Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s observation that “less is more” has come to define the Modernist doctrine in architecture, whereby buildings and their components are reduced to simple forms expressed by geometry, largely devoid of ornamentation.
What to look for in a Modernist building:
Asymmetrical and geometric forms, rectangular or cubist shapes
Minimal or an absence of ornamentation
Steel frames and/or reinforced concrete
Explore these galleries from the RIBA Collections illustrating the main features of Modernism.
NOTES: This steel-framed building was designed on two floors around a central courtyard according to American out-of-town planning principles by the Chicago firm of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) in association with the London firm of Yorke Rosenberg Mardall. This extremely influential building with its use of high-class welded steel and the open-plan design led the way for the subsequent development of 'high-tech' steel office buildings for which Britain became internationally renowned. It was Grade II listed in 1996.
NOTES: The city of Brasilia was planned and developed in 1956 with Lucio Costa as chief urban planner and Oscar Niemeyer as principal architect. It formally became the capital of Brazil in 1960 and is the seat of all three branches of the Brazilian government. The National Congress buildings completed in 1958, comprise the Federal Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and the administrative twin Towers of Congress.
NOTES: This was Tecton's second commission for the Royal Zoological Society, the site consisting of a series of derelict ponds and a paddock. A dramatic design was needed to show off the antics of the penguins and this was achieved by two cantilevered ramps spiralling around one another without any intermediate support. The surrounding trees were kept and a cover provided around part of the elliptical structure to protect the penguins from the sun. The flat paths were coated with plastic rubber, the steps were of slate and the concrete ramps were kept wet by a revolving fountain. The structure was allowed under a clause in the London Building Act which exempted from the regulations buildings under a certain size which were not destined for human habitation and which were more than 30 ft from any other building. The pool had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair after the Royal Zoological Society encountered strong opposition to its plans for major alterations in 1951. The pool was listed in 1970 and restored in 1988. The executive architects were Lubetkin and Drake.