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A view of St Paul's Cathedral, a famous Baroque style

9 Architectural Styles of All Time that Shocked the Status Quo

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there is an argument that claims changes in history fall into two major categories. It might take a very long period to happen, or it might seem to take place overnight, but any change in different aspects of a society is either revolutionary or evolutionary in nature.

Drastic or mild changes of direction in arts, philosophy, science, and social issues are either the result of a long built-up growing force over time that gradually or suddenly surfaces or more interestingly can be the effect of a mutation; a new chapter in the evolving space a society breathes in.

Architecture as an important strand of any society’s culture can follow the same theory. Different types of architectural styles can too, either change suddenly by a mutation, as opposed to being the offspring of a long process of small changes.

here we want to get through the list of architectural styles that made bold changes in their time of debut; some of which were the tip of a giant iceberg that rooted back to centuries of laying the groundwork for that seemingly big break;

but some of these architectural styles are innovatively mutative and brought a sudden change that affected architects’ world to this day.

Here are 9 of the most groundbreaking architectural styles that turned everything around at their debut and cut the era into their pre and post.


tall, bright halls enclosed by ribbed stone vaults of a Gothic church

You can mostly recognize the buildings from this late middle age architectural style, that was virtually established in France, by pointed arches and scrawny, ribbed vault structures. It is best embodied in countless churches, seminaries and, cathedrals across western Europe.

Flying buttresses that support the main vault which ends with a bright choir to allow ample sunlight in, are a signature characteristic of gothic cathedrals.

Light and loftiness are two main traits that drove gothic architects’ design forward. That’s why you’ll see the tallest cathedrals in Gothic architectural styles to reach the whopping 44 meters of height.

That is also the reason behind the tall spires at the western entrance of Gothic cathedrals.

Gothic might be the name the renaissance descendants picked for this dark age architectural style; deeming the asymmetric geometry of its buildings superstitious and ridiculous.

But it revolutionized the crude geometry of the Romanesque style into the glamour of the middle ages that the Gothic architecture is.


a baroque-styled palace in Budapest

Wavy, irregular, unusual, peculiar, and absurd are some of the synonyms of the original Spanish term “Baroque” architectural styles you’ll find, when you look it up.

The fact is, Baroque architecture is not quite the same in the countries it has touched in the 17th and mid-18th century in Europe and South America.

The general term baroque might have been the hatch they’ve closed on a myriad of similar architectural styles that yet were not quite the same.

That sure is true; but some shared characteristics bring all the list of architectural styles under the same standard.

The tendency to forget the status quo of the day and break the rigid blueprints of classical-themed motifs was a conceding response of the Catholic church to the Protestant movement.

The obvious wavy motions through the external and internal facades of the churches and buildings in the different architectural styles of baroque, were meant to show strong, direct emotions the catholic church claimed their touching narrative of Christianity have.

The same cause justifies big and bold masses and domes in Baroque design.


Neoclassical elements in Britain’s national museum of art in London

The name gives it away. All nuanced branches of Neoclassical architectural styles were trying to restore classic architecture’s values and characteristics to the mainstream as a response to different architectural styles of the day like Rococo; mostly for their unorthodox ornamental displays that were wrong, according to neoclassical advocates.

As in 18th and early 19th century (and basically up until today), neoclassical buildings mean to revive the praised grandeur and stability of the classic era.

Simple geometry, blank simple walls, and the use of Greek and Roman elements rather than taking on the exact classic volumes, are the main characteristic of such architectural styles.

Neoclassical movement thrived in Europe and the US and a lot of other parts of the world as a sign of reason, strength, and glamour.

You just need to take a look at most of the supreme court buildings across the world to see the footprints of this long-standing trend.


Sydney Opera House

“Organic” is too much of a general word to conjure just one meaning in different types of architectural styles.

Before and after the term Organic was first coined by Frank Lloyd Write in the early 20th century, different trends in architecture have hauled the name and none can be discarded as being irrelevant.

Being organic is essentially a single concept that can be seen from different angles and so have different interpretations. Fleeting or well-established different architectural styles have had different takes on the term Organic.

What is organic architecture? The mainstream organic movement flame was first kindled by Louis Sullivan in the late 19th century and has been tended ever since by Frank Lloyd Wright and others after him worldwide; architects from Japan, Europe and of course the US.

These architectural styles all have nature inspired geometry and try to blend into their natural surrounding and dissolve in it.

Another protagonist that can be counted as a leading figure in organic architecture is Antonio Gaudí. He showed his sophisticated and nature-inspired organic design to the world during late 19th and early 20th century.

His most famous building is undoubtedly the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona where he’s used static natural forces to come up with the shape of the spires of the cathedral.


Bauhaus school’s original building in Weimar, Germany

The familiar motto “form follows function” was born in the air of Bauhaus school.

Bauhaus was one of the most influential architecture schools in the early 20th century that paved the way for a lot of different types of architectural styles that were inclined to the rational, modern way to design that followed all through the century.

Bauhaus’s influence goes beyond different architectural styles that glared in the modern era in the 20th century. Furniture design and industrial production were some of the most important factors in Bauhaus school of thought.

Besides being a clear response against the ornamental Bourgeois style, that were pretty popular back in the day, it heavily engaged industrial production and molding constraints into the design process. The result was clean, simple forms that followed and responded to a clear function.

The movement that was planted in the school’s short days in Weimar, Germany, didn’t stop after the Nazis closed Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius had groomed peers and students that would later emigrate to the US and tend the flame he kindled, for decades to come; affecting all the architectural styles to this day.


Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoy

Modern movement and the architectural styles that came to the scene afterward, were the turning point to officially untangle the architecture from any historical ties.

Based on the principle that was first introduced by the Bauhaus movement, modernism in different types of architectural styles, followed functionality as the number one rule in design.

They used the latest construction techniques and material of the day in simple, clean forms and geometries.

Concrete, steel, and glass were among the most utilized material.

Maybe a single starting point or a leading figure can’t be named for the introduction of modern architectural styles. Frank Lloyd Wright in the States, Le Corbusier in France, and a little earlier, Bauhaus school in Germany were the concurrent, yet separate origins of the modern movement in different types of architectural styles.

Le Corbusier’s clear articulation of modern architecture’s pillars might be the torch that carried the movement forward more than others. His “Five points of new architecture” treatise is known to be the defining rules of modern’s different architectural styles.


It wasn’t hard to connect the dots and find where the minimalistic path that Bauhaus and modern movement in architectural styles had adapted would wind up.

The strong geometry that was simply adorned just by limited color palettes through the use of material like concrete, glass, and steel frames that were mostly prefabricated made international style starkly minimal.

The ex-Bauhaus director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, championed this approach to design to a level of simplicity, precision, and strength that’s still the envy of minimalistic architects in the world.

International style was especially praised and promoted for the speed of construction that was needed in the post-war era and especially in tall offices (like Seagram Building in New York City) in dense urban areas that needed to be built quickly. But eventually international style made its way to other establishments and sectors of the economy too.


George Pompidou Center in Paris, France

Among different types of architectural styles, the high-tech movement is not an overnight change; it doesn’t just, start in the second half of the century.

It roots back to the industrial revolution in the 19th century when new solutions for fast industrial production and prefabricated building frames and elements cleared the path for bold aspirations like the Eiffel tower and crystal palace to be brought to reality.

They were manifestations of the latest technology of their day; just as high-tech architects used to say; just like they still do today.

Bold display of the building’s construction and maintenance technology that would guarantee its functionality at the same time is paramount in high tech architectural styles.

Norman Foster’s Shanghai Bank HQ in Shanghai and Pompidou Center in Paris by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers are two of the most expressive examples of high-tech style.


Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Los Angles

Deep down, Deconstructivism was born out of the marriage of two main thoughts.

First, to shatter all the rigid rectangular-shaped geometries that had come before 1980s. And second, constructivism that was first introduced in the early 19th century in Russia.

Among other unorthodox architectural styles that derived from it, Deconstructivism meant to defragment or simply challenge and deconstruct the constructed.

As one of the most prominent postmodern movements, it intended to slap any rule or so-called principle, that had bogged down architects, including the ones in modern architecture.

The result is unpredictable and may sometimes come as quite a bit of shock too.

With the latest advances in construction technology, architects like Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind have beautifully portrayed their interpretation of deconstructing what was long constructed and revered as being the only way to get by.

What other movements through the history of architectural styles do you think is defining enough to be added to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Mitchel Sardy
Author: Mitchel Sardy
I am a Computer Engineer and an architecture enthusiast, graduated on both majors up to the master's degree from the University of Washington; I'm an advisor to early-stage architecture startups all around the globe; the ones using computer-based solutions to design in architecture.

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