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International Style and the Five points of Modern Architecture

Updated on February 19, 2014

Key Designers

  • Le Corbusier
  • Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
  • Charles Eames & Ray Eames
  • Walter Gropns
  • Philip Cortelyou Johnson
  • Alfred H. Barr, Jr.


  • Simple
  • Utilitarian
  • Undecorated
  • Sculptural forms
  • Industrial Materials
  • Functionalistic Approach
  • Rejection of Ornamentation
  • Transparency of buildings
  • Acceptance of Industrialization of Design

International Style

International Style emerged in the early 1920's and 1930's as a Major Architectural Style, first showing its face during the formation of Modern Architecture In the USA during the early 1930s, influenced heavily by Bauhaus design. (This was due to the Bauhaus professors who moved to the USA at that time)

The style really took hold after Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson organized the 1932 Exhibition: Modern Architecture: International Exhibition in New York, after which Johnson was the first to coin the term International Style, stating it was ...”a style expressing several design principles: a concern with volume as opposed to mass and solidity, Regularity as opposed to axial symmetry, and the proscription of "arbitrary applied decoration."'

This is pretty much a roundabout way of using excessive jargon and bantering on to state absolutely nothing (as designers tend to do) aside from that the buildings will have no excess decoration.

International style can be tied very closely to modernism - sharing many of the same concepts of modern style and ideals.

Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris)
Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris)

Five Points of new Architecture

Architect Le Corbusier is often named as the father of International Style, created his own “five points” of new architecture (which can be seen very clearly in his work, such as Villa Savoye which can be seen below)

  • Support of ground-level piers, elevating the building from the earth and allowed an extended continuity of the garden beneath.
  • Functional roof, serving as a garden and terrace, allowing for nature to be part of the land where the building had replaced it.
  • Free floor plan, relieved of load-bearing walls, allowing walls to be placed freely and only where aesthetically needed.
  • Long horizontal windows, providing illumination and ventilation.
  • Freely-designed facades, serving only as a skin of the wall and windows and unconstrained by load-bearing considerations.

These Characteristics shared with those of modernism aim to define a style which would “encapsulate modern architecture."

Villa Savoye - Le Corbusier
Villa Savoye - Le Corbusier


International Style met with much criticism in the design world; Critics dubbed the style inhuman, uninviting, sterile, and elitist - ironically opposite the effect which the open, transparent design was intended to have.

It can even be argued that the strong adverse reaction to Modernism and International Style together led to the formation and popularization of PostModernism.


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