Aesthetica selects ten inspiring 20th century buildings from around the world – offering examples of shifting architectural movements and key names to know.
Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico City
Built in 1948, Casa Luis Barragán is renowned for its use of colour, light and form. It is awash with bold yellows, pinks and oranges – both inside and out. Skylights and windows flood the space with natural light. This building continues to provide inspiration for artists and photographers.
Bauhaus Building, Dessau
Designed by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius (1883-1969), this building reflects the school’s values – with form following function. A smooth, white-plastered façade, reinforced concrete and glass curtains created, in Gropius’ words: “its sparkling insubstantiality, and the way it seems to float […] imponderably as the air.”
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed Fallingwater in 1935 as a private residence. It is a prime example of organic architecture – fusing art and nature. The structure is located in the mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania, rising above a waterfall.
Vitra Fire Station, Weil-am-Rhein
Vitra Fire Station was one the first realised buildings by Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). Concrete planes and geometric shapes intersect to create an angular silhouette. The dynamic structure creates a sense of movement, changing shape when viewed from different perspectives.
Glass House, São Paulo
In 1951, Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) designed Casa de Vidro in what was then the Mata Atlantica – the original rainforest surrounding São Paulo. As the first residence in the neighbourhood, it allowed the landscape to flow around and underneath it.
Villa Savoye, Paris
Le Corbusier’s (1887-1965) Villa Savoye exemplifies the International Style. Located in the suburbs of Paris, it demonstrates the architect’s idea that “a house is a machine for living in.” The house presents a free design that is not constrained by structure – an open floor plan, ribbon windows and lots of natural light.
La Muralla Roja (The Red Wall), Alicante
Ricardo Bofill’s (b. 1939) La Muralla Roja (The Red Wall) in Calpe, Alicante, pays homage to to the adobe towers of North Africa. Intense blocks of pink, red and blue contrast with the interplay of sunlight. It is an alluring geometric playground and a striking example of postmodernism.
Iconic design duo Charles and Ray Eames constructed this house in 1949. They had a particular ethos in mind: “Just as a good host tries to anticipate the needs of his guest, so a good architect or a designer or a city planner tries to anticipate the needs of those who will live in or use the thing being designed.”
Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles
Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012) was one of the first licensed African American women architects in the US. She had a vision of architecture “improving the environment of people in their homes, in their places of work, and their places of recreation.” Pacific Design Center is a colourful modernist landmark.
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
“I want a temple of spirit, a monument!” said Canadian American architect Frank Gehry (b. 1929) after being commissioned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1943. The result is dramatic, sculptural museum. It is highly expressive, connecting an array of shapes all clad in colour-changing titanium.
Discover trailblazing women architects of the 21st century here.
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Lead image: Casa Luis Barragán.
1. Bauhaus Building
3. Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany, completed in 1993. Photography: Christian Richters
4. Casa di Vidro – Lina Bo Bardi
5. © Jean-Christophe Ballot / Centre des Monuments Nationaux
6. Ricardo Bofill, La Muralla Roja, 1973. Location: Calpe, Alicante, Spain. Client: Palomar S.A. Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill.
7. Eames House
8. Photo: Gruen Associates
9. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao