A brief guide to international style

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For the first of our lessons in architecture, we look at International Style. It began in the roaring twenties, in an age of heavy social and political change. A time when many factors were influencing new ideas in architecture and architectictural developments, both artistically and culturally. The fallout from World War I, for example, gave rise to new ways of thinking, and a need for fresh ideas. Another influence was the pace of change with the growth of large industrial cities and a functional approach to building. International Style was part of the emerging modernist architecture movement and first defined by Walter Gropius in his landmark 1925 publication International Architecture.

The form

The general understanding is that the buildings follow a functional design, rational in their approach. They emphasize the volume of a space rather than the mass and omit more obvious signatures of beauty like symmetry and ornaments. The materials used are simple, lightweight and of high qaulity, typically glass, steel and concrete. This allows for mass production on industrial scales as well as flat surfaces and transparent facades.


Museum of Bauhaus, Bialik Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo


Notable Architects

The architects responsible for this style tend to originate from Northern Europe and include Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Le Corbusier and the aforementioned Walter Gropius. Le Corbusier coined the phrase 'A Machine for Living' to describe the emphasis on using a building for its function more than its form.


In 1932, Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Hohnson published The International Style which showcased examples of this style of architecture from the 1920s and 1930s. It followed a public exhibition in which such examples could be digested by interested American architects and the public alike.

International Style was at the forefront of 20th Century architecture and can be seen all over the world.

Example of international style from Seattle