Contemporary architecture is a broad classification of recent building designs that has found frequent expression in both residential and commercial buildings. Architects of contemporary structures are known for creating buildings free from older historical styles, while also experimenting with some of the many new materials that are now available to the construction industry. Contemporary buildings tend to be highly functional and may push the limits of what can be defined as contemporary architecture.
One area of contemporary architecture that can draw much attention is the roof. In today's modern world, flat overhanging roofs are a common way to add eye-catching design elements, while providing additional shady regions adjacent to the structure and still protect the overall structure from the elements. A few bold architects have even gone so far as to add trees to the top of their buildings to facilitate natural cooling and also to create a building that is more harmonious with the natural surroundings.
One of the more important features of contemporary-designed homes is the use of natural light to illuminate the interior of the building. This goal can be achieved through the presence of skylights on a flat or low-pitched roof and the prevalence of large glass areas along the exterior walls. To further distinguish the interior of the building, large continual spaces may be achieved by the modification or elimination of many interior walls. Exposed beams, sanded floors and large expanses of lightly colored ceilings (and walls) are three more characteristics that often add to the airy feeling of contemporary architecture.
In contemporary architecture, exterior walls have sometimes become experimental canvases for the application of simple natural elements, as well as newly developed state-of-the-art synthetic materials. In some of these creations, it is not unusual to see the outside covered with large windows or plates of glass cut in irregular or unusual shapes. In nearly all situations, decorative trim and molding has been kept to a minimum and landscaping may be added as an external design element.
One area where contemporary designers have excelled is by thoroughly incorporating their newly created buildings into the existing landscape. Not only can a new house be accented by the use of local materials and colorful landscaping, but also the earth can be excavated and moved to protect the building or create intriguing variations in the terrain. Besides adding to the visual appearance, these modifications can provide temperature moderation during particularly hot or cold periods of weather. In particular, building berms, which are large mounds of earth that rest against the exterior, can protect low-lying buildings against the extremes of temperature.