Commercial architecture is a field that many people may not be familiar with, but it encompasses some of the most iconic and popular buildings worldwide. Commercial architects design buildings for business purposes, such as office buildings, stores, and restaurants. Many elements of commercial architecture influence residential architecture as well. Read on to learn about five common commercial architectural styles.
The Federal, or Adam, style of architecture originated in the United States during the late 18th and early 19th centuries between 1780 and 1840. This style was partially inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as 18th-century European Neoclassical architecture.
Federal buildings are typically symmetrical with smooth, clean lines. They often have a simple rectangular shape, are up to three stories high, about two rooms deep, and built with brick or stone. The White House’s Oval Office is an example of a Federal-style space.
Federal-style design elements and decor include:
- Geometrical concepts
- A confined exterior porch
- Narrow columns and moldings
Because many federal-style buildings appear traditional, they may not be the best choice for businesses that want to stand out.
The Modern style of architecture emerged in the early 20th century and became popular in commercial architecture during the mid-20th century. Modern architects sought to reinvent the way we live rather than what we found attractive. This style is characterized by clean lines, simple shapes, and a focus on functionality, visibly setting itself apart from more elaborate styles such as Queen Anne, Victorian, and Gothic Revival.
Modern buildings often have large windows to let in natural light and open floor plans to maximize space. Some materials that builders use to create modern buildings include bamboo to promote sustainability, bricks, concrete, and even plastic. The Seagram Building in New York City is a well-known example of Modern architecture.
The benefits of modern-style architectural buildings include:
- A stylish and sleek appearance
- Easy maintenance
- An affordable, simple design
However, some people find modern buildings to be too cold. Modern buildings can also be difficult to heat and cool, which can lead to higher energy bills.
Gothic Revival, also known as Victorian Gothic or Neo-Gothic, is a style of architecture that began in the United Kingdom in the late 1740s. This architectural style was partially inspired by the original Gothic style from the Middle Ages and medieval design.
Gothic Revival buildings are often very ornate, with intricate details like decorative patterns, stained-glass lancet windows, and tall spires. They are built with materials such as stone and brick and have a distinct, eye-catching appearance. Some well-known Gothic Revival buildings include the Houses of Parliament in London.
Other examples of Gothic Revival buildings include:
- Rockefeller College at Princeton, USA
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, USA, and Melbourne, Australia
- New Town Hall in Munich, Germany
Greek Revival is a style of architecture that originated in Europe in the late 18th century and became popular in the United States from 1825 to 1860. This style was inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece, particularly temples.
Greek Revival buildings are typically symmetrical with smooth, clean lines. They are often constructed with stone or brick and have columns that support a pediment. Their stately, dignified, and classical appearance is often complemented by exterior features such as painted white columns, gently sloping roofs, a front porch, or a covered entrance.
The interior of a Greek Revival building often includes:
- Open floor plans
- Tall doors and windows
- Wide plank floors
- Marble ceiling mantles
Inspired by 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture, Italianate became popular in the United States during the 19th century. Italianate buildings are often symmetrical with smooth, clean lines. They often have a simple rectangular shape and are built with brick or wood clapboard.
One of the most distinguishing features of Italianate architecture is the use of tall, narrow windows. These windows are often arched or have decorative brackets beneath them. Italianate buildings also often have a deep cornice and wide overhanging eaves. The Belvedere Mansion in New York City’s Central Park is an excellent example of Italianate architecture.
Additional features of Italianate architecture include:
- Two to four stories tall
- Sloping roofs
- Decorative details at entrances
- Porches containing elaborate woodwork
Explore Even More Commercial Architecture Styles
Federal, Modern, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, and Italianate are some of the most popular commercial architectural styles. Each one has unique features that make it stand out from the others. While there are many sub-styles within each category, these five styles make up the majority of buildings erected for businesses in the United States. If you are looking to design or remodel a commercial building, it is important to know the difference between these styles so you can choose one that will best represent your business.