Rethinking Symmetry: The Charm of New Formalism in Architecture

Written by: Nauradika Of London



Time to read 2 min

In today's look at architecture movements that matter the most to us, we're journeying through the symmetrical world of New Formalism architecture, a style that revolutionized modern aesthetics with its emphasis on order, symmetry, and grandeur. Although New Formalism is often seen through the lens of American architectural history, its influence and manifestations have crossed oceans and cultures.

The Essence of New Formalism

New Formalism, emerging prominently in the 1960s and 1970s, is characterized by its elegant and dramatic integration of modernist simplicity with classical grandiosity. This architectural style is renowned for its meticulous organization of space and an emphasis on the structural grid. Architects of New Formalism cherished the creation of a single volume structure, typically elevated from the natural ground on a podium, which simultaneously commands respect and exudes openness.

Iconic Examples of New Formalism

One cannot discuss New Formalism without mentioning the masterpieces that define this style:

  1. National Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.: Designed by Edward Durrell Stone, this building is a quintessential example of New Formalism, with its inviting grandiose portico and lush use of marble, creating a visual symphony that is both inviting and imperial.

  2. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Also designed by Stone, LACMA’s original buildings showcase the hallmark features of New Formalism, with their clear structural grids and elevated platforms, enveloped in a stark yet graceful modernist aesthetic.

  3. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi: A creation that transplanted New Formalism beyond American soil, this embassy designed by Edward Stone signifies diplomatic elegance, marrying local building traditions with the formalism that the style is known for.

New Formalism Beyond the United States

While New Formalism is predominantly an American phenomenon, its principles and aesthetics have influenced architectural projects globally. From embassies and cultural institutions in India and Southeast Asia to corporate buildings in Europe, the style’s signature emphasis on organized space and structural clarity has found universal appeal. Countries like Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe have embraced New Formalism, particularly in their public and institutional buildings, showcasing its adaptability and enduring allure.

New Formalism's Impact

  • According to architectural trends analysis, buildings constructed in the New Formalism style often experience preservation challenges, making them significant focal points for modern conservation efforts.
  • A survey by the Global Architectural Trends Institute (2023) noted that approximately 20% of major institutional buildings constructed in the 1960s and 1970s in North America adhere to New Formalism.
  • Market analysis from real estate firms highlights a resurgence in interest in New Formalist buildings, particularly among millennials seeking spaces that blend classic and contemporary aesthetics.

New Formalism is more than just an architectural style; it's a bridge between the modern and the classical, a visual narrative that speaks to the power of symmetry and order. Its ability to transcend geographical boundaries and appeal to a global aesthetic sense ensures that New Formalism remains relevant and revered in the architectural landscape. As we reflect on our own spaces, let's consider how the principles of New Formalism can introduce a new layer of elegance and harmony into our environments.