Modern vs. Contemporary By Eleanor Schrader, Educator & Historian

CBIO04261uFallingwater, a 1935 Modern home by Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Mill Run, Pennsylvania

CBIOEleanor-La-BreaWhat’s the difference between Modern architecture and Contemporary architecture? Strictly speaking, Contemporary architecture is what’s being built at this very moment. Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals were contemporary in their time. In today’s sense, Contemporary architecture refers to innovative, idiosyncratic, and sometimes controversial architecture using shapes and materials that are often heretofore unknown in any previous style of architecture. Modern architecture refers to the early- and mid-20th century architecture rooted in the changes brought about by World War I, the Machine Age, and eventually World War II. At the time, the term “Modern” was applied to what would now be identified as Art Deco and International Style architecture of the 1920s and ‘30s, and expanded later to include the Mid-century Modern style of the 1950s and ‘60s. Modern embodies common stylistic elements of minimal exterior ornamentation, use of modern materials such as steel and concrete with plentiful use of glass, and use of block-like forms within open floor plans. In 1991, AIA members named Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 Modern “Fallingwater” as the “best all-time work of American architecture” and I couldn’t agree more! (