Architecture is the definition of a city’s origin and culture; the essence of any city is hidden in the evolution of its architecture. Humans are said to be adaptable and ever-changing; we move and adapt to the kind of environment that engulfs us. Comparatively to the anatomy of how a painting or sculpture structures the culture, architecture provides a functional purpose to the desires and needs of its patrons. (Raffel & Mann, 2020)

American Architecture Epitomizes an Amalgamation of an Eclectic and Rich Design Timeline

Ever since the evolution of man has grown, architecture has profoundly grown in terms of style, ease, and visuals. This change cannot be singled down to one cause; it is more or less inevitable. 

The United States of America is a powerhouse example of this debate. Every country has its brief period of change and growth; America too couldn’t elude from this transformation and has since created its unique timeframe.

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NYC Skyline_©kidsandpassports.com

Architecture expresses its progress, showcasing itself as a symbol of adaptability and unification of ideals. Despite the power it carries now, America was subject to major changes and influences over its history. The early days of American architecture were said to be a combination of a broad variety of styles that simply merged and fit into the lives of the people over its two centuries of independence and by the influence of Spanish and British rule.

With a plethora of mixed concepts and varied styles, American architecture has evolved and adapted to suit the culture and lifestyle of the people. The best representation of the country is by its progress in the architecture style which has indeed opened up numerous other collaborated and mixed styles that dominate the modern world.

The early stages of American architecture are defined as a pre-Columbian style whose influences and traces can still be observed in the southwest regions of the country. The beauty and elegance of the earlier Columbian style represent the influence of the southern type and ethnicity over their brief period. Many of the islands in Hawaii and nearby still show a majority in displaying the Polynesian culture that translated in their urban design styles. 

Like most of the countries during the early 17th century, America was also under the European reign. This brought in a whole new set of styles, trends, traditions, and techniques, unbeknownst to the people of America. The European style influenced most parts of the world, however, their influence grew on the local style that gave it a new more unique perspective depending on the region. This style brought in by the array of European settlers was a combination of many styles and came to the term of being called ‘Colonial’ architecture. 

In this period, most of the houses were said to be county type; they were broadly an influence of Tudor style arising to a mixed concept of Georgian Architecture. These houses were quite large, mainly centered in a gated plot with high versatility given to its brick façade. Many of the southern parts of America also saw an increase in Spanish style, which was quite similar to the Columbian style. 

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greek revival house_©Franz Marc Frei_Getty Images

After the long and painful Revolutionary war, the treaty established in Paris recognized the new federal country, the United States of America. This political and diplomatic recognition led to a newer phase in the lifestyle of the people with the country liberalizing their domestic purpose. The Federal-style of Architecture is an evolved approach towards the previous Georgian style that is deemed complete as the American genre of Architecture. It signifies capitalism and political variance through its unique design of strict and rigid rectangular plans but emphasizing still the elegance by ornamented façade details. 

Each state within the country has its interpretation of the federal style, such as the buildings seen similar to the University of Virginia is a conceptual mix proposed by the then-president Thomas Jefferson as part European Neoclassical style and part as the influence of American democracy.

Over the nineteenth century, the world-class foreign influence took the backseat as the field welcomed the stages of design after the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Architecture became more experimental paving the way for newer methods and technological advancements while the past was put on hold. (Raffel & Mann, 2020)

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Start of Industrialisation_©loc.gov
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Insurance building_©Corbis
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Seagram building_©Ezra Stoller_Esto

Due to the high demands in science and technology at that time, architects and designers began to explore the fields of combining what they knew best and what they could yet learn a lot from. So began the path of Revivalism. This became the common notion that most of the stylists preferred. Each person had an individual aspect and took on the architecture style they knew previously and started to add their interventions to create their exclusive piece. At the same time, the classical and gothic style re-emerged and was seen in the design of the majority of high places.

This type of revival of the past styles was a prolonged course up until the twentieth century, which became the birth era of modern skyscrapers. One of the most notable works of American technology was the invention of the skyscraper’s era. Louis Sullivan, one of the most noted contributors of this era fancied ornamented cornices at the end of the towers, he bought in the elegance of the past along with the industrialized designs. With the rise of these industrialized steel frames skyscrapers paved new heights for the architecture style. In the same run, time the emergence of the ‘frontier’ architecture that mostly dominated the style of individual houses was set. 

American architecture evolved under notional movements of renowned architects each signifying their styles. One significant contributor to the American styles was Frank Llyod Wright. He turned into the organic style now seen and bought this style under the limelight during his time. His style was an influence seen from Japanese architecture and pre-Columbian art that mostly translated into state-of-the-art designs. 

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Robie House_©Teemu08 on Wikimedia

One of the Biggest Influence an Architecture Style Sees Through is by Art Movements and Culture Appropriation

By the mid-twentieth century, art and culture became a massive trend where many movements and uprisings were publicly vocalized. Art deco became a style adapted from these movements. The Chrysler Tower is one of the famous products of this kind of movement. 

American architecture also saw a boom in futuristic buildings since industrialization. The Empire State building that became the beckon for American Architecture still stands as a monumental piece of art and has been featured in many industries and has continuously been a talk for American architecture. 

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National City Tower_©Jason Meredith
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Empire State Building_©Smithfl on Wikimedia

As the years passed, people began to notice a need for a simple, more sleek approach to the living, architecture became a variance of this style too, leading to the birth of modernism. Buildings became more simplistic, materialistic, and sleek with a majority of the designs embracing the surrounding context with a brief approach. Many even critiqued the idea of modernism as boring and a copy of other styles. The modernist style was to create a ‘modern man’, which opposed traditional styles and based on the newer proposal of modern materials and techniques. 

While the modernist style thrived under some states, post-modernism became a revolutionary movement against modernism. It opposed the design approach of modernism and became opposition to monotony. 

American architecture has since come a long way adapting the international influence to bringing in deconstructivism brought in by disfigured and parametric design to newer construction in the field to even tiny or micro homes now. Architecture can be compared as a mirror that reflects the culture and evolution of humans and adapts and merges with that lifestyle. (Craven, 2019) It is the link between the past and the future with the crossing made as to its present.

In this big wave of modernism, architects seem to adopt a style that has a popular streak. American architecture is no exception to this surge, while the wave of individuality has now streamed in most of the country paving to a newer path for architecture.

References

  1.  Amy Raffel and Jon Mann (2020). Architecture Since 1900 [online]. (Last updated:2020). Available at: https://arthistoryteachingresources.org/lessons/architecture-since-1900/ [Accessed date: 01/05/2021].
  • Jackie Craven (2019). Influences on American Home Styles, 1600 to Today [online]. (Last updated: April 22, 2019). Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/architectural-styles-american-homes-from-1600-to-today-178050#:~:text=Neoclassicism%20After%20the%20Revolution%2C%201780%2D1860&text=After%20the%20American%20Revolution%2C%20architecture,classicism%20for%20a%20new%20country.&text=This%20architecture%20can%20be%20found,different%20times%20in%20America’s%20history. [Accessed date: 01/05/2021].
Author

VismithaYaji is an aspiring designer and a writer who is currently working in the field of Architecture & Design. She has recently decided to put her passion for writing on the front stage and has been contributing to many on-going competitions and anthologies. Being an ardent fan of motivational quotes, poetry, and designing, she is often seen questioning the current trends in a divergent and unique fashion.She enjoys a philosophical approach to life and is keen on learning and developing new skills. Being a person who has traveled and has often shifted from place to place, she has been able to explore and appreciate various cultures and lifestyles. She enjoys traveling, sketching,anything related to music or movies, and once in a while the rare opportunities of photography. Her approach towards writing is inspired by life and its unexpected turn of events. Most of her works in any field, whichever it may be reflects these ideologies and beliefs. She pushes herself to discover newer approaches in the field of design and create modernistic conclusions.

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