with the International Style include Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius.

The International Style had a significant impact on 20th-century architecture and continues to influence design to this day.


New architecture style that emerged in many western countries in the decade after world war in 19th century in France. It was based on the rational use of modern materials, the principle of functionalist planning, and the rejection of historical precedent and ornament.

This style has been generally designated as modern, although the labels international style and functionalism have also been used.


1) Modernism as a dominant style

  • By 1920s the most important figures in modern architecture have established then reputation. The big three as commonly recognized as Le Corbusier in France, Mies Vander Rohe and Walter Gropius in Germany.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s carrier parallels and influences the work of the European modernists, but he refused to be characterized with them.
  • Architects who worked in the international style wanted to break with architectural tradition and design simple and unornamented buildings. 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.

2) Form and materials

Others see modern architecture as primarily driven by technological and engineering development, and its plainly true that availability of new materials such as iron, steel, concrete and glass drove the invention of new building techniques as part of the industrial revolution.

3) Beginning of modernism (1890-1910)

  • Modernism emerged in the middle of the last century in France. It was a while later, and not so locally that modernism appeared in music and architecture.
  • The Avant-garde was what modernism was called at first, and the term remained to describe movements which identify themselves as attempting to overthrow some aspects of traditions.

4) Explosion of modernisms (1910-1930)

  • On the eve of world war 1st, a growing tension and unease with the social order began to break through. Seen in Russian revolution of 1905. In 1913, famed Russian composer composed Rite of spring for a ballet that depicted human sacrifice. And young painters like Pablo Picasso had only recently began causing a shock with their rejection of their traditional perspective. In the 19th century the various architects were not radicals but were instead valued members of the society.
  • International style as such blossomed in 1920s. Researchers find significant contemporary common ground. The work of Le Corbusier and various others resulted in the formation of European school and association concerned with craft tradition and industrial technology.

The big three architects of that period were Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Vander Rohe and Walter Gropius in Germany.

5) Modernism 2nd generation (1930-1945)

  • By 1930, modernism had entered popular culture and the increasing urbanization of population, it had begun making systematic challenges to previous art and ideas and was beginning to be looked to as the source for ideas to deal with the host of challenges faced in that particular historical movement.
  • One of the most visible changes of this period is the adoption of objects of modern production into daily life, electricity, the telephone, the automobile and repair, the need to work with them.

6) Modernism after 2nd world war (1945)

  • The shattering of Europe swept away many of the traditional forms of lifestyle and there was such a vast need of rebuilding, that everything had to be made new.
  • This period is often described as high modernism. The expansion of rail and road networks and vast building programmes by the need to command and control the new economy.

7) International styles in tall building

The typical international styles high rise buildings usually consist of the following

  1. Square or rectangular footprints.
  2. Simple cubic ”extruded rectangle form”.
  3. Windows running in broken horizontal rows forming a grid.
  4. All façade angles are 90 degrees.

8) Main architects

The main architects of this period are.

  • Lugwig Mies Vander Rohe.
  • Alvar Aalto.
  • Le Corbusier.
  • Philip Johnson.
  • Rudolf Schindler.
  • Richard Neutro.
  • Welton Becket

9) Characteristics of international styles of architecture

A rejection of ornament, Adoption of glass, Steel and concrete as preferred materials, the transparency of buildings and, thus, the construction (called the honest expression of structure), The construction (called the honest expression of structure), acceptance of industrialized mass-production techniques and the machine aesthetic, Acceptance of the automobile, Design decisions that logically support the function of the building, and a vague but exciting sense of the future.

i) Le Corbusier (1887-1965)

LE CORBUSIER (1887-1965)
  • He was a Swiss architect famous for what is now called modernism or the International Style, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Theo van Doesburg.
  • A pioneer in theoretical studies of modern design and dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities.
  • His career spanned five decades, with iconic buildings constructed across central Europe, India, Russia, and one structure in the United States.
  • He was also an urban planner, painter, sculptor, writer and furniture designer. His portrait is featured on the Swiss ten francs banknote, pictured with his distinctive eyeglasses
Le Corbusier’s works
Villa Savoye
  • It was, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (1929-1931) that most succinctly summed up his five points of architecture
  • Le Corbusier lifted the bulk of the structure off the ground, supporting it by pilotis–reinforced concrete stilts
  • These pilotis, in providing the structural support for the house, allowed him to elucidate his next two points:
  1. a free façade, meaning non-supporting walls that could be designed as the architect wished.
  2. an open floor plan, meaning that the floor space was free to be configured into rooms without concern for supporting walls.
  • The second floor of the Villa Savoye includes long strips of ribbon windows that allow unencumbered views of the large surrounding yard, and which constitute the fourth point of his system
  • A ramp rising from the ground level to the third-floor roof terrace (the fifth point) allows for an architectural promenade through the structure.
Notre Dame du Haut
  • The Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut, a shrine for the Catholic Church at Ronchamp, France was built for a reformist Church looking to continue its relevancy
  • it departs from his principles of standardization and the machine aesthetic
  • The building itself is a comparatively small structure enclosed by thick walls, with the upturned roof supported on columns embedded within the walls.
  • In the interior, the spaces left between the wall and roof, as well as the asymmetric light from the wall openings serve to further reinforce the sacral nature of the space and buttress the relationship of the building with its surroundings.
  • It is renowned for its simple aesthetic and curvalinear artistic expression, along with the size and layout of windows, which were based on his modulor, on the buildings’ perimeter which fill the chapel space with dim, but compelling light.

ii) Mies Vander Rohe (1886-1969)

MIES VAN DER ROHE (1886-1969)
  • He was the leading architect of the modernist style
  • He admired the broad proportions and cubic volumes of early nineteenth century Prussian Neo-Classical architecture.
  • After World War I, Mies began to turn away from traditional styles, and joined his avant-garde peers in the search for a new style for a new era.
  • Mies adopted an ambitious lifelong mission to create not only a new style, but also a new architecture that would represent a new epoch just as Gothic architecture did for the middle-ages.
Mies Vander Rohe’s works
Barcolena pavillion
  • With the Pavilion Mies succeeded in his vision of a modern building with a free spatial flow, built with glass, steel and four kinds of marble.

iii) Alvar Aalto


Alvar Aalto received international acclaim early in his career with the completion of the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium. It proved his dominance of the international style. The patient’s rooms, with their specially designed heating, lighting and furniture, including the Paimio chair that assisted patient breathing, are models of integrated environmental design. 

Painio tuberculosis senatorium

It is located in the province of Western Finland and is part of the Finland Proper region. The municipality has a population of 9,808 and covers an area of 240.15 km² of which 0.83 km² is water. The population density is 40.98 inhabitants per km².

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