Eagles Nest Architecture Series: Southwest Modern – Functional & Environmental Driven Design

Presented By: Eagles Nest Architectural Committee

Modern architecture started early in the 20th century as a result of technological advances in materials for more functional commercial and industrial structures. It is characterized by simple austere form without applied decoration, and these principals found their way into residential design. Fundamental to modern architecture is the notion that design should derive directly from its purpose. It responds to environmental conditions (either natural conditions, or in the case of urban examples, built conditions) and is efficient in its function.

Modern ArchitectureWendell Burnette Architects

Structures avoid unnecessary detail and emphasize horizontal and vertical lines. Modern architecture design often incorporates industrially-produced materials (iron, steel and sheet glass) to outwardly present building structure (rather than conceal it with facades) and interrelate indoor and outdoor spaces with thoughtful attention to the use of natural light and shade.

Southwest Modern Architecture

The austere nature of modern architecture can be quite elegant in its understated simplicity. Since it draws design elements from the surrounding environment, it can be adapted to any locale, and the colors and textures of the Sonoran desert and its fauna offer a rich palette to complement this structural contrivance. Large cantilevered shade structures, expansive butt-glazed windows and native plants used as integral architectural elements are common in southwest modern architecture. Roofs are generally flat or sloped with nontraditional shapes, such as offset gables or curved elements.

Modern ArchitecturePIQUE Architecture

Unfortunately, the modern label is also often misused as an excuse for poor designs or trendy fads that use a mish mash of incompatible design elements or architectural features that lack purpose. Well-designed modern architecture seeks to relate to its environment and tends to be unobtrusive in the landscape. This fits well with the goals of the Eagles Nest Design Guidelines, and designed well, modern architecture can be an interesting complement to the more traditional forms of design derived from the local environment and culture.