Types of Architecture that Have Shaped Our Modern Era

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Get Smarter On Architecture and Design

Get the 3-minute weekly newsletter keeping 5K+ designers in the loop.

Enter your Email to Sign up


Architecture has always been used as a creative outlet to define functional spaces and proudly showcase cultural timelines. As we look at the types of architecture that have come up throughout history, we see the stories architects have told with their works of art.

We see different generations and how they thought, lived, and traditions they followed. You'll notice that architectural styles build upon each other, borrowing inspiration and design from one another. Just as the classic Greek temples and Egyptian pyramids continue to inspire you, so will the next generation of architects and designers be inspired by your work.

Let's take a trip down memory lane and look at some architecture types that continue to shape our modern era.

1. Ancient Egyptian Architecture - 3,050 BC to 900 BC

Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Image credits - sculpies/Fotolia

It's no surprise that one of the most influential civilizations in history produced one of the most notable architectural styles. The construction of the Egyptian Pyramids will continue to inspire generations of architects long after we're gone

Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt

Image credits - Ron Gatepain

However, the pyramids are not the only structure that represents the architectural expression of the Egyptians. Before building the pyramids, the Egyptians channeled their energy and creativity to bring to life amazingly detailed temple complexes. These temples focussed on both function and aesthetic beauty.

Both Greek and Roman architecture borrowed several features from this architecture style, including the proliferation of obelisks in Rome and stylized column motifs in early Greece. Even today, architects continue to be inspired by the rich symbolism and magnificent engineering prowess of Egyptian architecture.

2. Greek and Roman Architecture - 850 BC to 476 AD

Temple of Apollo, Corinth, Greece

Image credits - MM

You'll often find that ancient Greek and Roman architecture are grouped under the umbrella of classical architecture. Classical architecture is a style of architecture that includes buildings originally constructed by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. This architecture design timeline is between the 5th century BC in Greece and the 3rd century AD in Rome.

The Acropolis, Athens

Image credits - iStockphoto/Thinkstock

This type of architecture has been a pillar of inspiration for architects throughout the generations whenever they look to the ancient past for illumination. This architectural style holds many ideals and secrets that architects like you benefit from, thanks to ancient Greece.

Some of the notable architects that this architecture design has inspired are the Victorian architects, who have sometimes created exact replicas of classical forms. They have also adopted an eclectic approach that involves combining motifs and classical forms to create new styles.

In the United States, the Neoclassical, also known as the Classical Revival style (1895-1950), is another notable architecture type that borrowed inspiration from the classical style. Some of this architecture type's unique features include symmetry and proportions; building materials such as marble, brick, and concrete; rectangular windows; double-hung windows; and classical orders.

These classical orders include Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite orders. You can quickly draw inspiration to improve your design skills and interior design skills from this architecture style.

3. Gothic Architecture -1150 to c. 1530

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Image credits - Nikita Khandelwal

Most of the most famous churches in Europe as inspired by Gothic architecture. From France to other parts of the continent, you will see the combination of the ribbed vault, pointed arch, and flying buttress adorning most structures.

Amiens Cathedral, France

Image credits - Jonathan

If you've been to one of these Gothic architecture style-inspired churches, you'll notice that a significant amount of light pours in from the stained glass windows uniquely illuminating the church. This is thanks to the reduced weight and increased height of the walls that allow light into the church in such a fashion.

A famous example of French Gothic architecture is Notre Dame. You'll find the main Cathedral of Milan towering high in all its Gothic architecture splendor in Italy.

4. Mesoamerican Architecture - 2000 BC to 1519 AD

Mesoamerican architecture or Pre-Columbian architecture encompasses the buildings constructed by the native cultures stretching from central Mexico to Nothern Costa Rica in the United States. This place is now known as Central America.

Casa de las Monjas, Mexico

Image credits - lunamarina/Fotolia

In the times of this architectural design, urban planning activities were guided by mythological and religious beliefs. This is because the cultures believed that this architectural style and design symbolized their faith.

This architecture design is mainly identified with Maya architecture and the stepped pyramids of this civilization. The structures are famous for their use of tremendous workforce and their heavy stonework. They used an enormous workforce as an innovative way to overcome their technological handicaps.

The El Castillo pyramid is an excellent example of this Pre-Columbian architecture. Many architects have been inspired by this architecture style, most notably Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked in a Mayan Revival style in the 20th century between the 1920s and 30s.

5. Byzantine Architecture - 527 to 1453

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

Image credits - Dennis Jarvis 

Byzantine architecture came into existence when Constantine changed the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople in 330AD. Constantinople is now known as Istanbul. Drawing on elements of the Roman architecture style, the architects of this era took more liberty with classical orders.

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

Image credits - Dennis Jarvis 

During this era, the construction of churches incorporated the use of a Greek cross plan and building materials such as brick and mortar. These building materials were used to form elaborate geometric patterns designed for decorative purposes.

Most of this society's most iconic structures came about when the empire was at its wealthiest, which is around the middle period of the era. The Hagia Sophia, which is one of the most iconic creations of this architecture design, proudly portrays the Byzantines' engineering prowess.

6. Neoclassical Architecture - 1640 to 1850

‘theatre’ building in the Espaces d’Abraxas complex

Image credits - apollo-magazine.com

The Neoclassical architecture style draws its inspiration from the classical style and fully established itself in the mid-1700s. During this time, archaeologists sparked enthusiasm for the ancient world, which then sparked the Greek Revival.

U.S. Capitol building, Washington, DC

Image credits - mbell / Getty Images

This architecture design features porticos, domes, wide steps, columns, and a strong preference for building materials such as stone and marble. Neoclassical architecture is widespread in the United States. For example, the columned exteriors of museums, monuments, New York banks, and government buildings of Washington, D.C.

7. Craftsman Style - 1890–1930

Craftsman Design Architectural Style

Image credits - housebeautiful.com

The American Craftsman architecture style is among the top distinctive movements in American architecture. A group of influential Boston interior designers and architects in the 1890s decided to draw inspiration from Britain's Arts and Crafts movement.

Craftsman Style

Image credits - elledecor.com

The Craftsman style of architecture was born in retaliation against both the overly ornate Victorian aesthetic and the Industrial Revolution. Some of this style's features include local natural materials, simple design, visible handiwork, low-pitched roofs, exposed rafters, deep eaves, overhanging front porches, and expansive windows.

By the early 20th century, this architecture design had become very popular as it aimed to bring beauty into the modest homes of the growing middle class. This style projects symmetry, sturdiness, and clean lines.

8. Mediterranean Revival - 1910 to 1940

Mediterranean Revival

Mediterranean Revival-1-IMAGE-1 ©www.marylyonarts.com/

This architecture borrows its distinctive elements from the Renaissance architecture of Italy and Spain. It first appeared to the Americans during the colonial period and features white stucco walls, arched windows, rectangular floor plans, balconies, red-tiled roofs, and bell towers.

Mediterranean Luxury Home

Image credits - idesignarch.com

A signature style of this period is that the structures are surrounded by landscape architecture. Therefore, a good landscape architect can borrow some ideas from this style during their projects' design process.

As architects continue to borrow design ideas from these styles and types of architecture, the more these architecture styles continue to define our modern era.

9. Tudor Architecture - 1485 to 1558

Tudor style architecture in Chester

Image credits - Jeff Dalton

Originating in England in the 1500s, these architectural styles shaped innovations, including fireplaces, chimney stacks, and cheaper brick prices. Construction of buildings in Turdo architecture design reached American homes and building structures in the 1970s and 80s.

Tudor buildings in Worcester

Image credits - Russ Hamer

Residential architects and even landscape architects can take inspiration from the building blocks of this time. The homebuilders wanted the designs to evoke a cozy feeling similar to that of the English country houses and buildings. This world-renowned architecture method's notable features include high-pitched roofs and gables, tall chimneys, herringbone brickwork, large mullioned windows, and exterior walls with half-timber and white stucco infill.

10. Gothic Revival - 1740-1860

The Goths originated in central Europe, while Gothic architecture originated in France and got immortalized in cathedrals such as Notre-Dame de Paris and St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Goths played a massive role in shaping medieval Europe, and that's why many elements in this era are known as "Goth".

New York City: St. Patrick's Cathedral

Image credits - Larry Brownstein 

In the 1800s, the Gothic Revival movement was brought back to Victorian England as an alternative to Neoclassicism. During that time, some artists and intellectuals started to romanticize the norms of the pre-industrial medieval period.

Some characteristics include pointed arches, ornate decorative elements, stone masonry, steeply sloped roofs, spires, and narrow and tall windows. The Gothic Revival style eventually fell out in favor of a different design of commercial and government buildings.

Nonetheless, it remains popular in libraries, churches, and university buildings and continues to spread worldwide. Some notable examples include the entire campus of the University of Mumbai, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City; Washington National Cathedral; Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning which demonstrates the style in skyscraper form; and Chicago’s Tribune Tower.


Which one of these styles did you love the most? Let us know in the comments below, as well as which buildings you've visited that we've mentioned today. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Related Articles

How Much Do Architects Make? A Guide to Architect Salaries

Where would the world be without architects? Not very far. Every structure you see around you was once an idea ...

How to Become An Architect

How to Become An Architect: All You Need to Know

Architects are some of the most critical professionals in our modern world. Without architects, there wouldn't be the beautiful buildings ...

8 Interesting Fact About The Catalan Architect Antoni Gaudí

The La Sagrada Família is one of the most popular destinations in Europe. This is but one of many masterpieces ...