The term “modern” provokes such strong reactions in the world of residential architecture. Some people might envision wonderful homes of steel and glass with flowing floor plans; others may imagine houses that feel like woods.
Strong opinions abound about modern structure, as they do regarding the wide variety of other architectural styles.
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Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the term “modern” as “Of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past.” Additional dictionaries include, “as opposed to the distant past” into the end of this definition.
What exactly represents present and immediate past (within the scope of modern) or distant past (beyond the scope of modern)? The answer is not measured in years but in advancements of technology and building methods that create lifestyle changes. For example, Native Americans constructed with rock and adobe since that was the technology that was available. Yet, because the industrial revolution, continuous technological advances have led to constant lifestyle changes, impacting modern design.
Modern is about today — what’s current — not the past. Contemporary structure is a picture, like a photograph, that timelessly represents the gift.
How can modern structure represent its time?
Our lives today are considerably different than the lives of 50 years ago, let alone the lives from 100 or 200 years ago. Architecture must represent the way we live today, not the way we lived hundreds of years ago. Recall parlors? Not many would. All these were sitting rooms common a hundred years ago where guests were greeted. Our lifestyle changed, and parlors were weeded out.
The picture shown here is a modern floor plan. Note the excellent room — kitchen, dining room and living room all in one area. No formal dining room, no excess fat. Trim. Lean.
Materials and Technologies
Five hundred years ago, Native Americans constructed with adobe and Europeans constructed with rock. Homes had thick walls, small and deep-set windows, and little interior rooms. Technologies like steel later allowed substantial expanses of space and massive expanses of glass.
This photograph shows Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. Finished 62 years ago, the Farnsworth House is a terrific example of how modern materials in the 1950s, for example steel, influenced modern design. The Farnsworth home is characteristic of its present, our immediate past, and is still considered modern for today.
Aluminum permitted for large expanses of cheap operable glass. The Case Study House was created while we figured out the way to execute postwar technology.
This photograph shows a Case Study Home made by Charles and Ray Eames: spacious interior spaces; spacious expanses of glass.
Sutton Suzuki Architects
Using steel permitted a link to the outdoors in the interior that wasn’t previously possible.
Engineered lumber and structural steel enable massive expanses of unencumbered space.
Arkin Tilt Architects
Nowadays, with energy-efficiency concerns, substances like structural insulated panels (SIPs) are significant together with new procedures of prefabricated construction. Homes can be constructed in factories, decreasing waste and the various inefficiencies of additional building practices.
This job employs many modern energy-efficient solutions, such as solar panels, SIPs and straw bale to weave together a modern home.
Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects
a couple of years before, a magazine dedicated an whole issue to Tuscan architecture. The difficulty was, the style supposed to be Tuscan was only a normal home wrapped in a skin that was weathered. For six months my telephone rang with potential customers asking for Tuscan architecture.
True architecture from Tuscany represents its place and environment. Tuscany has an ecology and easily available materials and stones. Tuscany has a history and a context. It makes sense to look a house in the Sonoran Desert.
Here is a modern courtyard similar to the wonderful courtyards of authentic Tuscan architecture, demonstrating that one can apply principles of good design, irrespective of how ancient the structure might be, in a modern context.
Avoiding trends gives modern structure an authenticity which other fashions lack. Like I mentioned earlier, it makes sense to design even a home that is pueblo, or a Tuscan home in the Sonoran Desert given that our technology is so different than what was available.
Ayn Rand’s most important character in The Fountainhead, architect Howard Roark, said it well: “A house can have integrity, exactly like a man; and as rarely.” Because they lack authenticity homes lack integrity.
This entrance is simple, clean and genuine. Nothing is unnecessary.
Pllc, Beley Design
This endeavor expresses its construction in a fair and rhythmic way.
Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel Architects
A modern home should represent the way we live. It should reflect current construction techniques and materials. It should have integrity by preventing tendencies. Contemporary architecture provides an opportunity for an beauty, not by copying another fashion from place or another time, but by contemplating the present and, with creativity, developing a fresh aesthetic.
That is modern.
Connected: Are Your Way : What Makes Architecture Successful