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31 Architectural Styles: The Great Evolution Of Architecture

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

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:

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 Architect