Architectural Styles: The iconic styles that changed the course of history

An architecture style is a collection of external influences that shape the materiality, method of construction, and form of a building...
Architectural Styles

What is an architectural style?

An architecture style is a collection of external influences that shape the materiality, method of construction, and form of a building, helping it to be identified and characterized in both historical and design terms.

Most architecture styles develop, and in a lot of cases become superseded over time, as changing fashions, technology, religions, beliefs and materials advance, creating new opportunities and evolving new styles

For this reason most styles follow and can be classified in a chronological order.

A style can change and adapt at any time, and is often present at the same time as several others, in both a national and global sense.

But it is not limited to just one place or region, and can spread from its origin to the opposite side of the world, if it is picked up by the right person.

This then often results in its development and transformation into the new or adjusted style to follow.

architecture styles

Architectural styles that shaped modern architecture

Here we present the key architecture styles in chronicle order that have helped developed the architecture styles we are living with today.


Buildings first evolved as early civilizations developed, often independently, in scattered locations around the globe, from a need for shelter, security, places for worship, places for congregation etc.

Using the available materials, space and skills gave rise to a mixed very mixed architecture style that  was often a combination of timber cut from local forests and stone hewn from local rocks.

Neolithic architecture – 10,000 to 2,000 BC

Neolithic ‘architecture’ included not just housing for shelter, but also tombs, religious buildings, symbolic structures and monuments such as megaliths found in Europe and the Mediterranean. Some of these structures were very elaborate. Building materials included; mud brick, skins, textiles, wattle and daub, stone and timber.

The world’s oldest known engineered roadway, the Sweet Track in England, also dates from this time

Mesopotamia – 4500 to 2000 BC

Mesopotamia is ancient architecture of the region of the Tigris–Euphrates river system encompassing a number of distinct cultures.

Among its accomplishments are the development of complex urban planning systems, building styles such as the courtyard house, and ziggurats, and stepped pyramids built as part of temple complexes.

Ancient Egyptian – 3750 BC to 400 AD

Ancient Egypt was not one stable civilization, and experienced constant change and upheaval that lead to a varied set of architectural styles.

The Ancient Egyptians developed great architectural monuments, the most famous being the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx of Giza. Due to Egypt’s location, buildings and monuments were predominately constructed using hardened mud bricks and limestone, as a result of there being a scarcity of wood.

Many of the buildings would be aligned astronomically and built by slaves

Ancient Greek – 900 BC to 300 AD

Ancient Greek architecture is best known from its temples, as well as developing civic, and religious ideals. Its diverse range of public buildings, ranging from open-air theaters and public squares to public monuments. Architectural design adopted highly formalized decorative and structural characteristics, with a clear evolution of architectural style through three defined orders; Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

Roman – 300 BC to 700 AD

Ancient Roman architecture adopted some of the external language of classical Greek architecture with a similar emphasis on civic buildings, but was different from Greek buildings, becoming a new architectural style.

It was renowned for its vast range of iconic building types, such as; temples, baths, villas, amphitheaters, palaces and circuses.

Roman architecture developed important structural elements such as arches, vaulted ceilings and domes, that were typically strong and well-engineered, using concrete.

This lead onto the development of unprecedented civil engineering projects such as bridges, aqueducts and roads.

Byzantine – 330 AD to 1453

Byzantine architecture was a continuation of Roman architecture, but with influences from the Near East. Buildings increased in geometric complexity, the classical orders were used more freely and the Greek cross plan was adopted in church architecture which often included complex dome structures supported by massive piers.

Moorish – 711 to 1492

Moorish architecture is the articulated Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal, where the Andalusians (Moors) were dominant between 711 and 1492.

Characteristic elements of Moorish architecture include muqarnas, horseshoe arches, voussoirs, domes, crenellated arches, lancet arches, ogee arches, courtyards, and decorative tile work known as zellij in Arabic or azulejo in Spanish and Portuguese.

Hoysala 1000 to 1300

Hoysala architecture is the building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire, in the region known today as Karnataka, a state of India. Hoysala influence was at its peak in the 13th century, when it dominated the Southern Deccan Plateau region.

Romanesque – 1050 to 1170

Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of medieval Europe characterized by semi-circular arches. In the 12th century it developed into the Gothic style, marked by pointed arches. Examples of Romanesque architecture can be found across the continent, making it the first pan-European architectural style since Imperial Roman architecture.

Norman – 1075 to 1250

Norman architecture is a categorized style of Romanesque architecture developed by the Normans. In particular the term is traditionally used for English Romanesque architecture. The Normans introduced large numbers of castles and fortifications including Norman keeps, and at the same time monasteries, abbeys, churches and cathedrals, in a style characterized by the usual Romanesque rounded arches and especially massive proportions compared to other regional variations of the style.

Mudejar – 1125 to 1600

The Mudéjar style, a symbiosis of techniques of building and decoration, where Moorish and European cultures met. It is characterized by the use of brick as the main material, in particular for bell towers. Mudéjar did not involve the creation of new shapes or structures, unlike Gothic or Romanesque, but applied the elements of Islamic and Jewish art and architecture to medieval and renaissance Christian architecture. Gothic

Gothic – 1180 to 1540

Gothic architecture emerged in the 11th and 12th centuries in Europe. It was characterized by an emphasis on the vertical, with increasingly tall buildings, featuring almost impossibly thin stone structures, pointed arches and ribbed stone vaults, interspersed with expanses of glass, and supported by external flying buttresses.

Sondergotik – 1350 to 1550

Sondergotik (Special Gothic) is the style of Late Gothic architecture prevalent in Austria, Bavaria, Saxony and Bohemia.

Sondergotik showed an attention to detail both within and without. In many Sondergotik buildings, fluidity and a wood-like quality were stressed in carving and decoration, particularly on vaults. Outside, the buildings tended towards mass buttressing.

Renaissance – 1400 to 1600

Renaissance architecture emerged in Europe, where there was a revival of interest in the classical antiquities and an emergence of new scientific understanding. It was noted for its clean lines, symmetry and proportion, reminiscent of the architecture ancient Rome, with the use of columns, pilasters and lintels, arches and domes. An understanding of perspective also led to more conscious composition of architectural form.

Tudor – 1485 to 1603

The Tudor architectural style is the final development of medieval architecture in England, and also the tentative introduction of Renaissance architecture. In the much more slow-moving styles of vernacular architecture “Tudor” has become a designation for styles like half-timbering that characterize the few buildings surviving from before 1485 and others from the Stuart period. Manueline

High Renaissance – 1500 to 1520

During the High Renaissance, concepts derived from classical antiquity were developed and used with greater confidence, expanding the applicability of classical architecture to contemporary buildings.

Mannerism – 1530 to 1600

Mannerism, also known as Late Renaissance, is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520.

The style is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial qualities. It favors compositional tension and instability rather than the balance and clarity of earlier Renaissance painting.

Baroque – 1600 to 1755

Baroque architecture was a more theatrical version of Renaissance architecture, with dramatic lighting and colour, illusory effects such as trompe l’oeil, and designs that played games with architectural features, sometimes leaving them incomplete.

Its buildings typically include central towers, domes, portico or other central projections in the main façade. As Baroque architecture coincided with European colonialism, it is a style that can be seen throughout much of the world.

Palladianism – 1615 to 1690

Palladian architecture is a European style of architecture derived from and inspired by the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. Palladian designs were based on the symmetry and perspective of the temples of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. It was characterized by the use of pediments and symmetry, and proportions that were based on mathematics rather than ornament. Palladian architecture is recognizable for its classical facades.

Georgian – 1714 to 1830

The Georgian style is highly variable, but marked by symmetry and proportion based on the classical architecture of Greece and Rome, as revived in Renaissance architecture. 

In the United States the term “Georgian” is generally used to describe all buildings from the period, regardless of style; in Britain it is generally restricted to buildings that are “architectural in intention”, and have stylistic characteristics that are typical of the period, though that covers a wide range.

Neoclassical – 1750 to 1920

Derived from Palladian architecture, Neoclassical has references to classical Greek and Roman architecture. It has a flat, planar quality, emphasizing the wall and the separation of elements.

Notable examples of neoclassical architecture include the White House in Washington and the Bank of England in London.

Gothic revival – 1760 to 1880

Gothic Revival was an architectural movement that began in England. Its popularity grew rapidly in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood molds and label stops.

Federal architecture – 1780 to 1830

Federal-style architecture is the name for the classicizing architecture built in the newly founded United States. The name Federal style is also used in association with furniture design in the United States of the same time period. The style broadly corresponds to the classicism of Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Regency architecture in Britain and to the French Empire style.

Russian revival – 1825 to 1915

Russian revival is the generic term for a number of different movements within Russian architecture that was an eclectic melding of pre-Peterine Russian architecture and elements of Byzantine architecture.

The Russian Revival style arose within the framework that the renewed interest in the national architecture, and it is an interpretation and stylization of the Russian architectural heritage.

Victorian – 1845 to 1900

Victorian architecture is a series of architectural revival styles. Victorian refers to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) in England, called the Victorian era, during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. However, many elements of what is typically termed “Victorian” architecture did not become popular until later in Victoria’s reign. The styles often included interpretations and eclectic revivals of historic styles.

Romanesque revival – 1840 to 1900

Romanesque Revival is a style of building inspired by the 11th- and 12th-century Romanesque architecture. Unlike the historic Romanesque style, however, Romanesque Revival buildings tended to feature more simplified arches and windows than their historic counterparts.

Swiss chalet style – 1850 to 1900

Swiss chalet style is an architectural style of Late Historicism, originally inspired by rural chalets in Switzerland and the Alpine regions of Central Europe. The style refers to traditional building designs characterized by widely projecting roofs and facades richly decorated with wooden balconies and carved ornaments.

Arts and crafts movement – 1860 to 1930

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement in the decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and flourished in Europe and North America, emerging in Japan (the Mingeimovement) in the 1920s. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration.

Beaux-Arts – 1830 to 1880

Beaux Arts refers to the style taught first at the Académie royale d’architecture from 1671 –1793, and then from 1795 at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. It was a heavily decorative style characterized by symmetry, flat roofs, arched windows and doors and classical details.

Queen Anne style – 1870 to 1914

The Queen Anne style in Britain refers to either the English Baroque architectural style approximately of the reign of Queen Anne

In British architecture the term is mostly used of domestic buildings up to the size of a manor house, and usually designed elegantly but simply by local builders or architects, rather than the grand palaces of noble magnates. Contrary to the American usage of the term, it is characterized by strongly bilateral symmetry with an Italianate or Palladian-derived pediment on the front formal elevation.

American Renaissance – 1876 to 1917

The American Renaissance was a period of American architecture and the arts characterized by renewed national self-confidence and a feeling that the United States was the heir to Greek democracy, Roman law, and Renaissance humanism. The era spans the period between the Centennial Exposition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the United States’ entry into World War I.

Art nouveau – 1890 to 1910

Art Nouveau was symptomatic of a struggle between the old and the new. Whilst it rejected some of the revivalist styles of the 19th century, it did adopt some of the elements of Rococo, with organic forms and applied art typified by Hector Guimard’s Paris metro entrances. Notable exponents of art nouveau in architecture include Mackintosh and Gaudi.

Early Modernism – 1900 to 1914

Modern architecture, or modernist architecture was based upon new and innovative technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; the idea that form should follow function; an embrace of minimalism; and a rejection of ornament

Prairie style – late 19th- and early 20th-century

Prairie School is most common to the Midwestern United States. The style is usually marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, integration with the landscape, solid construction, craftsmanship, and discipline in the use of ornament. Horizontal lines were thought to evoke and relate to the wide, flat, treeless expanses of America’s native prairie landscape.

Nordic classicism – 1910 to 1930

Nordic Classicism was a style of architecture that briefly blossomed in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland).

Nordic Classicism was regarded as a mere interlude between two far more well-known architectural movements, National Romanticism, or Jugendstil (often seen as equivalent or parallel to Art Nouveau), and Functionalism (aka Modernism).

Futurism – 1912

Futurist architecture emerged in the early-20th century in Italy. It was motivated by anti-historicism and characterized by long horizontal lines and streamlined forms suggesting speed, dynamism, movement and urgency.

Futurism went out of fashion following WWII, but re-emerged in a reinterpreted form with the popularity of futuristic comic books and the arrival of the Space Age.

Expressionism – 1910 to 1924

Expressionist architecture is an architectural movement in Europe in parallel with the expressionist visual and performing arts that especially developed and dominated in Germany. Expressionist architecture is one of the three dominant styles of Modern architecture (International Style, Expressionist- and Constructivist architecture)

Expressionist architects used materials such as concrete and glass to create novel sculptural forms and massing, sometimes distorted and fragmented to express an emotional perspective.

Modernism – 1917 to 1965

At the turn of the 20th century, a general dissatisfaction with revivalist architecture and elaborate decoration gave rise to modernist architecture, characterized by the idea that ‘Form follows function’.

As the complexity of buildings began to increase (in terms of structural systems, services and technology), building design became a multi-disciplinary undertaking, with specialist designers for different types and different aspects of buildings.

De Stijl – 1917 to 1931

De Stijl (The Style) was an art and design movement that developed in Netherlands, partly as a consequence of its isolation during WWI. It was recognizable for its use of strong geometric lines, bold primary colors and the articulation of distinct functional elements. It was adopted in art (notably by Mondrian), furniture and architecture.

Whilst relatively little architecture was actually produced, the influence of buildings such as the Rietveld Schroder House (1924) can be seen in the work of architects such as Mies van der Rohe.

Constructivism – 1920 to 1932

Constructivist architecture was a form of modern architecture that flourished in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and early 1930s. It combined advanced technology and engineering with an avowedly Communist social purpose. Although it was divided into several competing factions, the movement produced many pioneering projects and finished buildings, before falling out of favor around 1932. It has left marked effects on later developments in architecture.

Bauhaus – 1919 to 1933

Founded by Walter Gropius in Germany in 1919, the Bauhaus school followed the lead of the Deutscher Werkbund and redefined architecture as the synthesis of art, craft, and technology. Bauhaus architecture is recognizable for its rejection of historical styles and its reduction of buildings to radically simplified forms, with rational, functional design.

Art Deco – 1925

Art Deco emerged in France in the 1920’s and quickly spread throughout the world. It was a glamorous, but eclectic movement that embraced modernism and traditionalism. It was characterized by the use of new materials, bold geometric form and a modern ‘machine age’ aesthetic, but at the same time it incorporated extensive and luxurious ornamentation.

International style – 1927 to 1971

The international style became popular in the middle of the 20th century. It was an ornament free, stark form of modernism, characterized by the repetition of units and the extensive use of glass. It is a style that is still in widespread use for tall buildings in cities around the world. It was epitomized by the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center.

Brutalism – 1951 to 1975

Brutalist architecture descended from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. Considered both an ethic and aesthetic, utilitarian designs are dictated by function over form with raw construction materials and mundane functions left exposed. Reinforced concrete is the most commonly recognized building material of Brutalist architecture but other materials such as brick, glass, steel, and rough-hewn stone may also be used.

Postmodernism – 1950 to 2007

Postmodernism emerged as a reaction to modernism, which some people found too extreme and bleak because of its lack of ornamentation. Postmodernism moved away from the ‘box’ and adopted stylistic references in ways that were often playful, or embodied symbolism and hidden meaning. Designs were characterized by clashing stylistic elements, sculptural forms and trompe l’oeil.

Neomodernism – 1952

Neomodernism emerged in turn as a reaction to postmodernism and remains in widespread use. It tends to be functional and monolithic and is commonly used for the design of corporate offices.

Critical regionalism – 1953

Critical regionalism is an approach to architecture that strives to counter the placelessness and lack of identity of the International Style, but also rejects the whimsical individualism and ornamentation of postmodern architecture. The stylings of critical regionalism seek to provide architecture rooted in the modern tradition, but tied to geographical and cultural context. Critical regionalism is not simply regionalism in the sense of vernacular architecture. It is a progressive approach to design that seeks to mediate between the global and the local languages of architecture

High-tech – 1970

High-tech architecture is renowned for exposing functional elements such as skeletal structures and piped mechanical services. Practitioners include Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, who’s renowned Pompidou Centre in Paris, gives the appearance of being ‘inside out’.

Memphis group – 1980

The Memphis Group was an Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1980 that designed postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass, and metal objects.

The Memphis group’s work often incorporated plastic laminate and was characterized by ephemeral design featuring colorful and abstract decoration as well as asymmetrical shapes, sometimes arbitrarily alluding to exotic or earlier styles.

Deconstructivism – 1980

Deconstructivism is a movement of postmodern architecture that gives the impression of the fragmentation of the constructed building. It is characterized by an absence of harmony, continuity, or symmetry. Its name comes from the idea of “Deconstruction”, a form of semiotic analysis developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.

Architects whose work is often described as deconstructionism (though in many cases the architects themselves reject the label) include Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and Coop Himmelb(l)au.

Sustainable 1989

Sustainable architecture is architecture that seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space and the ecosystem at large. Sustainable architecture uses a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment

It includes passive design measures (such as the use of thermal mass to store solar energy), active measures such as ground heat exchangers and solar panels, and consideration of the embodied energy, source and potential environmental impact of buildings materials.

Blobitecture – 2002

Blobitecture (from blob architecture), blobism and blobismus are terms for a movement in architecture in which buildings have an organic, amoeba-shaped, building form.

Parametricism – 2008

Parametricism is a style within contemporary avant-garde architecture, promoted as a successor to post-modern architecture and modern architecture. The term was coined in 2008 by Patrik Schumacher, an architectural partner of Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). Parametricism has its origin in parametric design, which is based on the constraints in a parametric equation. Parametricism relies on programs, algorithms, and computers to manipulate equations for design purposes.

To sum up…

Architectural styles are more than just a collection of external influences that shape the materiality, method of construction, and form of a building. They are a reflection of the historical, cultural, and technological changes that shape our world. These styles can evolve and become superseded over time, leading to the creation of new styles and opportunities.

As we have seen from the chronological list of architectural styles presented here, each style has contributed to the development of modern architecture. From the prehistoric architecture of early civilizations to the Baroque architecture of the colonial era, each style has left its mark on the world and influenced the styles that followed.

The future of architecture is sure to be shaped by new ideas and technologies, yet the foundation of architectural design will always rest on the traditions and styles that have come before. Understanding the historical evolution of architectural styles can help us appreciate the diversity and beauty of the buildings that surround us, and inspire us to create even more amazing structures in the future.

FAQ’s about architectural styles

What are the 7 types of architecture?

There are many ways to categorize architectural styles, but here are seven broad categories of architecture:

  1. Ancient architecture: This includes the architectural styles of civilizations from ancient times such as Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Mesopotamian architecture.
  2. Gothic architecture: Gothic architecture emerged in Europe in the 12th century and is characterized by its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses.
  3. Renaissance architecture: Renaissance architecture emerged in Europe in the 15th century and is characterized by its use of symmetry, proportion, and classical orders such as columns, arches, and domes.
  4. Baroque architecture: Baroque architecture emerged in Europe in the 17th century and is characterized by its dramatic use of light and shadow, elaborate ornamentation, and curved lines.
  5. Modern architecture: Modern architecture emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is characterized by its emphasis on function over form, use of new materials and technologies, and minimalist design.
  6. Postmodern architecture: Postmodern architecture emerged in the late 20th century and is characterized by its eclectic mix of historical styles, playful use of form and ornamentation, and irony.
  7. Contemporary architecture: Contemporary architecture is the current architectural style and is characterized by its focus on sustainability, use of technology, and innovative design.


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