Modern Architecture: A Monument to the Here and Now

Fredericka Smead

Modern architecture is the ultimate monument to the here and now. Let’s be honest, no architect designs a building with the intention that it only remain standing for 3 to 5 years. No, buildings are designed to last decades – if not centuries. Therefore, a building designed around the modern […]

There are certain parts of culture that focus only on the here and now. Likewise, there are some people who have no eye for the future and little interest in the past. They live only in the moment. Interestingly enough, both culture and people change over time. If you want a lasting monument to the here now, you cannot look at either one. But you can look at buildings.

Modern architecture is the ultimate monument to the here and now. Let’s be honest, no architect designs a building with the intention that it only remain standing for 3 to 5 years. No, buildings are designed to last decades – if not centuries. Therefore, a building designed around the modern architecture concept becomes a time capsule.

                   Modern Doesn’t Look Back

You might find it difficult to nail down a concrete definition of modern architecture. Park City, Utah’s Sparano + Mooney explains that modern design, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t look to the past a whole lot. It may offer cursory nods to past architectural periods, but modern design really focuses on what is popular right now.

World famous architect and interior designer Frank Loyd Wright epitomized the mindset that is modern architecture. He was just coming into his own at the turn of the 20th century. At that time, the buildings he designed bore very little resemblance to any past architectural style. His designs were not necessarily futuristic, either.

Behold a Frank Loyd Wright project today and it might appear timeless. Take the Winslow House in River Forest, Illinois. You might look at it and assume that it was something built in the 1960s. But Wright designed it in the early 1890s. At the time it was built, Winslow House was considered a prairie house with contemporary flair. More than a hundred years after its construction, it is a home frozen in time.

                   Straight Lines, Open Spaces

Modern architecture in the 2020s is all about straight lines and wide-open spaces. In one sense, it affords a slight nod to some of Wright’s later designs. He was big on both concepts. And yet, today’s modern architecture doesn’t look as out of place as some of Wright’s projects back in the day.

It is interesting to note that straight lines and open spaces seem to be cyclical. Every 15 to 20 years they become the hot trend in everything from architectural design to contemporary art. They enjoy a Renaissance for a decade or so, then give way to other preferences. But they always seem to make a comeback.

At any rate, a building designed around modern architecture reflects what interests architects and their customers in the moment. There is little thought of what was interesting a hundred years ago. There is even less thought about what will be interesting a hundred years in the future.

                   Frozen in Time

The unique ability of modern architecture to be frozen in time is clearly seen when trying to date buildings. For example, you could look at a Victorian home and know right away when it was built, within reason. The same is true for Tudor style homes, bungalows, Cape Cod’s, and so forth.

All of these known styles have their origins in the past. But a modern home, not so much. If you knew nothing about Frank Loyd Wright and the Winslow Home, you wouldn’t be able to approximate when it was built based on what it looks like. It was neither past nor future in 1893. It was simply present. That is what makes modern architecture such a monument to the here and now.

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