Style Series: International Style
Wrap-around ribbon windows were a key feature of the International Style. The 2015 project above pays tribute with its window design.
The four decades leading up to the 1930s were arguably a confused mash of architectural styles and ideas; in 1932, however, the Museum of Modern Art in New York put together an exhibition entitled “Modern Architecture” that would prove that architectural styles were finally settling down and more focused than the past forty years. In this exhibition, architects from fifteen countries working in similar styles were grouped under a new term: “International Style.”
International Style architecture most commonly uses modern materials, such as concrete, glass, and metal. Nonessential ornamentation was all but nonexistent, and buildings often proudly displayed a skeleton-like frame. Ribbon windows – or walls of glass without interruption – wrap around International Style buildings seamlessly and without mitered corner supports. The overall appearance strove for a horizontal feel, even in tall buildings.
Unlike French Provincial that reveled in symmetry, International Style students avoided forced symmetry as much as possible. However, balance and regularity in design were essential. Large massing decisions of cantilevers and ground-floor piers were also often included. A cantilevered front porch and horizontal elements in the 2015 project below are reminiscent of the International Style.
Who’s Who in the International Style
Many prominent names started their careers in the International Style, including Mies van der Rohe, Gropius, Neutra, and Breuer. Although many of these later favored or developed other styles, the influences of the International Style surely influenced later designs.
Header image: Lotus on Orange, 2015 Best in Region BALA Recipient, Photography by Gamma Photography
Alexandra Isham is the Design Program Manager at NAHB.