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Acclaimed British architect, Norman Foster said, “As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown.”

Architecture is powerful. It not only shapes the skylines of the planet’s urban centers, but it also has the ability to actually shape how we think and feel. Recent studies have shown that buildings and cities can impact our moods, emotions, well-being, and mental health. Research shows that certain cells in the hippocampal region of our brains can attune to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces in which we live and work.

In the 20th century, as society evolved, populations swelled and technology blossomed, architecture changed and developed right along with everything else. Several major architectural movements emerged out of these shifts that set the stage for today’s and tomorrow’s contemporary design ethos.



The Modern or Modernist architecture style was based optimistic ideals inspired by concepts of utopia, innovation, and rethinking how humans could live, work, and interact together. It embraced “form over function” and was often characterized by stark minimalism. Innovative technology and new construction techniques, particularly in the use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete helped this movement to dominate from the end of World War II until the mid-1980s when it was supplanted by postmodernism.


Photo by I, Padraic Ryan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia



High-tech architecture, also known as Structural Expressionism, aimed to demonstrate how technology can improve the world. It is characterized by incorporating industrial and technological elements including lightweight materials and sheer surfaces into the structure and design of a building. This movement is considered a transition from modernism architecture to post-modernism architecture.


Photo by Stephen Richards, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia


A reaction to the formality of Modernism, Postmodernism recognized the importance of individuality, plurality and diversity. It is characterized by bright colors, playfulness and the use of a variety of materials and shapes.


Photo by Bwag – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

Postmodernism split into several different architectural styles including:


Deconstructivism glories in the freedom of form by fragmenting, manipulating and redefining structures and shapes. It introduced the world to new levels of complexity, distortion and weirdness that when executed well are nothing short of wonderous, breathtaking and unforgettable.


Photo by Atelier Vincent Hecht, Luma Tower, Luma Arles

A Contemporary

Look to the Future

Today there is no clearly dominant architectural style, which is probably testament of the freedom of expression that grew out of the Postmodern age. Today’s style is simply known as “Contemporary.”

Contemporary architecture builds on–while breaking with past traditions, styles and values. Rather than embracing any one standard, contemporary architecture embraces innovation, efficiency and optimization of a space.

The use of advanced technology and new building materials extends all the way from the tallest towers to the suburban neighborhoods of Main Street America. This is coupled with a focused emphasis on eco-friendly, sustainable building practices and designs.

As Norman Foster said, the future is “essentially unknown,” but one thing is for sure, the future of architecture and design will be forward-thinking, innovative and exciting.

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