Modernist architecture developed at the end of the 19th century from upheavals in technology, engineering, and building materials, and from a desire to disrupt historical architectural styles. The result was a type of architecture that was dynamic, functional and innovative.
There are great examples of structures created by modernist architectural icons that everyone should visit. The ones listed here are open to the public and welcome millions of visitors each year.
1. Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain
At the center of Barcelona sits a glaring tribute to modernist design called Casa Batlló. This seven-story architectural masterpiece is a showcase for early 20th-century modernism, displaying a mixing of themes styles and materials throughout the exterior and interior of the building.
Built by renowned modernist architect Antoni Gaudi Barcelona had never seen a building quite like it. Its façade is made of earthy stone and glass with walls that undulate providing no truly flat surfaces. Embedded in the walls are thousands of colored glass and ceramic disks that reflect light and give the building a glow day or night.
Each floor has a unique look with its main floor featuring bone shaped pillars and irregularly shaped custom windows. Higher up there are balconies in the shape of masks that protrude from the façade. Finally, the roof of the building is shaped like the back of a dragon, fixed with large iridescent scales and features a large terrace that overlooks the city.
The interior continues the building’s creativity with the mixing of materials including glass and hardwoods. Some of the rooms have an undersea cavern feel, and the entire interior is lit by a series of beautifully adorned, curved skylights, has curved walls, and a one-of-a-kind staircase made of exotic hardwoods. In total, Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló is a feast for the eyes and represents the non-traditional and striking approach that is the signature of modernism.
2. The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower when built was the tallest structure in the world at 324 meters. It represented a clear break from conventional building techniques with many in the building community claiming that its wrought iron structure would collapse upon itself.
Its designer, Gustav Eiffel was defiant, however, saying that the tower represented man’s need to push himself to new extremes and take more daring chances. What emerged was a wonder in building techniques and an icon that is the official symbol of Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world.
Each year the Eiffel Tower attracts more than 7 million people who climb the structure to experience a breathtaking 360-degree view of Paris. Originally, the tower was constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, and it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable modernist structures in the world.
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3. Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, USA
Fallingwater is acknowledged as famed modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most beautiful work. It is listed among Smithsonian‘s Life List of 28 places “to visit before you die”. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. And in 1991, members of the American Institute of Architects named the house the best all-time work of American architecture.
The house stands out for its design, construction and the way it blends into the natural surroundings, seeming to be a part of them rather than intruding upon them. Fallingwater is cantilevered, connected to and protruding from the surrounding rock giving it an almost floating feeling.
The atmosphere of the house leans heavily upon Japanese building styles, which seeks to harmonize with nature in both the exterior and interior of the structure. Fallingwater uses subtle earth tones throughout and is built upon a waterfall, which gives it its name, owing to its intention to be a nature retreat for its owners.
The interior integrates rocks from the vicinity especially in the living room whose fireplace hearth integrates local boulders. Additionally, ledge rock protrudes up to a foot through the living room floor to create a link between the outside and the inside. Throughout the house, there is attention to even the smallest details and throughout the year, you can hear the sound of the waterfall in every room. Fallingwater is a masterpiece of modernist design.