The international style began in Germany during the early twentieth century. It quickly spread throughout the world, and is now found in many big cities. Buildings began to be built not to look beautiful, but to function well. Structures would be made for specific purposes, and were often asymmetrical and followed the street pattern. Most decorations were discarded, and buildings were simplified to be quickly made. Common characteristics of international architecture are sharp corners, lots of windows, flat and plain white walls, and flat roofs. Most international buildings were made out of concrete, steel, and glass. It was acceptable for the insides of the buildings to have exposed mechanical equipment, like air ducts, and elevator shafts. This style probably sounds pretty bland, but architects had a knack for making it look attractive.
Walter Gropius designed the building for the art and architectural school the Bauhaus. He then founded the architectural school. One of the main things taught there was the international style, and students from the Bauhaus became shapers of the international style. Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Louis Sullivan, and Alvar Aalto also had strong roles in international architecture.
A big innovation of the international style was steel. Before that all buildings were load-bearing. That means that all of the weight of he building was supported by the walls so the taller the building, the thicker the walls had to be at the bottom. With the use of steel, they didn't have to use the walls as supports. Steel frames held up the building (walls were merely attached to the frame), allowing it to be built taller, and have huge glass windows. This system is called curtain-wall, and is now the standard in all high-rise buildings. Currently the tallest building in the world is Petronas Towers, in Malaysia. the Sears Tower, in Chicago is the second. Image Copyright © Mary Ann Sullivan
Modern architecture and international architecture are very similar. They use the same materials, and general ideas. Some architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright refused to be considered architects of the international style. Modern architecture allows more decoration and than international, and some even have curved structures. Modernism and the international style both follow the same principal: form follows function.