10 Key Architectural Styles & What Makes Them Unique


Variety is the essence of life. It is in life’s nature to diversify. When we travel across the world, we come across a variety of cultures, people, religions and many more diverse things. Each country in the world has its own uniquely coloured people, its own unique religion, its own unique culture and many other attributes which are unique to that country. Architecture is one such entity which has also diversified across the world. Each country has buildings which reflect its own unique architectural style or an amalgamation of architecture styles from neighbouring countries. Each architectural style has unique shape and style, method of construction and the materials used for construction. There are ten major architectural styles in the world. They are:

  • Victorian
  • Roman
  • Islamic
  • Baroque
  • Tudor
  • Bauhaus
  • Neo-classical
  • Renaissance
  • Gothic
  • Modern   

The architectural styles across the world have changed in the past either due to revolutionary ideas, cultural reforms or due to the intermingling of various cultures. Change is the only thing that is permanent in this world and architectural styles across the world will continue to change due to the above mentioned factors.

Victorian Style Architecture

The Victorian style architecture evolved in the mid-19th century as is named after the famous English queen, Victoria (1837–1901). By the mid-19th century, steel was available as a construction material and the Victorian style architecture was the first style of construction to adopt the new material. This style of architecture was initially adopted by the UK and later spread to other European countries like France by the late 19th century. The Scottish architect, Alexander Thomson was the first to use cast iron and steel to build commercial buildings. The buildings built in this architectural style can be found in the UK and the colonies that it had ruled like India, Australia, Africa etcetera. Victorian style architecture also adopted painted windows in its buildings as window painting became popular by the late 19th century. Two of the most iconic Victorian style buildings in the world are the Natural History Museum in London and Selwyn College in Cambridge.

Figure 1: Natural History Museum, London. Credit: Evening Standard

Figure 2: Selwyn College, Cambridge. Credit: Simple Wikipedia

Roman Style Architecture

Flourished from 509 BC to about the 4th century AD. It was heavily influenced by the Greek architectural style but developed some differences to it and became a unique architectural style of its own. The unique construction material used in this style of architecture was concrete. This style of architecture brought about some new structures such as domes and arches into its buildings. These new structures gave its buildings strength and durability, which enabled them to survive even to this day. This style of architecture began to influence buildings in other parts of Europe after 100 A.D. and the amalgamation of Victorian architecture and Roman architecture was called Romanesque architecture. Roman buildings contain massive walls punctuated by arches and domes. This style of architecture was the first to include private bathrooms for gents and ladies and hence, contributed massively to public hygiene at that time. The bathrooms had water-heating facilities, taps which provide both hot and cold water and latrines. They were quite a feat in civil engineering at that time. Two of the most iconic Roman style buildings that survive today include the world wonder, Colosseum in Rome and The Maison Carrée at Nîmes in France.

Figure 3: Colosseum, Rome. Credit: GetYourGuide

Figure 4: Maison Carree, Credit: Amusing Planet

Islamic Style Architecture

Is a blend of three different styles of architecture namely, Roman, Byzantine and Persian style architecture. Islamic buildings are also heavily influenced by the architectural style described in the holy Quran. As Islam began spreading to other parts of the world either through conquests or through religious preaching, the architectural styles of the other buildings in the world also began to influence Islamic architecture around the 10th century A.D. Islamic architecture emphasises heavily on decoration and most of the Islamic buildings are decorated (painted) with Islamic calligraphy and geometric patterns. Islamic architecture can be mostly found in Mosques, Tombs and Palaces in East Asia. The unique features of Islamic architecture include Paradise Gardens (as described in the holy Quran), Courtyards (again as described in the holy Quran) and Hypostyle halls. A typical garden of paradise has a rectangular, irrigated piece of land with elevated pathways, which divides the garden into four sections of equal size. The courtyards are private and lead to gardens which have plants and fountains and other structures for shade. A Hypostyle is an open hall supported by columns. It leads to the reception hall, which is at a high angle to the hypostyle.

Figure 5: Taj Mahal, Agra. Credit: The Independent

Figure 6: Jama Masjid, Delhi. Credit: MakeMyTrip

Baroque Style Architecture

lourished around the 16th century in Italy. This style of architecture was mainly used to celebrate the victory of the Catholic Church in Europe. This style of architecture was characterized by enormous buildings, a massive central hall where everyone could see the altar, light coming from a cupola above, tantalizing wall and window paintings and sculptures of angels and Jesus. This style of architecture at that time was known as Renaissance architecture in Italy. The Baroque style architecture was founded because of the Counter-Reformation movement, a movement within the Catholic Church to reform itself in response to the Protestant Reformation movement. The best example of the Baroque style architecture is the Church of Gesu in Italy.

Figure 7: Church of Gesu in Italy. Credit: Overseas Attractions

Tudor Architecture

The Tudor style architecture is the final evolutionary form of the medieval style architecture in England. It flourished from 1485 to 1603 during the reign of the Tudor dynasty. The main feature in this style of architecture is Oriel windows. Mouldings are more spread out and the foliage is more naturalistic in this style of architecture. The best example of this style of architecture is the Gatehouse of Oxburgh Hall in Oxborough in England.

Figure 8: Gatehouse of Oxburgh, England. Credit: Tour Norfolk

Bauhaus Style Architecture

riginated in Germany in the early 20th century. It derived its name from a German art school which was functional from 1919 to 1933. The word Bauhaus is German literally means ‘building house’. Modern architecture is heavily influenced by the Bauhaus style of architecture. The main features in this style of architecture include: hanging lights from the roof, windows that can be opened mechanically and plain rectangular buildings with unusually small balconies. The best example of the Bauhaus style of architecture is the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany.

Figure 9: Bauhaus University, Germany. Credit: UNSW Sydney

Neoclassical Architecture

Is a simplified version of the blend of Bauhaus and Baroque style architectures. This style of architecture is quite plain without any carvings or idols in the interiors. The buildings are rectangular with one or more arches (no domes). The most unique feature of this architecture is gilded mirrors, photo frames, porcelain roofs and fireplace in the hall. The hall is also decorated with medallions, paintings, antique vases and busts. The best example of the Neoclassical style of architecture is the Gatchina Palace in Russia.

Figure 10: Gatchina Palace, Russia. Credit: In Your Pocket

Gothic Style

The Gothic style architecture flourished in Europe from the 12th century A.D. to the 16th century A.D. It was mainly used to build churches and cathedrals. The most prominent features of the Gothic architecture include rib vaults and flying buttress. The intersection of two to three barrel vaults is known as a rib vault. They are piped masonry carved in decorative patters. The flying buttress is a specific form of buttress composed of an arch that extends from the upper portion of a wall to the ground to withstand the lateral forces that push the walls outwards. These forces arise due to the vaulted ceilings of stone and from wind-loading on roofs. Another unique feature of this style of architecture is the use of stained glass and circular or rose windows to bring colored light to the interiors of the building (church or cathedral). The best example of Gothic style architecture is the Salisbury Cathedral in England.

Figure 11: Salisbury Cathedral, England. Credit: Two Travelling Texans.

Modern Style Architecture

ses glass, steel, bricks, and reinforced concrete for construction. Modern buildings are plain on the outside and the inside. Most of the modern buildings are not decorated by wall paintings or colored glass or gilded roofs on the inside. They lack style and variety. Modern architecture was mostly used for corporate buildings and government agencies. Modern architecture flourished after the World War 2. It was used from 1945 to 1960 until it finally gave way to post-modern architecture. The best example of modern architecture is the Falling Water House in the USA.

Figure 12: Falling Water House, USA. Credit: Frank Llyod Wright Foundation.


We are living in the era of postmodern architecture where the latest construction materials and the best construction techniques are used. Buildings in the postmodern era are stylish both on the outside and inside. They come in all shapes and sizes. These buildings are the prestige symbols for any corporate or government agency or aristocrats. Modern techniques protect these buildings against earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. They are among the safest buildings to reside in. They come with all the modern facilities like elevators, fire alarms, swimming pools, gardens, separate toilets for men and women, children’s playing area, gymnasium etcetera. It is a pleasure to reside in these buildings. They provide all the necessities and luxuries, a person needs. But of course, architecture will continue to evolve further and who knows what stunning architecture can be produced by the amalgamation of the old and new. All we have to do is to keep an open mind for infinite possibilities. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the perfect example of postmodern architecture. It is the world’s tallest tower, at 828 meters tall and hosts the world’s biggest mall, the Dubai Mall. It is quite a feat in civil engineering. The building posed significant engineering challenges during its construction. 

Figure 13: Burj Khalifa, Dubai. Credit: VRBO.com