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What are the characteristics of modern architecture?

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Quick Answer

Modernism is often characterized by its plain geometric forms and its emphasis on the layout, location and function of the structures themselves. Modern architecture emerged in the late 19th century and began to reach maturity and acceptance in the early 20th century.

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Layout and location are key in modernist design. Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright used the plot of land to influence the design and layout. Rather than simply placing the building on top of the land, the construction uses the physical features of the land as a starting point to connect the interior and exterior designs. For example, architects use rooms that open onto patios and glass walls to create a more seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

One of the main features of modern architecture is simplicity in design and form. Homes are stripped down to the basics to show the architectural elements of the home itself; rather than focusing on the decor or detailing work, the focus is on the space as a whole. Modern design encourages homes to be clean, functional and simple. The inner workings of the home tend to be visible: beams and other structural elements are exposed to the viewer.

Modern architecture also features linear elements. Lines are highly important in the design, and the physical elements of the building, such as beams, posts, windows, staircases and fireplaces, are used to assist the creation of a linear space. The lines are typically straight and angled, and roof lines are bold. Homes often have multiple roof lines at varying levels. The exterior design of the home isn't simply functional but artistic.

Modern architecture focuses on open floor plans with fewer walls, creating a space in which the living, dining and kitchen areas are all combined. Sometimes fireplaces are used as an accent. Windows are used in the design to bring in light. Modern homes often have floor-to-ceiling or above-eye-level windows and sliding doors to bring in more natural light, and the building materials tend to be left in their organic state.

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