US architecture: history, description, styles and trends

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US architecture: history, description, styles and trends
US architecture: history, description, styles and trends

US architecture, with its four-century history, exhibits a wide range of styles and forms. The features of today's American construction have been shaped by many internal and external influences, resulting in a rich innovative and eclectic tradition. Before modern architecture in the United States reached its engineering, technological and design identity, it was preceded by a long period of projects that followed the patterns of European architecture.

Progress in technologies and materials

When Europeans settled in North America, they brought their architectural traditions and building techniques. Examples of this are America's oldest buildings. Construction depended on available resources. Wood and brick were the most common building materials in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the south coast. This was the case until the end of the nineteenth century, when the architecture of the United States did not undergo significant external changes, which at first were perceived by the public as rather strange and ugly.

Architecture 19century in America

The dynamics of technogenic time required new architectural forms. However, the earlier materials and methods did not allow the construction of extremely tall buildings. After ten or twelve stories, the masonry structure reaches its highest possible height as it faces compression and side wind problems. The technology for the construction of industrial buildings came to the rescue, where metal was the supporting structure, and glass occupied most of the walls for better lighting. This is how the latest construction technology of the 20th century appeared, which resulted in the emergence of a skyscraper in US architecture. This method made it possible to construct structures of various shapes and sizes, in fact, on the basis of welded metal. But before the new technology transformed the look of buildings and forever changed the way people thought about architecture, building in the United States had a difficult evolutionary path.

Architecture of a new nation

In the 18th century, Spanish, French and English colonial architecture in the US was replaced by Georgian style, which was used to build the houses of we althy plantation owners and we althy urban merchants. In church buildings, the main features of the Georgian style were plastered brick or stonework and a single spire that is located at the entrance. American architects of this period stubbornly followed the canons of the Old World.

The Georgian style was at the height of fashion in England and North America when, in 1776, members of the Continental Congress publishedDeclaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies. After a long and troubled war, the Treaty of Paris in 1783 established a new republic, the United States of America. Despite the fact that it was a political break with English society and state, the influence of the Georgian style on building design continued.

Typical 18th century American Georgian building

But the young republic developed, social and commercial needs grew in parallel with the territorial expansion. From the year of the Declaration - 1776 - to the beginning of the 19th century, US architecture sought to emphasize the political, economic and cultural independence of the state with new forms in the construction of government, religious and educational buildings.

Federal style

In the 1780s, architectural forms in the United States began to move away from the standards of the Georgian style, and a completely unique American genre of American building design appeared - the federal style. In the design of new buildings of administrative and business institutions, classical columns, domes, and pediments were used, following the example of ancient Rome and Greece. Similar architectural elements, strict classical forms symbolized the birth of a new democratic nation.

Massachusetts State House, federal style

Federal style was especially popular along the Atlantic coast from 1780 to 1830. Some famous examples:

  • Massachusetts State House 1798 by architect Charles Bulfinch, StateMassachusetts.
  • Dwellings on Louisbourg Square in Beacon Hill, Boston by architect Charles Bulfinch.
  • Hamilton Hall - John Gardiner-Pingry's 1805 home in Salem, Massachusetts, architect Samuel McInteer.
  • Old City Hall in Salem Massachusetts 1816-1817

US architecture of the 19th century, in addition to the federal style, is marked by two more popular directions, which were the revived architecture of ancient historical eras, as well as a large number of mixed directions.

American Neo-Gothic

Since the 1840s, the Neo-Gothic style has become popular in the United States. The great families of the east coast had huge estates and villas built in this direction. American Neo-Gothic is also represented in church buildings, university complexes (Yale, Harvard). In New York, there is a fine example of American Gothic, an elegant synthesis of Cologne Cathedral and Notre Dame de Paris - St. Patrick's Cathedral of 1888, which is a historical monument of architecture in the United States. The design and construction of this largest Gothic cathedral in America was led by James Renquick. The same architect owns the construction of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Another notable neo-Gothic builder in the United States was Richard Upjohn, who specialized in the construction of rural churches in the northeast of the country, his main work is Trinity Church in New York.

Neo-Gothic Lyndhurst Manor USA

Style enjoyedsuccess and therefore existed in the architecture of the United States until the beginning of the 20th century, its elements can be observed in the design of some skyscrapers in Chicago and New York. The most characteristic examples of American neo-Gothic:

  • 1838-1865 Lyndhurst Apartment Building by architect Alexander Jackson Davis in Tarrytown, New York;
  • James Monroe's headstone erected in 1858 at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia;
  • state prison built 1867-1876 in Mundsville, West Virginia, architect James Renwick;
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral, built 1885-1888, New York, architect James Renwick;
  • an example of Collegiate Gothic is the 1912 University of Oklahoma by architect Evans Halls.

Ancient Greek Revival

Strict and very symmetrical design of the Greek style attracted the attention of American architects in the first half of the 19th century. The government of the young state, free from British control, was convinced that America would become the new Athens, that is, a democratic country. The architect Latrobe, with students William Strickland and Robert Mills, received a government commission to build, similar to Greek architecture, several banks and churches in large cities such as Philadelphia, B altimore and Washington DC. Also, in different cities of the country, several capitols were built not in the Roman, but in the Greek style, for example, in Raleigh of North Carolina or Indianapolis of Indiana. These structures, with simple façades, continuous cornices, and nodomes give the impression of strict organization, asceticism and special grandeur of buildings. Other examples of Greek style in US architectural history:

  • New York Customs Building (First Federal Customs House), completed in 1842 in New York, designed by James Renwick.
  • The 1861 Ohio State Capitol in Columbus by architect Henry W alter.
  • The Rosicrucian Fellowship Temple, built in 1920 in Oceanside California, designed by Lester Cramer.
Church of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood in ancient Greek style

Gilded Age and late 1800s

After the American Civil War and until the turn of the 20th century, there were many different styles in US architecture. These movements can be classified as the late Victorian period, Queen Anne style, Shingle style (tile style), Stick style - a variant of neo-Gothic, embodied in wooden architecture. All these trends were called "Victorian" because of their similarity with European architectural trends during the late British period of Queen Victoria. The most influential American architects of this period are Richard Morris Hunt, Frank Furness, Henry Hobson Richardson.

During that American period of rampant we alth and luxury, industrial and commercial magnates commissioned mansions that reproduced European Renaissance palaces. One such example is the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. It was built by an architectRichard Morris Hunt for George Washington Vanderbilt, a French Renaissance Château inspired by the Château de Blois, a French royal castle. Estate of 16,622.8 sq. meters to this day is the largest private mansion in the United States.

Prerequisites for the emergence of skyscrapers

At the end of the nineteenth century in the United States, all buildings could be divided into two types according to their purpose. On the one hand, these are buildings for residential and civic purposes, which, as a rule, reflect the architecture and styles of the past with the use of traditional decoration. On the other hand, there were utilitarian structures, such as factories, workshops, elevators, which used modern materials, steel beams, sheet glass in a very casual and unsightly way. However, such buildings did not fall into the category of aesthetic architecture and were more often designed by engineers and builders rather than architects.

The development of modern architecture in the US can largely be seen as an adaptation of this kind of functional building and its widespread use for purposes other than industrial or domestic. Modern architects began to use these new materials not only because of their practical qualities, they consciously used their aesthetic possibilities. For example, with the help of glass, the outer space of the walls was opened to a greater extent. Stone and brick masonry has also lost its relevance, as steel beams have replaced the former load-bearing structures made of these materials.

Fundamental premisemodern architecture has become that the appearance of the building must demonstrate the harmony of materials and forms. This approach often resulted in effects that looked strange from a traditional point of view, but for this reason they have become hallmarks of modern architecture in the US and Europe.

First skyscrapers

The most famous architectural innovation in the United States is skyscrapers, modern high-rise buildings also known as office towers. Such construction was made possible by several technological advances. In 1853, Elisha Otis invented the first safety elevator, which prevented the car from sliding down the shaft in the event of a cable break. Elevators made it possible to increase the number of storeys of buildings.

Insurance House of Chicago (1885) - the first skyscraper technology

An 1868 competition determined the design of the six-story New York City Equitable Life Building, which was the first commercial building to use an elevator. Construction began in 1873. It was followed by other US enterprise architecture projects. For decades, American high-rise buildings have combined conservative décor with technical innovation.

Soon, multi-storey construction faced a new engineering challenge. Bearing stone walls withstood a load not exceeding a 20-story height. Such construction culminates in the Monadnock Building (1891) by Burnham & Root in Chicago. Found a solution to this problem in 1884, engineer William LeBaron Jenny (WilliamLeBaron Jenney, famous for being the architect of the world's first skyscraper, and who is called the father of American skyscrapers. He used a metal support frame instead of a stone wall in the construction of the ten-story Chicago Insurance House in 1885. This technology led to the rise of the skyscraper in US architecture. The architects, following Jenny's design, began to use a thin but strong metal frame instead of a brick load-bearing wall, thereby reducing the overall weight of the building by two-thirds.

Another feature that became commonplace in 20th-century US architecture thanks to new engineering developments: since the outer walls no longer carried the weight of the building, their space was occupied by huge windows instead of brick. This is how the first skyscraper appeared, in which sheet glass occupied most of the outer surface of the walls. This new design first appeared in the Chicago Reliance Building designed by Charles B. Atwood and E. Shankland in 1890-1895. Some of the finest early towers were designed by Louis Sullivan, America's first great modern architect.

Woolworth Building

20th century architecture in the US is marked by skyscrapers. One of the earliest culturally significant skyscrapers was the 1913 Woolworth Building in New York City, built by the eminent American architect Cass Gilbert and commissioned by major entrepreneur Frank Woolworth. Taking previous technologies to a new level, the talented architect designed the construction of a 57-storey building with a height of 233 meters, as a result, the completed building reached241 m. Frank Woolworth was a fan of gothic cathedrals, and Cass Gilbert designed an office tower with a neo-gothic design for his shopping center. Until 1930, the Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world. To date, the structure remains one of the 100 tallest office towers in the United States, and is also one of the thirty largest skyscrapers in New York. Since 1966, the Woolworth Building has been designated a National Historic Landmark and an iconic landmark for the city.

Roof of the Woolworth Building

Skyscrapers are objects of building competition

The Woolworth Building was followed by several outstanding structures that competed for the title of the highest skyscraper or outstanding design and became a symbol of high-rise America.

40 Wall Street, known since 1996 as the Trump Building, is a 72-story Neo-Gothic New York skyscraper built as the headquarters of the Manhattan firm. Construction lasted 11 months and was completed in 1930. The height of all floors of the Trump Building is 255 m, together with the spire, the building rises to 282.5 m. The skyscraper was the tallest building in the world for a short time after the Woolworth Building, but this title was taken from him by the Chrysler Building office tower, which became a cult in aesthetics of US architecture.

The description and photos do not fully convey the original design of the Chrysler Building, New York's Art Deco skyscraper located in Manhattan. The Chrysler Building was designed by architect William Van Alen inas a corporate headquarters commissioned by W alter Chrysler, head of the largest Chrysler company. Together with the original roof and antenna spire, the 77-story building reached 318.9 m and exceeded all previous buildings.

However, 11 months later, this record was broken by the Empire State Building. When the Chrysler Building was completed, reviews of the structure's design, too advanced for the time, were more than mixed: some thought the building was unoriginal, others that it looked insane, and there were those who perceived it as iconic and most modernist. Now the Chrysler Building is a classic, an example of Art Deco architectural style, and in 2007 the tower was ranked ninth on the list of America's favorite architecture.

Chrysler Building Art Deco Skyscraper

In the description of the Empire State Building, it is necessary to mention that the skyscraper is a symbol of the state and city of New York. Its name is derived from "Empire State", one of the state's nicknames dating back to the 19th century. Recognized as an American cultural icon, the tower has been featured in over 250 television shows and films since the 1933 film King Kong. The Empire State Building, with its ground floor interior, has been designated by the New York City Landmarks Commission as a landmark for the city. The building was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Since 1986, this skyscraper has been listed as a National Historic Landmark, and in 2007 it took first place in the list of selected buildings.American Institute of Architects. The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper built by a group of architects in 1931. The total height of the building, including the antenna, is 443.2 m. As of 2017, the building is the fifth tallest completed skyscraper in the United States and the 28th tallest in the world. It is also the 6th tallest autonomous structure in the Americas.

The Empire State Building is the symbol of New York

Modern innovation with international style

Before World War II, many European architects emigrated to the United States, bringing ideas of what would later be called the International Style. This direction spread throughout the world and until the 1970s was dominant in mass construction. Most of the techniques and design elements of International Style have become characteristic of 21st century US architecture. The style is characterized by the use of lightweight industrial materials and repetitive modular forms. Emphasis on volume and simplified form is intensified while ornament and color are abandoned, flat monotonous surfaces are used, usually alternating with glass.

In 1952, the New York skyscraper Lever House was completed in midtown Manhattan. Built in the International style, it was not particularly tall, reaching 94 m. But the building, designed by Gordon Bunshout and Nathalie de Blois, became cutting-edge, as it implemented a new approach to uniform glazing of the outer surface of the building. This technique will establish itself in the construction of the currentcentury, 21st century architecture in the US and around the world. The desire for an increased window area has reached its logical conclusion in Lever House: the entire facade of the building consists of continuous windows. Glass and thin strips of metal on the outer shell of the structure, an innovative building technique from the middle of the last century has become a completely familiar design today.

Small suburban construction

If we talk about the residential architecture of the United States, then with the advent of electric trams along the inner ring around big cities, cottage construction began to develop. The first excitement of suburban development began in the mid-1890s and lasted until the end of the 1930s. The bulk of private houses appeared near trams and railways, as the only transport communicating with the city. The building boom of this period led to the emergence of a new form of house, the so-called American square or American four. These buildings are simple in form and design, one or two stories high, often incorporating handcrafted woodwork.

The first cottage communities formed around the cities of the United States in the inner suburbs, also called first ring developments. They are the oldest densely populated suburban communities with a significant and rich history. Most inland private developments share a common boundary with the main metropolitan area and develop near roads, railways, tram lines radiating from the city, or at ferry terminals and along water lines.

Beginning of the second wave of suburbanbuilding in the United States had in the middle of the last century. The 1944 Bill of Rights and the federal government loan decision made the personal home affordable housing for even low-income borrowers. This has significantly changed the architectural suburban landscape. Government-backed loans have made the dream of a house and a car very affordable for many citizens. The country began the global construction of cottage settlements with a well-maintained and comfortable, but standard architecture of the same type. Such monotonous residential areas have become a common feature of the United States landscape and now reflect low-budget housing developments.

At the end of the 20th century, a direction for private housing construction appeared, called the new classical architecture. Unlike low-budget cottages, the ideal of proportions, materials and methods of traditional architecture of former styles and trends is maintained in the construction of neoclassical mansions. In the 21st century, such construction has gained unprecedented popularity and once again changed the architectural landscape of the American suburbs.

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