International style architecture

International Style FURNITURE . Illustrated Architecture Dictionary . Styles of Architecture

International Style


A style of architecture applied to residences and public buildings that is minimalist in concept, is devoid of regional characteristics, stresses functionalism, and rejects all nonessential decorative elements; typically this style emphasizes the horizontal aspects of a building.

The International Style blossomed in 1920s Western Europe: the Dutch de Stijl movement, the work of visionary French/Swiss architect Le Corbusier and the German Bauhaus.

The term International Style came from the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by Philip Johnson, and from the title of the exhibition catalog for that exhibit, written by Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock.


  • Radical simplification of form
  • Rejection of ornament
  • Open interior spaces
  • Adoption of glass, steel and reinforced concrete as preferred materials
  • Ribbon windows
  • Smooth and undecorated wall surfaces
  • Flat roofs
  • Cantilevers

    In a broader view, the international style is part of late 19th and early 20th century Modernism - the conviction that the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialized world.

    Bauhaus in the US

    T he Bauhaus lasted from 1919-1933, at which time the faculty fled to escape Nazi Germany. (School building photo ) When Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer fled, they both arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in an excellent position to extend their influence and promote the Bauhaus as the primary source of architectural modernism. When Ludwig Mies van der Rohe fled in 1938, he came to Chicago, founded the Second School of Chicago at IIT and solidified his reputation as the prototypical modern architect.

    After World War II, the International Style matured, HOK and SOM perfected the corporate practice, and it became the dominant approach for decades.

    Daylight Factory substyle


    I n the

    decades separating World Wars I and II, Americans tended to prefer period houses that reflected past traditions, while European architects emphasized radically new designs that came to be known as International style architecture. Le Corbusier had stressed the idea of the house as a "machine for living."

    During the 1930s these ideas were introduced into the United States by several distinguished practitioners, like Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra and Marcel Breurer who emigrated to escape the developing chaos in Europe.

    Defining features:

    • Simple geometric forms, often rectilinear
    • Asymmetrical
    • Form characterized by a series of volumes
    • Reinforced-concrete and steel construction with a nonstructural skin
    • Occasionally, cylindrical surfaces
    • Unadorned, smooth wall surfaces, typically of glass,steel, or stucco painted white
    • Complete absence of ornamentation and decoration; often, an entire blank wall
    • Often, a cantilevered upper floor or balcony
    • Houses in this style are characterized by open interior spaces and are commonly asymmetrical
    • Commercial buildings are not only symmetrical but appear as a series of repetitive elements
    • Flat roof, without a ledge, eaves. or coping, that terminates at the plane of the wall
    • Large areas of floor-to-ceiling glass or curtain walls of glass
    • Metal window frames set flush with the exterior walls, often in horizontal bands
    • Casement windows; sliding windows
    • Doorway treatments conspicuously plain, lacking decorative detailing
    Furniture Examples from Buffalo architecture:
    • AM&A's Department Store
  • M. Wile Factory Daylight Factory substyle
  • Larkin Co. Terminal Warehouse Daylight Factory substyle
  • Knox Addition, Albright-Knox Art Gallery
  • University Metro Rail Station

    Other examples:

  • Villa Tugendhat, by Mies van der Rohe - Hofmobileliendepot Imperial Furniture Collection,Vienna, Austria On display in 2005 international style architecture