Modern is New Again


We've spent some time talking about the beauty of historic Charleston architecture and the beautiful new buildings it's inspired throughout the Lowcountry. But the latest trend just might surprise you and has already been making a giant comeback across the country and here in the Lowcountry.

Lush, ornate, intricate, and stunning traditional architecture is not lacking here in Charleston. The ornate mansions with all kinds of decorations from it's foundation to the top of its towers resonate all around us. This original taste of architecture has flooded over in reconstruction in high-end neighborhoods and in reproduction all across the southeast. As beautiful as it is and as notable, it might not be the trend that you'll be seeing for much longer in new builds. If you've been paying attention to newly developed areas and new builds across the city, these overwhelming trends of architecture are becoming smaller and smaller. A new trend is seeping back into architecture across the country and here in the Lowcountry, Modernism is back and it looks like it might be here to stay for a while.

Traditional architecture is exactly what it sounds. It is inspired by historical styles like Victorian, Spanish, Colonial, and Neo-Classical. Each of these styles is found here in Charleston. They are full of lush elements, heavy design, decorations, and lots of extra add ons. They are romantic, castle-like, and prove to the world that it's original owner had wealth and wanted to flaunt it. They are stacked with pillars, columns, crown moldings, high pitched decadent and adorned roofs, scalloping, hood moldings, parapets, and dripping with grandeur. But this just might be a thing of the past.

Modern architecture started as a rebellion against this classical architectural tradition in a time when the world was in a transition itself. The birth of modern architecture was in the 1930s and lasted until the 1970s when it was pronounced to be "dead". Now, forty years later it seems to have been reborn. Technology and design have once again joined forces and are working together to bring back this sleek and clean movement of building.

Modernism is possibly even more popular today than it was at its height right before WWII! This form of architecture was created by geniuses like Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Zaha Hadid, Walter Gropis, and Philip Johnson. To get a feel of this type of architecture, check out some of the most famous buildings it created. Like Fallingwater, Villa Savoye, The Guggenheim Museum, The Louvre Pyramid, the Royal National Theater, and the Sydney Opera House just to name a few.

As we are now out with the old and in with the new old, here are some of the main elements that define Modern Architecture.

  • Open living spaces, so it doesn't hinder the flow of living within the home. It often combines many living spaces into one. This creates a more welcoming and open living space.

  • Minimal interior design. Interior design is simple and shows off the focus of the home, the architecture. The focus is on the materials used, how it flows, and the line it creates.

  • Clean, geometric lines. There are no more elements of fuss or added decoration.

  • Technologically advanced materials are used to build the home. At the height of its first iteration, these materials were iron, concrete, steel, and glass. These elements are still used and utilized today. The use of resources local to the building are also used, like certain types of wood and stone.

  • Function over form is preferred. These buildings are designed to have open spaces to create a sense of community and to accommodate any and all functions.

  • These homes and buildings are built and designed with conservation as the main factor. Sustainable materials and tools are mixed into the overall design, saving energy and creating an elegant look.

  • Natural light-filled interiors are a huge focus. It throws out the idea that there should be a separation of the outside and the inside. With the use of floor to ceiling glass windows it creates a bright and airy feel.

  • Usually has a neutral or natural color palette.

  • It usually has a unique and functional roof design. You can find flat roofs, making the structure look boxy. You can also find very epic horizontal lines creating the roof and main focal point or inspiration for the whole shape of the house.

These homes and buildings are likely to have sparse or minimal furniture. Furniture and decorations (if any) are usually picked to highlight the materials that were used to build the home or building and to add to the already created flow. Some assume that this type of design is very cold. But with the use of wood and stone and other natural materials, it is very much the opposite. Adding in large windows, vaulted post and beam ceilings, and floor to ceiling fireplaces add to that warmth.

Could you imagine one of these buildings or homes next to the beach here in the Lowcountry? The beach and stunning horizon spilling through these epic windows and filling the interior with a golden light? Could you imagine an incredible design highlighted by stone found here in the South East and showcased next to the natural vegetation growing in and around it? We certainly can. This style of architecture is going to give beautiful gems to the Lowcountry, and we are excited to see this trend step fully into the light. Keep your eyes peeled - you might find this classical and new aged style in places you wouldn't expect!

Tim Hilkhuijsen