Contemporary Architecture

Contemporary Architecture

Architecture today offers many choices and draws from many ideas and approaches. It is easy to confuse the term “Contemporary Architecture” with “Modern Architecture”. Whereas Modern Architecture refers to a particular early 20th Century school of thought, contemporary architecture really means current architecture. Whether you are building a new structure or renovating an existing, today’s design offers many choices.

Characteristics of Contemporary Architecture

Contemporary design combines scholarship and attention to methods of construction. Whereas “Modern Architecture” often dictated a single universal style, contemporary buildings learn from the past and incorporate qualities of various styles.  Choices are made based on their suitability to the project and overall aesthetic value of the contribution they make to the whole. Today’s architecture may be considered to be eclectic, offering the architect great creative freedom. In architecture and interior design, elements may include modern structural features offering an open space plan combined with the proportions and scale of classical architecture. Elements such as windows and doors relate to human scale through using smaller panes of glass in combination rather than being impersonal shear walls of glass.

Contemporary architecture also looks  to the architecture of a specific region.  This is referred to as “Vernacular Architecture”. Regions use forms that suit the environment. A house in a tropical environment often has a steeply pitched roof to shed water and has a deep overhang to protect the walls from moisture. A contemporary home in the desert may use thick adobe walls which absorb the cool night air and release it during the hot day.

If you own an apartment, renovations benefit from this approach greatly. Classical moldings can be modified in detail and scale to suit and enhance an existing space that may not have the size or proportion to take advantage of classical architecture. The very popular Art Deco and Art Moderne movements in the United States very successfully combined a highly detailed and decorated architecture with spatial configurations offered by technical innovation. Contemporary spaces that take advantage of this approach are visually rich while offering the possibility of unique spatial planning.

If you are just renovating a kitchen or bath, state of the art fixtures suit even a bath that uses traditional elements. Today’s showers do everything but wash your car, take advantage of them. In creating a classic tiled or marbled bath there is no need for faucets that look like dolphins or toilets on ionic columns. Contemporary bathrooms are twentieth century inventions, celebrate them. A wonderful visual counterpoint occurs when rooms combine modern invention with traditional craft. It can be quite exciting.

Contemporary Architecture and Interior Design: What should you look for in an architect?

To find an architect with the progressive view of today’s contemporary design, look for an architect who addresses both art and technology.

An architect’s portfolio should demonstrate a heightened aesthetic awareness and show a varied portfolio including contemporary commercial or institutional projects as well as residential ones. This demonstrates a wide range of knowledge. Lessons learned from one project type may offer valuable alternatives for another type.