Expressionist Architecture emerged in the early 20th century, a tumultuous period marked by European social, political, and cultural upheavals. It was particularly prominent in Germany, where architects sought to break away from the rigid constraints of historicism, responded to the war's disillusionment and trauma, and embraced a more emotional, subjective approach to design. The movement was also influenced by the time's broader artistic and intellectual currents, including German Expressionist art, which prioritized emotion and individual experience over objective reality.

Expressionist Architecture defied traditional norms by prioritizing emotion over function. Significantly departing from conventional styles, it emphasized subjective experience and individual expression. The movement marks a rejection of strict functionalism. The movement found its roots in the works of architects like Peter Behrens and the early projects of Erich Mendelsohn.
Important Features
Asymmetry in Expressionist Architecture was a deliberate departure from traditional balance, introducing irregular and dynamic forms. Expressionist architects sought to convey a sense of vitality and movement to reflect the emphasis on individual expression and emotions. Buildings intentionally deviated from predictable layouts, embracing uneven shapes to evoke a more dynamic and subjective experience. This approach marked a transformative moment in architectural aesthetics, contributing to a more liberated and expressive design language during the early 20th century.
Distorted Shapes
An iconic feature of Expressionist Architecture was the deliberate distortion of conventional shapes. This intentional distortion was a powerful tool for conveying the design's emotional and subjective aspects. By bending and contorting shapes, Expressionist architects sought to evoke a sense of unrestrained creativity and individual expression. These distorted forms, often almost surreal or dreamlike, encapsulated the movement's rejection of rigid architectural conventions.
Dramatic Use of Light and Shadow
Expressionist architects wielded light and shadow as powerful tools for conveying emotion and drama. Purposefully manipulating natural and artificial light sources, buildings transformed dramatically, creating stark contrasts and intense shadows. This technique heightened the emotional impact of structures, contributing to a sense of dynamism and theatricality. The play between light and shadow was a central tenet of Expressionist design, aiming to engage and evoke the viewer emotionally and accentuate the architecture's expressive, sometimes otherworldly nature.
Use of New Materials
Expressionist architects embraced the possibilities of new materials, departing from traditional choices. Concrete, steel, and glass were incorporated not merely for their structural properties but for their potential to contribute to the emotional impact of a building. This departure allowed for unconventional shapes and designs, manifesting the movement's bold and dynamic vision. The use of new materials reflected a commitment to breaking away from established norms, fostering creativity, and contributing to the avant-garde spirit of the early 20th century.
Expressionist Architecture embraced ornamentation as a departure from the minimalist tendencies of some contemporaneous architectural movements. Inspired by natural forms and organic shapes, ornamentation became a means of conveying emotion and individuality. Architects integrated intricate details into structures, rejecting the minimalist tendencies of the time. This emphasis on ornamentation added aesthetic richness and illustrated a rejection of the strict functionalism associated with earlier architectural movements. In Expressionist design, ornamentation served as a vehicle for subjective expression, transforming buildings into visually compelling and emotionally charged works of art.