21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today

Modern architecture would come to dominant architectural design after the destruction of WW2. It would later, largely, give way to postmodernism in the 1980's.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
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Modernism or Modern Architecture is an architectural style that emerged in the early years of the 20th Century. Modernism would become the dominant architectural form in the aftermath and devastation of the Second World War across Europe.

It is characterized by its heavy use of new technologies with particular emphasis on the use of glass, steel and, of course, reinforced concrete. Many also define it as being the rejection of the old traditional neoclassical style and Beaux-Arts that were popularised during the previous century.

Modern Architecture would remain the dominant architectural form throughout most the 20th Century until it was deposed in the 1980's by, the appropriately termed, postmodernist style.

Famous Modernist Architects

There have been many prominent Modernist architects throughout the years but the most notable include:-

- Frank Lloyd Wright,

- Le Corbusier,

- Ieoh Ming Pei,

- Erich Mendelsohn and;

- Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

In general, modernism up to and including the 1960's was dominated by rectangular building forms with an emphasis placed on bold, straight lines. After the 1960's, more free-flowing and organic designs began to replace the more ordered post-war style. 

Modernism can further be subdivided into:-

- International Style,

- Expressionist Style and;

- Constructivist Style (Mainly Soviet Union pre-WWII)

However, some also include Structural Expressionism in this category as it serves as a transition to postmodernism. This category lasted from roughly the 1970's to the early part of mid-1980's. 

The following are an eclectic mixture of buildings that fall under the umbrella of the architectural style of 'Modernism'. With so many other great examples around the world we can't include them all so please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

1. World Trade Centre 1 and 2 Took Modernism to New Heights

Architectural form: Modernist

The towers of the former World Trade Center, before their tragic destruction in 2001, were one of the world's most famous landmarks. The two main towers (World Trade 1 and 2) were designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki and was built between 1966 and 1971.

Yamasaki's original plan was to limit the main towers to 80 stories tall but this was increased to 110 when the local Port Authority pressed the need for at least 930,000 m2 of office space.

Both towers were a steel frame, curtained walled, concrete slab on steel truss joist constructions.

Once complete, they instantly became one of America's most striking buildings and a fine example of the architectural ethic of Le Corbusier. Its final design would, however, fuse the traditional gothic with the modernist style that Yamasaki would become famous for.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Grandmaster E/Wikimedia Commons

2. The BT Tower Still Dominates London's Skyline

Architectural form: Modernist

The BT Tower, (previously known as GPO Tower, The Post Office Tower, and Telecom Tower) in London, was designed by Eric Bedford and was completed in 1964

This modernist tower stands at 177 meters high with additional aerial rigging stretching its 'full' height to 191 meters.

Once completed, the tower would overtake the Millbank Tower to become the tallest building in London and the UK. It held this title until 1980 when the Natwest Tower was completed.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Uli Harder/Wikimedia Commons

3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a "Temple of the Spirit"

Architectural form: Modernist

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, New York is a Modernist art museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Although the museum has existed since the later 1930's, it wasn't until the late 1950's that it moved to its current iconic building.

Frank Lloyds designed the building as a "temple of the spirit" and is roughly cylindrical building that tapers towards its top. Today it is one of the most widely recognized buildings in the world.

Today it houses a huge collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary artworks.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Jean-Christophe BENOIST/Wikimedia Commons

4. United Nations HQ Cost $65 Million to Build

Architectural form: Modernist/International Style

The United Nations Headquarters building was the brainchild of architect Oscar Niemeyer and others. It has housed the United Nations since its completion in 1952.

The building stands at 155 meters tall and costs about $65 Million ($599 Million today) to build. Construction costs were provided as an interest-free loan under the Truman administration in 1948

To this day, the site and building enjoy extraterritorial status in the city of New York.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Neptuul/Wikimedia Commons

5. The Very Bold Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Architectural form: Modernist

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, or simply the Salk Institute is a not for profit scientific research institute in La Jolla, San Diego, California. It was originally founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, who famously developed the polio vaccine.

The Salk Institute has for many years been housed with their very bold Modernist building designed by famed architect Louis Kahn along with Jack MacAllister. Its design has a heavy emphasis on symmetry and exposed concrete.

Part of the requirements for the building was to make sure that they could be easily upgraded as scientific technology improved. For this reason, support beams are restricted to the edges of each lab for maximum flexibility of internal space reconfigurations.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Jim Harper/Wikimedia Commons

6. Once Criticised But Now Loved: The Louvre Pyramid, Paris

Architectural form: Modernist 

The, now famed, Louvre Pyramid is a large metal frame and glass pyramid designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei. This pyramid is also surrounded by three smaller ones all situated in the Cour Napoleon of Louvre Palace.

The Louvre Pyramid serves as the main entrance to the museum and was built in 1989. Although it received significant criticism when first installed it has become an icon of Paris.

The entire structure stands at 21.6 meters tall and has a square base of 34 meters with a base area of over a  1,000 square meters.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Hteink.min/Wikimedia Commons

7. Royal National Theatre: London's Brutalist Masterpiece

Architectural form: Modernist/Brutalist

The Royal National Theatre, or simply National Theatre, is one of the UK's 3rd most prominent publically funded performing arts venues. It is housed in the iconic modernist/brutalist style building designed by Sir Denys Louis Lasdun.

It is his best-known work and the current building is actually a Grade II listed building. Doors opened in 1976 and it has become one of London's most iconic landmarks.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Aurelien Guichard/Wikimedia Commons

8. Sydney Opera House Blew its Budget

Architectural form: Modernist/Expressionist

The iconic Sydney Opera House was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon and it was formally opened in 1973. Work on the building was authorized by the New South Wales Government in 1958 and ground was broken in 1959.

Construction costs would famously spiral out of control and Utzon would ultimately resign before the building was finished. Final costs are estimated to be $102 Million Australian Dollars ($912 Australian Dollars today).

It was originally estimated to cost a fraction of the final costs at $7 Millon Dollars.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons

 9. The Atomium is an Iron Unit Cell

Architectural form: Modernist/Ludic Modernism

The Atomium, in Brussels, is a landmark building in Belgium and one of the more unique examples of post-war Modernistic architecture. It was designed by Andre Waterkeyn and Andre and Jean Polak and was originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair.

It is constructed from nine 18 m diameter stainless steel clad spheres connected together with 3 m diameter tubes to simulate the basic unit cell of an iron crystal. The entire structure stands at 102 meters tall.

The topmost cell of the structure houses a restaurant with fantastic panoramic views of Brussels. It also houses exhibit halls and other public spaces.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Mike Cattell/Wikimedia Commons

10. John Hancock Centre was Designed by Fazlur Khan

Architectural form: Modernist/Structural Expressionism

The John Hancock Centre (now known as 875 North Michigan Avenue) in Chicago Illinois is a fine example of early Structural Expressionism and was completed at the bargain price of $100,000,000. Construction commenced in 1965 and it was completed in 1969.

This building is a fine example of the genius of Fazlur Rahman Khan and it was built by Tishman Construction Corporation. The entire structure stands at 344 meters tall architecturally, with rooftop structures helping it top 457 meters.

It was, for a time, the worlds second tallest building. 

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Knutaril/Wikimedia Commons

11. Gateway Arch is the Tallest Arch in the World

Architectural form: Modernist/Structural Expressionism

The famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is a 192 m monument clad in stainless steel that takes the form of a weighted catenary arch. It is, still, the world's tallest freestanding arch and the tallest man-made monument in the United States.

It was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947 and construction was completed in the mid-1960's. It cost around $13 Million Dollar ($78 Million today).

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Bev Sykes/Wikimedia Commons

12. The Berliner Fernsehturm Is Germany's Tallest Building

Architectural form: Modernist

The Berliner Fernsehturm, Or Berlin Television Tower, is a telecommunications tower built between 1965 and 1969 in central Berlin, Germany. It was commissioned and built by the German Democratic Republic primarily as an ostentatious piece communist propaganda.

It was designed by German architect Hermann Henselmann and still dominates the Berlin skyline today. It stands at 368 meters tall and is the tallest structure in Germany.

Today it still serves as a radio and television broadcasting station and a viewing tower for the city. 

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Diego Delso/Wikimedia Commons

13. Disney's Contemporary Resort is an Enormous A-Frame Building

Architectural form: Modernist/Contemporary

Disney's Contemporary Resort, originally called Tempo Bay Hotel, is a triple-A Four-Diamond Award-winning resort in Disney World, Florida. It originally opened in 1971 and is located next to the Magic Kingdom.

It was designed by Welton Becket and was a collaborative project between Disney and the United States Steel Corporation. The buildings most prominent feature is its A-Frame construction with outer walls that slope away from an inner atrium.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Brian Kendig/Wikimedia Commons

14. Cité radieuse was Le Corbusier's Masterpiece

Architectural form: Modernist/Unité d'habitation

Cité Radieuse (Radiant City) is a fine example of Unité d'habitation, (Housing Unit in English), which is a characteristically modernist style of residential development designed by the great Le Corbusier. It was designed in conjunction with painter-architect Nadir Afonso. 

Cité Radieuse, known informally as La Maison du Fada (The Nutters House) was built between 1947 and 1952 and can be found in Marseille, France. It would prove to be one of Le Corbusier's most famous works and was enormously influential at the time (for better or worse). 

Some claim it was the inspiration for the rise of the Brutalist architectural movement.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Anapuig/Wikimedia Commons

15. Farnsworth House is an Internationalist Masterpiece

Architectural form: Modernist/Internationalist

Farnsworth House was designed a one-room weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a Chicago-based nephrologist. It was built between 1945 and 1951 as was designed and built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

The original brief was for Dr. Farnworth to have a place for quiet contemplation and indulgence in her hobbies.

The building is widely considered as the pinnacle of the International style of architecture and has become a National Historic Landmark for the U.S. in 2006.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Commons

16. Seagram Building Changed American Architectural Design

Architectural form: Modernist/Internationalist

The Seagram Building is skyscraper designed by Ludwig Miles van der Rohe and Philip Johnson that was built in New York in 1958. It is widely considered as a classic example the International style of Modernist Architecture.

The entire building stands a 157 meters tall over 38 stories. It was designed to be the headquarters for Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, a Canadian distillery company.

Ludwig was given a blank check to build design and build the tower by Seagram's heiress Phyllis Lambert. For this reason, it has become one of the most influential buildings in American architecture.

The building combines a steel moment frame with a steel and reinforced concrete core. This core extends up to the 17th floor with diagonal core bracing extending to the 29th floor.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Noroton/Wikimedia Commons

17. Manufacturers Trust Company Building: The Model for Modernism

Architectural form: Modernist/Internationalist

The Manufacturers Trust Company Building in New York is widely considered the "the very model of Modernism". It is a glass and aluminum building that was completed in 1954.

The building was originally built to serve as a bank for the Manufacturers Trust Company who later merged with Hanover Bank and Trust to form the Manufacturers Hanover Corporation.

It was designed by Charles Evans Hughes III and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merril. Once completed it became the first bank building the United States to be built in the International style of architecture.

Today it is a historical building and has been designated a New York City landmark.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today

Source: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

18. Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban is One of the 20th Century's Most Significant Buildings

Architectural form: Modernist/Monumental

The entire complex is on the largest legislative buildings in the world and covers around 800,000 m2. It is widely considered to be on of Khan's best works and one of the 20th Century's most significant buildings. 

Construction commenced in 1961 and was completed in 1982. The building is a mixed construction of reinforced concrete and brickwork. 

The building appeared in the 2003 film My Architect which details the career of Louis Kahn.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today

19. Sainte Marie de La Tourette: Le Corbusier's Last Building

Architectural form: Modernist/Internationalist

Sainte Marie de La Tourette was designed by the great Le Corbusier and serves as a Dominican Order Priory cited on a hillside outside Lyon. It was to be Le Corbusier's last building.

Le Corbusier was one of the key proponents of the modernist movement and his designs for the monastery did not disappoint. Its design would make heavy use of raised pilotis which is very characteristic of his work.

Construction commenced in 1956 with the works being completed in 1960. It later underwent significant renovation in the early 1980's.

The building was classified as a NESO World Heritage Site in July of 2016.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today

Source: Alexandre Norman/Wikimedia Common

20. Notre Dame du Haut Le Corbusier's Expressionist Chapel

Architectural form: Modernist/Expressionist

The Notre Dame du Haut (Our Lady of the Heights) is modernist style Roman Catholic chapel in Roncahmp, France. It was designed by Le Corbusier and was built in 1955.

It is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Le Corbusier's work and a very important 20th Century religious building. It is a working religious building and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

It was commissioned to replace the previous 4th Century AD chapel on the site that was destroyed during the second world war. The new chapel is primarily built from concrete with the upturned roof supported on columns embedded into the walls. Its structure also utilizes remnants of the original chapel.

The chapel, like other of Corbusier's work, officially became recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Valueyou/Wikimedia Commons

21. Millbank Tower is A Gem Of Modernist Architecture

Architectural form: Modernist

Millbank Tower in London is a 118-meter tall skyscraper that was built in 1963. It has been, in the past, the home of many important political organizations.

These have included the UK's major political parties and the United Nations and is sited very close to the Palace of Westminster. It was designed by Ronald Ward and Partners and has become a landmark of London's skyline.

It was the UK's tallest building between 1963 and the construction of the BT Tower.

Since its completion, it has become a Grade II listed building in the United Kingdom and is considered to be a "gem of modernist architecture". 

The tower has been featured in some films and TV series including Doctor Who, The 1973 film The Vault of Horrors and more. It is planned to convert the building, despite being protected, into a luxury hotel and luxury apartments.

21 Buildings That Helped Shape Modern Architecture, From 1945 to Today
Source: Iridescenti/Wikimedia Commons

This was the list of 21 Buildings that helped shape modern architecture. With so many great buildings out there we are bound to have missed some other important ones. 

Feel free to add your suggestions for buildings to have shaped modern architecture below in the comments.

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