Modernism and the Recent Past Defined

What is Modernism?

In architecture, Modernism is generally defined as a design language with an emphasis on form rather than ornament, structure and materials rather than picturesque constructions, and the rational and efficient use of space.

The Modern movement in architecture in the United States flourished beginning in the 1930s and encompassed individual design movements with their own ways of expressing Modern ideals. These included - but werenot limited to - the International, Expressionist, Brutalist, New Formalist, and Googie movements. Technical innovation, experimentation, and rethinking the way humans lived in and used the designed environment, whether buildings or landscapes, were hallmarks of Modern architectural practice.

While the highest-style examples of Modern architecture in the United States typically date to the early- and mid-20th centuries, the influence of Modernism remained strong in everyday and vernacular design well into the late-20th century.

What is the recent past?

Preservationists typically define the recent past as a moving window encompassing resources constructed or designed in the past 50 years. Federal, state, and local preservation programs typically exclude properties fewer than 50 years old from historic designation programs and review processes. This leaves many historically and culturally significant properties unprotected from demolition or other adverse treatments.