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Modern - The twentieth century

Twentieth Century buildings can be identified from typical features illustrated in these listed buildings

Use this glossary from the 'Looking at Buildings' website to check the meanings of unfamiliar words.

The twentieth century has seen an accelerated amount of change in architectural styles and techniques due in part to the availability of new building materials and techniques.

The period from 1901 to 1914 saw a greater emphasis on returning to traditional crafts and styles of building. Planned residential developments and Garden Suburbs were erected by industrialists and architects based on this style and a desire to recreate rural living in towns.

IOE number 198942 © Dr JH Highman

Hampstead Garden Suburb, Greater London, c 1909

A planned residential development with a variety of styles.

Features include; elaborate and substantial 'cottage' style with decorative gables and chimneys; arranged in terraces around large grassed areas.


IoE number 388383 © Mr CJ Wright LRPS

Fire Station Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, 1911

Even functional buildings were designed in impressive style demonstrating civic or commercial pride.

Features include; contrasting brick and terracotta bands [polychromy]; variety of decorative features; tower with cupola; slate roofs.

IOe number 224047  © Mrs Diane Randell


Edgefield, Norfolk, 1912

A pair of semi detached houses built by the local Parish council shortly before the First World War.

Features include; plain but substantial style; set in a large garden that could be used for growing vegetables.



IoE number 328590 © Mr Stephen Potts

Sycamore Avenue, New Earswick, York, 1914

Another planned residential development in a more modest, cheaper style for the employees of Joseph Rowntree that was used a model for council housing estates built after 1919.

Features include; simplified plainer 'cottage' style; less variety of design; arranged in terraces around grassed areas.

The 1920s and 30s saw a change from the decorative traditional Victorian style to a European modernist style with an emphasis on utility and functionality. Buildings were steel framed and modular with components mass produced in factories and using modern materials such as concrete and metal for window frames.

IoE number 113605  © Mr Frank Swift

Silver End, Braintree, Essex, 1927

A pair of semi detached 'white' modernist houses in a plain and functional style.

Features include; brick painted white ; V shaped metal windows; hidden or flat roof.

IoE number 384465 © Mr Brian Peach LRPS

Odeon Cinema, Piccadilly, Hanley, Stoke on Trent, 1929

A cinema in the more decorative Art Deco style also used in many town centre shop fronts.

Features include; metal windows; etched glass doorway; white faced brick [faience]; geometric designs; decorative cartouches; hidden roof.

IoE number 435481 © Mr Jim Buckley LRPS

Ibex house, Minories, City of London, 1937

A modernist style office block where all decoration is functional.

Features include; metal framed windows wrapping around corner; curved windows and black strips as vertical decorative features.

IoE number 466934 © Mr Geoff Dowling ARPS

Wake Green Road, Birmingham, 1945

Prefabricated house [prefab] built as emergency housing to rehouse people whose homes had been lost in bombing raids.

Features include; single storey; corrugated asbestos roof and walls; front and rear gardens.

IoE number 472019 © Ms Elaine Allen LRPS

Mark Hall North, Harlow, Essex, 1950-51

The first residential tower block built in Britain; an alternative response to the housing programme using factory built components and taking up less ground.

Features include; built of concrete with brick cladding; regular pattern of windows; balconies; set in lawns.


IoE number 472017 © Ms Elaine Allen LRPS

Lardyke Road, Harlow, Essex, 1953-53

Crescent of terraced houses in Harlow New Town, reflecting the public housing programme after World War Two.

Features include; large window panes; metal window frames; concrete used as feature; integral car ports; plain repetitive style.

IoE number 164752 © Mr Gareth Parry LRPS

University of Hull, Reckitt Hall , Cottingham, 1963-67

Student accommodation to house increased numbers attending university reflecting the 'New Brutalism' of exposed concrete.

Features include; irregular layout to make most of light; construction materials exposed; box shapes; large expanses of glass.

470622 © Mr K. Foster LRPS

RC Church of St Mary, Leyland, Lancashire, 1962-64

A church in modern style with free shape made possible by new building techniques and materials; a conscious rejection of historic styles.

Features include; built of exposed brick and concrete; plain wooden doors; modern stained glass at ground level .


Please note Teachers are advised that not all listed buildings are open to the public and that if you or your students wish to focus on a private building issues of privacy and access must be considered .

Visit the Twentieth Century Society website for further information

View the image album on the 1930s for more examples of buildings.


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Please note that the inclusion of a listed building on this website does not mean it is open to the public.