Modern Vs. Contemporary Architecture: What’s The Difference?

Modern Architecture vs. Contemporary Architecture

The terms modern and contemporary are sometimes used interchangeably when describing a home’s design. Indeed, our own South Florida custom home builders at HART Homes combined these two terms when referring to a category of custom-built homes we’ve completed – we call them modern contemporary homes. That’s not technically the correct term. Modern architecture and contemporary architecture are two different categories of home design. They share commonalities, but the terms are typically used to refer to two different things.

While our contemporary home builders use a joint term for easy categorization, they know the key differences when it comes to modern vs. contemporary architecture. Modern architecture, or modernist architecture, refers to a distinctive architectural style of home built in the 1900s to 1980s. Contemporary architecture is a catchall term that refers to the architectural styles of the present day.

The History of Modern Home DesignDining room of modern home in Southwest Ranches, FL

Modern architecture refers to a distinctive architectural style of home that first emerged in the 1900s. In response to the ornate and extravagant architecture of the late 19th century, modernist architects went against the “traditional” home designs of that period such as Victorian, Edwardian, and Beaux-Arts. Modern home design emphasized functionalism and minimalism while embracing the new innovations in construction and building materials at the time, particularly the use of plate glass, cast iron, steel, and reinforced concrete.

While modern home design started to pop up at the beginning of the 20th century, it became the dominant architectural style in the 1950s, after World War II. During the postwar reconstruction in Europe and the boom in new housing in the United States, modern architecture quickly rose to prominence. Modern design’s emphasis on simplicity and ordinary building materials made it a popular solution to postwar housing shortages.

It’s important to note that modernist architects throughout the modern architecture movement created plenty of homes and buildings outside of government-financed construction programs. The luxury homes they constructed throughout the world featured strong horizontal composition, large open floor plans, intentional asymmetry, and expansive glass windows.

As the mass-market industrialism took center stage, modern architects started to focus on creating homes meant to connect homeowners with nature. Featuring roofs designed to blend into the lines of the landscape, large windows to bring in natural light, and dark woods – these modern homes were intended to blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors.

Modernist architecture remained popular until the 1980s when it was replaced by the postmodern architecture movement. Throughout its history, modern architecture came to be associated with many notable names including Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as well as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer of the Bauhaus school just to name a few.

Contemporary Home Design is An Ideology

While modern architecture refers to a specific architectural style and historical movement, contemporary architecture is a nebulous term that refers to the architectural styles of the moment. Instead of a specific architectural style or movement, contemporary architecture is more of a shared ideology that aims to create homes and buildings that break away from past conventions and reflect the values of today’s architects. Current contemporary architects embrace innovation and sustainability.

While there is not one defining style, contemporary homes often borrow features from previous architecture movements, particularly modern architecture. There are also several common contemporary architecture characteristics that make it easier to identify contemporary home design. At HART Homes our Fort Lauderdale home builders and luxury home builders in Miami specialize in contemporary and modern home design. Contact us or call today to find out how we can help you create your dream residence in South Florida.

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