Architecture Styles

When studying a building for either its architectural style or its building materials, it is important to remember that a strong connection exists between style and materials. For example, the Richardsonian Romanesque style is characterized by heavy walls, deeply-set windows, massive arched openings, and rugged exterior surfaces. Building stone, such as granite, that best accomplished these stylistic characteristics was typically chosen by the architect. Other styles had other stylistic requirements. For example, the Beaux-Arts and Neo-Classical Revival styles of the early 20th century featured rich decorative carving of columns, capitals, lintels, and balustrades. Most buildings in these styles were constructed of Bedford limestone that was easier to carve than granites, but kept the crispness of detail found in carved granite.

Gothic Revival 1830-1860 (St. James Episcopal Church, 1867)

A style derived from Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages, its characteristics are steeply pitched roofs,pointed arches, lancet (pointed) windows, and a pronounced emphasis on verticality, such as board and batten siding on wood frame buildings.

Churches done in the style were often fairly accurate copies of authentic rural English Gothic churches.

Renaissance Revival 1840-1890 (State Bank of Wisconsin/Bank of Milwaukee, 1856, 1858)

Based on early 16th-century Italian precedents,buildings in this style are usually cubic in form with smooth, finely-cut ashlar (cut stone blocks) exteriors. The cubic form is often outlined with stacks of larger blocks at the corners, called quoins. Doors and windows typically are topped with elaborately-carved decorative lintels.

Victorian Gothic 1860-1890 (Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1873)

The characteristic feature of Victorian Gothic is its polychromy, in which materials of different colors and textures are used to create decorative bands and to highlight corners, arches, and arcades on buildings. Different materials are used as well, such as stone with brick and terra cotta. The Gothic character of this style comes from its use of pointed arches.

Richardsonian Romanesque 1870-1900 (Old Federal Building, 1892-1899)

Inspired by buildings designed by the Boston architect, Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886) in the 1870s and early 1880s, this style is characterized by heavy walls of rock-faced stone, openings set deep in the massive walls, large arches framing stacks of windows, and short heavy columns.

Queen Anne 1880-1900 (Milwaukee Club, 1884)

This style is characterized by its variety of forms, materials, colors, and surfaces, as well as asymmetry and irregularity. Buildings have multiple, steeply-pitched roofs; towers or corners turrets, usually at the most prominent corner; tall, elaborate chimneys; and bay or oriel (rounded projections) windows. Typically, several materials, such as stone, brick, wood, metal, and terra cotta, may be used together on a building exterior.

Beaux-Arts 1890-1920 (Milwaukee Public Library, 1895)

Beaux-Arts style is characterized by the large scale of its decorative features and the richness of its detail, all derived from a classical architectural vocabulary of columns pediments, balustrades, statuary, medallions, and garlands. Typically, buildings have a tight, smooth surface broken by the projections of decorative features at openings and at the building roof.

Neo-Classical Revival 1900-1930 (Milwaukee County Courthouse, 1929-1931)

This style uses much of the same features as the Beaux-Arts style, but is more severe and restrained than the Beaux-Arts. Usually, colossal porticos or colonnades are found on Neo-Classical Revival buildings. Statuary at the roof line, as found in the Beaux-Arts style, is never found in this style. Buildings typically appear to have very low or flat roofs.

Art Deco 1925-1940 (Wisconsin Gas Building, 1929-1930)

Art Deco is characterized by hard-edged, angular ornament that has a sharp, machine-like quality. Facades are usually arranged in a series of setbacks; this is especially true of Art Deco skyscrapers that set back from the base outline as the building rises vertically. Variations in color are often used to highlight the building form of orna-mentation.

Art Moderne 1930-1945 (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Building, 1924)

Art Moderne buildings typically have soft or rounded corners, flat roofs, flat wall surfaces, and horizontal bands of windows. The overall effect of these features makes the building look as streamlined as possible, Any ornamentation is usually done is very low relief to maintain the flatness of the walls. Horizontality and rectilinearity distinguish Art Moderne from the angularity of Art Deco.

Modernist 1950-1980 (Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 1966-1969)

Modernist architecture is characterized by its lack of ornamentation and emphasis on geometric forms. Surfaces tend to be relatively flat and have an uniform color and texture.

Post-Modernist 1970-1990 (1000 North Water Street, 1991)

Often incorporating features that are derived from architectural history, such as the arch form at the upper levels of the 1000 North Water Street building, Post-Modernist architecture presents contrasting attitudes to what architecture is supposed to be and what its appearance is. For example, at 1000 North Water Street, the exterior wall appears to be absolutely flat, when the standard notion of architectural form is that it is highly three-dimensional.