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In architecture, the term International Style describes a type of design that developed mainly in Germany, Holland and France, during the 1920s, before spreading to America in the 1930s, where it became the dominant tendency in American architecture during the middle decades of the 20th century. Although it never became fashionable for single-family residential buildings in the United States despite the efforts of William Lescaze (1896-1969), Edward Durrell Stone (1902-78), Richard Neutra (1892-1970) , the International Style was especially suited to skyscraper architecture, where its sleek modern look, absence of decoration and use of steel and glass, became synonymous with corporate modernism during the period 1955-70. It also became the dominant style of 20th-century architecture for institutional and commercial buildings and even superseded the traditional historical styles for schools and churches.
The International Style emerged largely as a result of four factors that confronted architects at the beginning of the 20th century: Increasing dissatisfaction with building designs that incorporated a mixture of decorative features from different architectural periods, especially where the resulting design bore little or no relation to the function of the building; the need to build large numbers of commercial and civic buildings that served a rapidly industrializing society; the successful development of new construction techniques involving the use of steel, reinforced concrete, and glass; and a strong desire to create a modern style of architecture for modern man. This underlined the need for a neutral, functional style, without any of the decorative features of Romanesque, Gothic, or Renaissance architecture, all of which were old-fashioned, if not obsolete.
These three factors led architects to seek an honest, economical, and utilitarian style of architecture that could make use of the new building methods and materials being developed, while still satisfying aesthetic taste. The technology was a critical factor here; the new availability of cheap iron and steel, together with the discovery in the late 1880s and 1890s of the steel skeleton structure, made the traditional brick and stone building techniques obsolete. In addition, architects began using steel-reinforced concrete for floors and other secondary support elements and fenestrating the exteriors of buildings with glass. The resulting austere and disciplined architecture was thus formed according to the principle that modern buildings should reflect a clear harmony between appearance, function, and technology.
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