October 2, 2023
Contemporary Architecture

Exploring the Difference Between Modern vs. Contemporary Architecture

The world of architecture is diverse and ever-evolving. Among the different styles and movements, modernism and contemporary architecture stand out as particularly influential and prevalent. These two design languages are often confused due to their similarities, but they have distinct features that differentiate them from one another. In this article, we will explore the nuances between modern and contemporary architecture, touching on their historical development, defining characteristics, and implications in today’s architectural landscape.

Modern Architecture

With its origins tracing back to the early 20th century, modern architecture emerged as a response to the ornate and elaborate styles of the past, such as Victorian and Baroque. Pioneers like Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright sought to create a new architectural language that embraced simplicity and rationality.

The hallmark of modern architecture is its open plan, with large windows and uninterrupted spaces promoting a sense of simplicity and interconnectedness. The use of materials like concrete, glass, and steel reflects this sentiment as well, each emphasizing clean lines and a minimalistic aesthetic.

Contemporary Architecture

Although the term ‘contemporary’ may be used to describe the architecture of the present, this term is actually rooted in the postmodern movement of the 1960s and 70s. This design language rebelled against modernism’s idealization of simplicity by incorporating bright colors, bold shapes, and a variety of materials.

Today, contemporary architecture continues to push boundaries with its emphasis on sustainability and experimentation. With a focus on natural materials, energy efficiency, and green building practices, this style of architecture embraces the idea of “living lightly” on the planet.

Key Features and Principles

Form and Function

Modern architecture is known for its emphasis on form following function. This means that design decisions are driven by the building’s purpose and user experience. On the other hand, contemporary architecture often prioritizes aesthetics without sacrificing function, resulting in more unconventional shapes and forms.

Open Spaces

Open floor plans and large windows are common features in both modern and contemporary architecture. These design choices enhance the feeling of spaciousness and connectivity with the outdoors. To ensure the success of your architectural project, it’s essential to seek advice from professionals at reputable architecture firms in Asheville. An experienced architect will help you navigate through the various design options and make informed decisions, whether it’s selecting a modern or contemporary aesthetic.

Use of Materials

Both architectural styles champion the use of innovative materials and construction techniques. While modern architecture relies heavily on industrial materials like concrete, steel, and glass, contemporary buildings may feature a wider range of materials, including wood, metal, and fiber-reinforced plastics.


One notable aspect of contemporary architecture is an increased focus on sustainability. In response to growing environmental concerns, architects have embraced energy-efficient design strategies, such as passive solar design, green roofs, and the use of recycled materials.

How to Decide Between Modern and Contemporary Architecture?

Choosing between modern and contemporary architecture for your project ultimately depends on your personal taste and the desired function of the space. Here are a few considerations when deciding on an architectural style:

Visual Preferences

If you are drawn to clean lines, minimal ornamentation, and rectilinear forms, modern architecture might be the right choice. In contrast, contemporary architecture offers more design flexibility, allowing for organic and non-linear shapes.


Contemporary design allows for more adaptability, making it a suitable choice for a diverse range of project types. This style can easily be incorporated into residential, commercial, or public projects.

Sustainability Goals

If sustainability is a key concern for your project, contemporary architecture may be more suitable due to its emphasis on eco-friendly principles.

To Sum Up

Modern and contemporary architecture share similarities in their use of open spaces, innovative materials, and clean lines. However, there are distinct differences between the two. To learn more about finding the right architect for your home improvement project, be sure to check out this blog. This will help ensure that you get the architectural style that best suits your needs and preferences. Ultimately, the decision of whether to go with modern or contemporary architecture comes down to personal taste and the desired function of the space. With the right architect on your side, you can create a space that reflects your unique style and respects historical precedents. Thank you for reading!