From common residential houses most of us live in to iconic buildings and structures built hundreds or even thousands of years ago, architecture surrounds us every single day. There are many impressive buildings around us but have you ever thought about the people who actually design them? As architects might be somewhat underrated at times, we decided to create a post that will be dedicated to them exclusively. From Antoni Gaudí and Frank Lloyd Wright to Oscar Niemeyer and Norman Foster, let us introduce you to some of the greatest modern architects via this unranked list of 25 Modern Architects Whose Works Are Truly Inspiring.
The best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism, Antoni Gaudí (1852 –1926) was a Spanish Catalan architect famous for his individualized and distinctive style. Gaudí’s work was influenced by his biggest passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion. He considered every detail of his creations and integrated into his architecture such crafts as ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry. Most of his works are located in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, a stunning Roman Catholic church known as Sagrada Família (pictured).
Born in 1929 in Toronto, Canada, Frank Gehry is a renowned American architect notable for his unique ability to create spaces that manipulate forms and surfaces. A number of his buildings, including his private residence, have become world-renowned tourist attractions. Vanity Fair even labeled Gehry as “the most important architect of our age.” Gehry’s best-known works include the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (pictured); Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, France; Experience Music Project in Seattle, etc.
Frank Lloyd Wright
A prominent American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1859) designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Wright believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called “organic architecture.” This philosophy was best exemplified in his masterpiece known as Falling Water (pictured), which has been called “the best all-time work of American architecture.”
Born in 1937 in Genoa, Italy, Renzo Piano is an Italian architect and engineer who won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998. Piano was selected by TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006. He is known for his museum commissions (such as the Morgan Library in New York City and the NEMO science museum in Amsterdam) as well as a number of other projects including skyscrapers such as The New York Times Building in Manhattan and The Shard in London (pictured), the tallest skyscraper in the European Union.
Ieoh Ming Pei
Born in 1917 in Canton, China, Ieoh Ming Pei is a Chinese-American architect famous for his unique use of geometric forms and incorporating Chinese influences into his work. A winner of numerous prizes and awards including the AIA Gold Medal in 1979, the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Pritzker Prize in 1983, Pei is the author of many popular works such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts, the Dallas City Hall, the glass-and-steel pyramid for the Musée du Louvre in Paris (pictured), and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.
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Born in 1926 in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina, César Pelli is a renowned Argentine-American architect known for designing some of the world’s tallest buildings and other major urban landmarks. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects listed Pelli among the ten most influential living American architects. A winner of the 1995 AIA Gold Medal, he is the author of the iconic Kuala Lumpur’s landmark the Petronas Twin Towers (pictured), which were for a time the world’s tallest buildings. Pelli also designed the World Financial Center complex in downtown Manhattan.
The first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize (in 2004), Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) was an Iraqi-born British architect. She liberated architectural geometry with the creation of highly expressive, sweeping fluid forms of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry that evoke the chaos and flux of modern life. An icon of neo-futurism, her acclaimed work and ground-breaking forms include the aquatic center for the London 2012 Olympics, the Broad Art Museum in Michigan, and the Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China (pictured).
Born in 1951 in Valencia, Spain, Santiago Calatrava is a controversial Spanish neo-futuristic architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter. Calatrava has been criticized for many of his works being delayed and overpriced but there is no denying this architect ranks among the world’s most talented and influential modern architects. He has built more than 60 buildings and structures in many different countries, including airport terminals, railway stations, hospitals, bridges, and museums, but his most famous work is Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain (pictured).
One of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture, Le Corbusier (1887-1965) was a prominent Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, and urban planner. His career spanned five decades during which he constructed many buildings in Europe, Japan, India, and North and South America. A renowned urban planner, Le Corbusier even prepared the master plan for the city of Chandigarh in India, but he is most famous for his works such as Unité d´Habitation in Marseilles, Villa la Roche in Paris and Villa Savoye in Poissy, France (pictured).
Born in 1937 in Haifa, Israel, Moshe Safdie is an Isreali/Canadian/American architect, urban designer, educator, theorist, and author. Safdie’s works are known for their dramatic curves, arrays of geometric patterns, use of windows, and key placement of open and green spaces. He is most identified with his iconic masterpiece known as Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada (pictured). Habitat 67 is a model community and housing complex that was originally conceived as his master’s thesis in architecture at McGill University and then built as an actual pavilion for Expo 67, the World’s Fair.
Another notable pioneer of modern architecture, Walter Gropius (1883 –1969) was a German architect and founder of the renowned Bauhaus Art School. The 1959 AIA Gold Medal winner, Gropius is now remembered not only by his various buildings but also by the entire district of Gropiusstadt in Berlin. His most important works include the Fagus Factory in Saxony (pictured), the Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne, the University of Baghdad in Iraq, and the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Federal Building in Boston, Massachusetts.
Wondering what other public use buildings are on this list? Keep reading to find out!
Known as “the father of skyscrapers” and “the father of modernism” Louis Sullivan (1856–1924) was an influential American architect who is considered by many as the creator of the modern skyscraper. A critic of the Chicago School, Sullivan was the second architect in history to posthumously receive the AIA Gold Medal (in 1944). Sullivan’s most famous works were the National Farmers Bank of Owatonna in Minnesota (pictured), Merchants National Bank in Grinnell, Iowa, and the Chicago Stock Exchange Building in Chicago, Illinois.
Born in 1933 in Porto, Portugal, Alvaro Siza is a renowned Portuguese architect and architectural educator. In 1992, he was awarded with the prestigious Pritzker Prize for the renovation project that he coordinated in the Chiado area of Lisbon, a historic commercial sector that was all but completely destroyed by fire in August 1988. Most of Siza’s best known works are located in his hometown Porto: the Boa Nova Tea House, the Faculty of Architecture and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. He is also the author of the famous Ibere Camargo Foundation Museum in Porto Alegre, Brazil (pictured).
Jorn Utzon (1918 – 2008) was a Danish architect, most notable for designing the iconic Sydney Opera House in Australia (pictured). Utzon won the competition to design the Sydney Opera House in 1957. His submission was one of 233 designs from 32 countries, many of them from the most famous architects of the day. When the Sydney Opera House was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007, Utzon became only the second person to have received such recognition for one of his works during his lifetime. Utzon had a strong Nordic sense of concern for nature which, in his design, emphasized the synthesis of form, material and function for social values.
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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Commonly referred to just as Mies, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) was a prominent German-American architect. Along with Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and F. L. Wright, he is widely regarded as one of the most important pioneers of modernist architecture. Mies created an influential twentieth-century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. He designed a number of buildings in many different countries, but he is most famous for the Barcelona Pavilion in Barcelona, the Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic, and his American works such as IBM Plaza and 860–880 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago (pictured).
A world-renowned Neo-futuristic Czech architect, Jan Kaplicky (1937-2009) was the leading architect behind the innovative London-based design office known as Future Systems. Kaplicky was born and raised in Prague in former Czechoslovakia, but he spent a significant part of his later life in the United Kingdom where he built his masterpieces – the neo-futuristic Selfridges Building in Birmingham (pictured) and the Media Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
Ben van Berkel
Born in 1957 in Utrecht, Netherlands, Ben van Berkel is a Dutch architect, working in the architectural practice UNStudio. Despite being one of the youngest architects on the list, Ben van Berkel has already received many personal awards and affiliations, such as the Eileen Gray Award (1983), the British Council Fellowship (1986), and the Charlotte Kohler Award (1991). Berkel’s most notable works are the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Netherlands and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany (pictured).
Born in 1941 in Princeton, New Jersey, David Childs is an American architect and chairman emeritus of the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Childs first majored in zoology before he turned to architecture at the Yale School of Architecture where he earned his master’s degree in 1967. His is the author of many renowned projects such as the 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue and the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C. or the Worldwide Plaza and 450 Lexington Avenue in New York City, but he is best known for being the architect of the new One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan (pictured).
Born in 1964 in Belvidere, Illinois, Jeanne Gang is an American architect and the leader of the Studio Gang Architects, an architecture and design firm based in Chicago and New York. One of the most successful modern female architects, Gang is famous for many projects such as the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park on the Chicago River and the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, but her most iconic work is Agua, an 82-story mixed-use residential skyscraper in downtown Chicago (pictured).
Born in 1948 in Penang, Malaysia, Ken Yeang is a Malaysian architect, ecologist and author known for his signature eco-architecture and eco-masterplans. Yeang is an early pioneer of ecology-based green design and masterplanning, carrying out design and research in this field since 1971. He was named by the Guardian as “one of the 50 people who could save the planet.” His revolutionary green approach has been best exemplified in his iconic building, the high-rise National Library of Singapore (pictured) that features two verdantly landscaped ‘skycourt gardens’.
Born in 1935 in Stockport, United Kingdom, Norman Foster is an acclaimed British architect whose company, Foster + Partners, maintains an international design practice famous for high-tech architecture. One of Britain’s most prolific modern architects, he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize (in 1999), often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture. Foster has designed a number of UK´s important landmarks such as the Gherkin skyscraper in London (pictured), the Willis Building in Ipswich, and the new Wembley Stadium in London.
One of the most influential architects of the 20th century, Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) is considered one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture. Niemeyer was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city that became Brazil’s capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York City. Famous for his use of abstract forms and curves, Niemeyer designed a number of buildings all over Brazil including his masterpieces such as the Brazilian National Museum, Natal City Park Tower, and The Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum (pictured).
Alvar Aalto (1898 –1976) was a leading Finnish architect, designer, sculptor, and painter. An unusually versatile artist, his work included architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware. The span of his long architectural career, from the 1920’s to the 1970’s, is reflected in the styles of his work, ranging from Nordic Classicism of his early work, to a rational International Style Modernism during the 1930’s to a more organic modernist style from the 1940’s onwards. Two of his greatest projects are the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki (pictured) and the Aalto Theater Opera House in Essen, Germany.
Walter Burley Griffin
Walter Burley Griffin (1876 –1937) was an American architect and urban planner. Influenced by the Chicago-based Prairie School, Griffin developed a unique modern style. He worked in partnership with his wife Marion Mahony Griffin. He is best known for designing Canberra, Australia’s capital city (pictured), but he also designed many other cities, buildings, and structures such as the Lucknow Library in India, W.H. Emery House in Elmhurst, Illinois, John Gauler House in Chicago, Illinois and many more.
Born in 1974 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Bjarke Ingels is a leading Danish architect, known for designing buildings that defy traditional architectural conventions and dimensions. His designs incorporate sustainable development ideas and sociological concepts, along with sloped lines that are shaped to their surroundings. He has designed many projects in several countries such the 8 House housing complex, a zero-emission resort in Azerbaijan described as “one of the world’s largest eco-developments” (pictured) and the West 57 apartments in Manhattan, New York City.
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