The industrial economy and the machine age meant jobs and money for most people in the early part of the century. Architecture began to express the desire for space and light. New materials and structural principles were available. Comfort, convenience and single family homes were on the minds of many.
From 1900-1920 the Arts and Crafts movement popularized unpainted hand carved wood, leaded and stained glass and ceramic tile. In the years that followed, machines prepared concrete, glass blocks and steel framing. Although wood and stone continue to be the major elements of construction, as in any period, available materials make an obvious contribution to the general scene.
Many period revivals appear—Spanish and Dutch Colonial, English Tudor and French Provincial—in every region. The Prairie School and Bungalow style were very popular nation wide. The International style appeared emphasizing modern planning and materials. Cars have made it possible for sprawling residential areas to develop away from the city yet within reach. The American Dream has been realized by millions—the ranch style home with space and lawns has become part of the landscape.
The Modern architecture emphasizes surface and texture, minimal ornament and large areas of glass. Windows are often the only visible ornament. Often they are used to create rich and varied patterns. Low roofs and geometric shapes are major elements of design in homes and public buildings. Public buildings express height and great volume. With the emphasis on surface, linear or horizontal design and lack of ornament, these buildings create a threatening and unwelcoming appearance. Many modern buildings are difficult to read (understand) without written signs to tell us what to find inside and in many cases, how to get inside.
As time goes on, our tastes and needs change. History shows us that styles come and go and some return. This process will continue.