Is modern or contemporary architecture going to stay relevant and not date? And what is the difference?

This is a question I’m asked fairly often.

Let us first look at where modern and contemporary differs.

Contemporary vs. Modern Architecture

Unlike modern architecture, which is defined as the building style during the early to mid-twentieth century, Contemporary architecture refers to the present-day building style.  Because today’s architecture styles are numerous, it is difficult to come up with a formal or precise definition of contemporary architecture.

Although people sometimes use the terms “contemporary” and “modern” architecture interchangeably, they technically are not synonymous.

Some people viewed the elements that characterized modern architecture as too cold/ brutal and impersonal. This belief leads to the creation of the contemporary style as is recognized today.

Like the modern style, it connects indoor and outdoor spaces, but it adds some personal touches and warmth throughout the living space. The use of natural light also plays a big role, so large and expansive windows are a common and easily recognized feature of such homes.

Now the definition of modern is according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:

Full Definition of modern

1a:  of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past:  contemporary

b:  of, relating to, or characteristic of a period extending from a relevant remote past to the present time

2:  involving recent techniques, methods, or ideas:  up-to-date

3: capitalized:  of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the present or most recent period of  development of a language

4:  of or relating to modernism:  modernist

And the definition of contemporary:


Simple Definition of contemporary

: happening or beginning now or in recent times

: existing or happening in the same time period:  from the same time period

  Full Definition of contemporary

1:  happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time

2 a:  simultaneous

   b:  marked by characteristics of the present period:  modern, current.

I like to show people some visuals to illustrate my opinion that good design does not date and that buildings almost a hundred years old can still stir something in anyone who likes a thing of beauty (which is a joy forever…)

Contemporary Architecture

The Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona, 1929

Designed as an exhibition building, this is still one of the best illustrations of the staying power of modern architecture, 80+ years after construction.

Contemporary Architecture

The Rietveld Schroder house: Built 1924. This house will still be a show stopper today, 90+ years after it was built: Dated?

“Form follows function”,  ‘This house is a machine for living in’ and  “Truth to materials” were the cornerstones of the modern movement, and are still adhered to by most contemporary architects to a certain extent.

Contemporary Architecture

Villa Savoye

Villa Savoye was designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in 1928-31.

Contemporary Architecture

The Farnsworth House.

The Farnsworth House was designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1945.

Contemporary Architecture

The Glass House

The Glass House designed by Philip Johnson in 1945-48.

Three recent contemporary projects by Nico van der Meulen Architects.

Contemporary Architecture

Contemporary Architecture

Contemporary Architecture