The International Style in architecture first appeared in Germany, France, and the United States in the 1920s. By the 1930s, the International Style was firmly established in Europe and the United States. After World War II, it became a watershed in American architecture especially for the design of large buildings. The example of the International Style increasingly came to influence architecture of the 1950s to the 1970s. In contemporary architecture, the International Style remains a source of inspiration.

The International Style comprises a set of principles applied to the theoretical underpinnings of the practice of architecture. This set of principles utilizes two distinct yet interrelated concepts: functionalism and reductionism. Functionalism is the tendency to generate the design of a building as a product of an analysis of functional criteria. Reductionism is the tendency to reduce the elements in a building design to its most basic expression resulting in architecture of stark simplicity. Utilizing these guiding concepts, architects working in the International Style have produced a sizeable body of work, the best of which are important buildings of exceptional elegance.

The place of the International Style in American architecture was greatly impacted by World War II. The Nazi campaign against Modern art and architecture led many artists and architects in Germany and in the rest of Nazi-occupied Europe to seek asylum in the United States. Among these Modernists were many of the key figures in the International Style movement in Europe including Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. These architects, as designers and teachers, became widely influential with a younger generation of post-war American architects who went out and designed the nation’s schools, hospitals, hotels, and office buildings.

The International Style term was coined in the 1930s by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson.

Defining Characteristics:

• Horizontally oriented
• Ribbon windows
• Expression of windows
• Large areas of glazing
• Use of industrial materials like concrete and aluminum
• Cubist conception of buildings volumes
• No ornament
• Walls eaveless or with overhanging eaves
• Use of the cantilever
• Flat roofs


The International style is a major architectural style that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, the formative decades of Modern architecture. The term originated from the name of a book by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, The International Style. The book was written to record the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932 and it identified, categorized and expanded upon characteristics common to Modernism across the world and its stylistic aspects. The aim of Hitchcock and Johnson was to define a style that would encapsulate this modern architecture, and they did this by the inclusion of specific architects.


The authors identified three principles: the expression of volume rather than mass, the emphasis on balance rather than preconceived symmetry, and the expulsion of applied ornament. All the works in the exhibition were carefully selected, only displaying those that strictly followed these rules.[1] Previous uses of the term in the same context can be attributed to Walter Gropius in Internationale Architektur, and Ludwig Hilberseimer in Internationale neue Baukunst.[2]



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