Some historians see the evolution of Modern architecture as a social matter, closely tied to the project of Modernity and hence to the Enlightenment, a result of social and political revolutions.
Others see Modern architecture as primarily driven by technological and engineering developments, and it is true that the availability of new building materials such as iron, steel, concrete and glass drove the invention of new building techniques as part of the Industrial Revolution. In 1796, Shrewsbury mill owner Charles Bage first used his ‘fireproof’ design, which relied on cast iron and brick with flag stone floors. Such construction greatly strengthened the structure of mills, which enabled them to accommodate much bigger machines. Due to poor knowledge of iron's properties as a construction material, a number of early mills collapsed. It was not until the early 1830s that Eaton Hodgkinson introduced the section beam, leading to widespread use of iron construction, this kind of austere industrial architecture utterly transformed the landscape of northern Britain, leading to the description, "Dark satanic mills" of places like Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire. The Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton at the Great Exhibition of 1851 was an early example of iron and glass construction; possibly the best example is the development of the tall steel skyscraper in Chicago around 1890 by William Le Baron Jenney and Louis Sullivan. Early structures to employ concrete as the chief means of architectural expression (rather than for purely utilitarian structure) include Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple, built in 1906 near Chicago, and Rudolf Steiner's Second Goetheanum, built from 1926 near Basel, Switzerland.
Other historians regard Modernism as a matter of taste, a reaction against eclecticism and the lavish stylistic excesses of Victorian Era and Edwardian Art Nouveau.
Whatever the cause, around 1900 a number of architects around the world began developing new architectural solutions to integrate traditional precedents (Gothic, for instance) with new technological possibilities. The work of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, Victor Horta in Brussels, Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, Otto Wagner in Vienna and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, among many others, can be seen as a common struggle between old and new.