31 Architectural Styles: The Great Evolution Of Architecture

Updated: Oct 27

The Ideal City artwork by Fra Carnevale showing architectural styles of Urbino, Baltimore
The Ideal City artwork by Fra Carnevale | Source: After Giuliano da Sangallo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Architecture is a creative branch that has existed since 10,000 BC, and throughout this unimaginably long history, it witnessed numerous changes, which amazed us in several ways. Our minds differ, as do our comfort conditions; therefore, these styles are a medium for architects to shape their beautiful knowledge and fulfil our demands. The professionals go as far as possible to serve present-day problems that cause mental instability. It may sound off-topic or even stupid, but few know that the invention of some of these architectural styles began as an experiment to bring families together when wars erupted around the world. As we continue dealing with several other problems like before, it becomes crucial to reflect on the past and take a cue to either replicate or invent. Today with this article, I am veiling 31 architectural styles each presented with brief introduction.

Before we go ahead with this article, Let me tell you that all the information comes from historical architectural books and government sources. So what are we waiting for; let us get started.

25 Architectural Styles You Should Know.

1. Contemporary Architecture.

An orange palette Contemporary Architecture building in Morocco
Laayoune Technology School by El Kabbaj Kettani Siana Architects, Morocco

Contemporary architecture is the present style that uses modern elements and together forms a single structure. The defining characteristic of contemporary architecture is its refusal to follow tradition and insistence on being unconventional. Few of its traits possess curved lines, rounded forms, unconventional volumes, open floor plans and green roofs or living walls.

A precise definition is still not found, but one can differentiate a building that follows this style.

When did it start?

Contemporary architecture dates back to the second half of the 20th century.

Why did it start?

After World War II, when global collaboration increased exponentially, contemporary architecture originated as one of the art forms to create structures integral to environments and value the sense of placelessness. Furthermore, it emphasizes sustainability, using recycled and natural materials, and the eco-conscious water and temperature control systems seamlessly incorporated into the architecture.

2. Victorian Architecture.

Victorian Architectural Style of Palace of Westminster, London, United Kingdom
Palace of Westminster, London, United Kingdom | Source: @cinemanu / Unsplash

Victorian architecture is a common term used for the architectural styles that emerged between 1830 and 1910: during the reign of Queen Victoria. These architectural styles include Gothic revival, Queen Anne, Italianate, Romanesque, Second Empire, and stick and shingle designs.

The features of the Victorian architecture styles that serve as identification are multi-storey (commonly two or three), Church or Cathedral finials, maximalist design and a small garden.

When did it start?

Even though the reign of Queen Victoria started in 1837, the earliest traces of Victorian architectural style emerged as early as 1830 or before.

Why did it start?

The Victorian era accounted for a substantial increase in wealth, followed by the second industrial revolution, through which the middle-class population expanded. The architectural style worked as a solution to accommodate people from different regional and economic backgrounds.

3. Classical Architecture.

Classical Architecture of Roman Temple Maison Carree
Roman Temple Maison Carree | Source: Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Classical architecture is the architectural style of ancient Greek and Rome. It can have features; such as a pediment, column, and rectangular window and uses heavy materials like bricks, marble and concrete.

When did it start?

The classical architectural period dates back to the 5th century BCE in Greece and the 3rd century BC in Rome.

Why did it start?

The current movement of classical architecture is a result of the Italian Renaissance, during which architects worked to restore classical Roman architecture, while the excavations in Pompeii (1738) promoted Greek architecture.

4. Vernacular Architecture.

An artisan workshop following Vernacular architectural style
Artisan Workshop and Kujang Hall at Piyandeling | Source: Eric Dinardi

Vernacular architecture is a style that uses local knowledge and materials to construct housing that is useful to the population of an area. It typically omits the use of professional architects.

Vernacular architecture is distinct in every location and can follow the cultural values of that area. It is also a technique that tends to evolve (faster than other styles) as builders learn from their experiences.

When did it start?

The earliest trace of Vernacular architecture belongs to the 17th century, while the term was first used in 1857 by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Why did it start?

According to Rubenilson Brazão Teixeira, every vernacular architecture is traditional in the way it originates from specific ethnic groups and is a result of a long process over time, always based on familiar forms established by previous generations.

One of the other reasons may also include the home conditions that architects found necessary for a region following which the architectural style started.

5. Modern Architectural Styles.

A Glass house following modern architectural style located near a garden with several old tress
Glass House by Philip Johnson in USA

Modern architecture is an architectural design that uses a functional approach to buildings, uses newer materials (often) and eliminates the dependency upon older techniques like Victorian architecture.

A simple, open layout, increased comfort, minimalistic patterns or lines, and windows or glass panels are characteristic features.

Through modern architecture, architects were able to construct taller buildings, now called skyscrapers.

When did it start?

Modern architecture began in the 20th century and gained immense popularity after World War I.

Why did it start?

It is one of the architectural styles appointed after the global collaboration increased after World War I. Architects used it extensively to provide housing to the increasing urban population, create innovative structures, provide comfort across every economic zone, and promote social awareness of housing.

6. Gothic Architectural Styles.

Gothic Architectural Style of Chartres Cathedral in France
Chartres Cathedral, France | Source: Olvr, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gothic architecture (pointed architecture) style is a distinguished type of masonry building with cavernous (cave-like) spaces, a pointed roof for extended height, a flying buttress, and precise use of stained glass windows and tracery to provide the utmost natural light.

It was a part of the Gothic (art) period partly responsible for the flourishing of western and central Europe during the Middle Ages.

Further, the three Gothic architectural styles are Early Gothic, High Gothic and late Gothic.

The early Gothic architecture features a coherent styling of the previously mentioned characteristics.

High Gothic architecture (Rayonnant and Decorated) is an evolved form, mainly found in England, and it features highly decorated geometric patterns on the structures.

Lastly, the late Gothic architectural style (Flamboyant and Perpendicular) evolved even more decorative and exhibited a reduced wall space and a continuous expanse of glass and tracery.

When did it start?

Gothic architecture succeeded the Romanesque architect style and commonly existed between the mid-12th-century and 16th century in some parts of Germany.

Precise timeframes for the different gothic architecture types are:

Early Gothic: 1120 to 1200,

High Gothic: 1200 to 1280, and

Late Gothic: 1280 to 1500.

Why did it start?

In simpler terms, Gothic Builders revolutionized the building by decreasing the pressure created by the heavier and taller roof on supporting walls. They did it by directing this weight along the ribs of the ceiling, to the flying buttress (a semi-arch) and then down vertical supports (piers) to the ground. They also increased the interior natural light exposure by using windows and tracery.

7. Georgian Architecture.

Georgian architecture of Nostell Priory
Nostell Priory | Source: nationaltrust.org.uk

Georgian architecture is a design that originated under King Georges I-IV from 1714 to 1830. This architectural style has a pleasing symmetry revived during the Renaissance (Greek and Roman architecture). It introduced classical architecture to smaller spaces, and by the end of its period, it replaced vernacular architecture in almost all middle-class homes and public buildings.

The characteristic features of Georgian architecture are the use of brick or stone, absence of exterior decorations, absolute symmetry, higher ceilings, painted window shutters, multi-storey buildings with a half-storey (for staff), grand entrances, similar-looking windows on each level, etc.

When did it start?

As mentioned before, Georgian architecture existed between 1714 to 1830, under the reign of King Georges I to IV.

Why did it start?

The architectural style came into existence to provide a sense of space and natural light that was missing in the previous forms.

8. Art Deco Architectural Style.

Pink palette Art deco architecture building infront of pine tree
Art Deco Building | Source: The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

Art Deco was a short-lived era that inspired fashion, homewares, arts and architecture. Art deco architecture used to appear sleek but not minimal. The influence of creativity among architects and designers made them build relatively simple structures having freshness, elegance, sophistication and wealth.

One of the events responsible for this influence was Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

The characteristics of Art Deco architecture are materials such as decorative glass, terracotta, steel, etc., contrasting colours, geometric and fine details, and construction of Parapets and spires.

When did it start?

It started in the 1920s in Paris but made its official debut at Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925.

Why did it start?

The purpose of the art deco movement (including architecture) was to infuse functionality with creativity or arts.

9. Renaissance Architectural Styles.

Renaissance Architecture of San Pietro in Montorio in Rome, Italy
San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, Italy | Source: Davide Castaldo / Unsplash

Renaissance architecture is a classical style that originated in Italy and superseded Gothic architecture. Responsible for the construction of various treasured monuments, Renaissance architects adopted classical elements to produce modern structures suitable for cities and the new generation.

Its characteristics include classical elements like rectangular columns, beams, ashlar masonry, symmetrical notions and a layout that allows light and air. Additionally, according to Vitruvius,

"The Basic grammar of renaissance architecture was the five classical orders: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, & Composite",

Renaissance had three different architectural styles- Early Renaissance, High Renaissance, and Mannerism.

The Early Renaissance brought classicism to architecture, followed by the High Renaissance intensifying it, and lastly, Mannerism introduced creativity and decorations to this classicism.

When did it start?

Renaissance architectural styles existed for around 200 years, from 1400 to 1600. The specific time frames for different architectural kinds under it are:

Early Renaissance: 1400 onwards,

High Renaissance: 1500 onwards, and

Mannerism: 1520-30 onwards.

Why did it start?

Renaissance architects believed Gothic architecture was 'northern' that 'corrupted' Italian traditions, and to oppose the same, they started reviving classicism while experimenting with modern techniques.

10. Deconstructivism Architectural Styles.

Zaha Hadid Antwerp Port House following deconstructivism
Zaha Hadid Antwerp Port House | Source: Helene Binet

Deconstructivism architecture is a style that uses no norms of architecture and aims to achieve infinite possibilities by playing with forms and volume.

Any architectural style that fuses non-rectilinear shapes and creates a unique structure ordinarily using materials like wood, concrete, steel and masonry is a type of Deconstructivism architecture.

Even though it exists to explore newer concepts, deconstructivism retains functionality to greater heights.

When did it start?

Russian constructivists presented the earlier drawings during World War I, but the official reference did not exist before the 1980s when French philosopher Jacques Derrida termed it.

Why did it start?

The idea of Deconstructivist architectural styles began with a series of drawings aimed at breaking the classical architectural norms.

The style fuses Russian Constructivism and Modernism while incorporating bits of Post-modernism, expressionism and cubism.

11. Byzantine Architecture.

Byzantine architecture style of Hagia Irene or Aya İrini Kilisesi in Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Irene or Aya İrini Kilisesi in Istanbul, Turkey | Source: Hagia Sophia Turkey

Byzantine architecture comprises the architectural styles of the Byzantine Empire. It continued Roman traditions while incorporating new features, commonly improved fortification walls and domed churches. Under this architectural style, interiors were more crucial than exteriors, and function was highlighted more than form, with Christianity acting as an influence.

Some of its features include better urban planning with paved pathways, bricks, a much thicker layer of mortar, the use of marble, decorative frames (interiors with fine silk and wall hangings) and a dome over four supporting arches.

Further, in the 6th century, houses were built using wood, mud and stone (by wealthy homeowners).

When did it start?

It existed between the 4th century and 15th centuries throughout the Roman empire.

Why did it start?

As mentioned before, Byzantine architecture gave importance to Christianity but also valued function over form, which was absent in previous architecture.

12. Brutalist Architecture.

A concrete finish building in Singapore following Brutalist Architecture
Power Building, Singapore | Source: Sengkang, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brutalism in architecture is a post-modernist movement that marked the rejection of the eclectic and hedonistic trends; found in contemporary architecture of the 20th-century. It is an expressive yet basic form that comprised several construction projects post-war.

The architect style can be distinguished by its block-like nature, use of concrete or bricks (exposed to naked eyes), a utilitarian feel, small windows and modular elements.

When did it start?

One of the early projects that came into notice was Le Corbusier's work from the late 1940s with the Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles. However, the term came into existence in 1953 when Alison Smithson described one of the projects,

"as the first exponent of the new brutalism"

in England.

Further, in 1955, architectural historian Reyner Banham's review of Alison and Peter Smithson's school at Hunstanton in Norfolk established the movement.

Why did it start?

As the demand for housing and urban planning increased after the second world war, a socialist ideology solved a significant portion of the problem through low-cost, functional, and simple buildings that we now call Brutalism in architecture.

Besides consuming less time (in construction), they also seemed to evoke emotions in the designers.

13. Neoclassical Architecture.

Neoclassical architecture of Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial | Source: nps.gov

Neoclassicism is a classical architectural style commonly found in buildings of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The movement distinguished itself by a purer adaption of Classical Greek and Roman architecture instead of using only parts like Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

The architect style has features like simplicity (minimum decorations), geometric garden landscapes, flat or domed roofs, tall columns (Doric or Ionic) as support and vast scale.

The style was most prevalent in the United States and Europe, with British architects using it for almost every project in the 1800s.

Neoclassical architecture is of three types- Temple-style buildings, Palladian buildings, and Classical block buildings, each designed for its purpose.

When did it start?

The architectural movement started in 1750 in Rome and flourished in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Johann Joachim Winckelmann's Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture played a crucial role in providing a theory and establishing it.

Why did it start?

While the Renaissance and Baroque architecture already showcased the revival of Classical, Roman and Greek architecture, Neoclassicism in architecture aimed to remove Baroque excesses and Rococo ornamentation and introduce Classical architecture at its purest while fulfilling modern demands of living.

Additionally, the discovery of archaeological ruins in Pompeii (late 16th century) and Herculaneum (17th century) inspired architects to study ancient building styles of Rome and Greece and consequently implement them on new projects.

Note: Neoclassicism continues to inspire various buildings of the 21st century, and architects use New Neoclassical Architecture or New Neoclassicism as a term.

14. Gothic Revival Architectural Styles.

Gothic Revival Architectural Style of Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk in Ostend in Belgium
Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk in Ostend, Belgium | Source: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gothic revival is a term first used in England in the mid-19th century for buildings that contained middle ages style and embraced Neo-Gothic elements. One of the aims of the architectural movement was to compete with Neo-classicism and revive Gothic spirits in architecture, including that in houses and public places.

The structures of this era used to be picturesque and represent heavy romanticism that is said to draw inspiration from literature and paintings. However, the taste essentially developed through the publication of Richard Hurd’s Letters on Chivalry and Romance (1762) and Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765).

The architectural movement comprises two phases, the earliest one being an era of conservatism and the other one being the originality of architects (while keeping the values intact).

As a result, it was sometimes hard to distinguish between Gothic and Gothic revival in the early phases, but the common characteristics found in the latter are the use of stone, glass, iron, and steel and intricate details, large windows, pointed arches, verticle lines and buttresses.

When did it start?

According to Thomas Wharton, poet and critic, a group of antiquaries began working on the Gothic Revival in the late 17th century. However, it was only in 1730 when the era officially commenced, gained momentum after the 1750s, and towards the end of the 18th century, took on the picturesque objective completely.

The era officially ended in 1930.

Why did it start?

Essentially an outcome of the Romantic revolution, the Gothic Revival originated in response to the growing literary interest in medieval times that contained Gothic tales and romanticism. Furthermore, the industrial revolution played a crucial role in promoting it. At the time, a sentiment toward old values developed that inspired many to incorporate Gothic values in their daily life, importantly, architecture.

15. Romanesque Architecture.

Romanesque Architecture of Glees Germany
Glees Germany | Source: Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

An architectural style that spread in the non-Byzantine countries and succeeded Roman architecture, Romanesque architecture evolved in the Gothic style in the 12th century and is traditionally referred to as Norman architecture in England.

Essentially it is the fusion of Roman, Carolingian and Ottonian, Byzantine, and local Germanic traditions and is popularly distinguished by semicircular arches, thick walls, small windows, large towers, and simplicity compared to the Gothic period. Furthermore, unlike Roman and Gothic styles, Romanesque architecture (similar to Byzantine architecture) employed walls, or sections of walls called piers, as load-bearing elements.

Architects of that time used bricks, limestone, granite, and flint in various regions in conjunction with a thick-bedded mortar to create a picturesque form (another characteristic) that would also come in handy to contribute to progress and education.

Note: Churches were the most prevalent buildings built under this style.

When did it start?

Although there is no definite timeframe for the starting of this architectural movement, critics propose that it ranged from the 6th century to the 11th century. However, the term (coined by Charles de Gerville in the early 19th century) is strictly used from the late 10th century to the 12th century.

Why did it start?

Monasticism and Political influence were among the crucial reasons why Romanesque architecture originated.

16. Bauhaus Architectural Style.

A house on street with a scooter parked outside and following Bauhaus architectural styles
Avraham Soskin House, 12 Lilienblum Street by Zeev Rechter, 1933

In order to recover from the disastrous World War I, Walter Gropius (1883-1969) set up a German school named Staatliches Bauhaus in 1919, an institution that reproduced Bauhaus as an architectural movement carrying similar values.

It was one of the most popular changes in the design world, promoting buildings of both functional and attractive.

Bauhaus architectural styles leveraged asymmetry over symmetry and used modern materials like steel, glass and concrete. Some of the easy-to-spot characteristics of this style are flat roofs, simple colour palettes and smooth facades.

It is also an integral part of history as it was one of the progressive ideas shut down by Nazis labelling the concept un-German. However, it survived only because Walter Gropius and his supporters moved out of Germany and popularized the idea in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel.

In Walter's words, Bauhaus is,

"the ultimate aim of all artistic activity"

and that

"the ultimate, if distant, aim of the Bauhaus is the unified work of art."

When did it start?

Bauhaus architecture came into existence in 1919 alongside the establishment of the Staatliches Bauhaus school in the city of Weimer and shuttered officially in 1933. Though, after World War II, architects and designers started valuing the philosophies of the movement that made Moholy-Nagy establish the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937.

Why did it start?

One of the problems that arose due to World War I was the housing crisis; Bauhaus started with an aim to resolve those as well as introduce art and creativity to the world of architecture and design.

17. International Architecture Style.

International Architect Style of Seagram building, Park Avenue
Seagram building, Park Avenue | Source: Ken OHYAMA from FUNABASHI, Japan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

International architecture arose in the United States and Europe in the early 20th century. These structures closely resembled the modernist theory and are often termed rationalist architecture.

Their characteristics include rectilinear forms that are light, void of decorations, and simple in appearance. These buildings optimally use glass and steel for their purpose, and one may not easily spot the use of concrete.

International architecture is the favourite of Americans as, through it, they were able to construct skyscrapers and use them as a tool to showcase their power and wealth.

When did it start?

International architecture came into existence in the 1920s in Western Europe by architects like Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe. The idea, however, gained popularity in the 1930s in America and the first time the style got a name was in 1932 by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson in their essay titled The International Style: Architecture Since 1922. Later the essay was featured in a catalogue for an architectural exhibition held at MoMA.

Why did it start?

Three of the most crucial factors that contributed to the growth of this style were: the cost-effectiveness of construction, the use of industrial materials like concrete, glass and steel, and the increasing dissatisfaction among architects towards historical buildings with unneeded decorations.