As with any other human product, the architecture reflects the needs and expectations of people in a specific context. This article tries to understand which elements influence the design through three well-known architects, sometimes perceived as weird and out of their time. Artistic talent, political and philosophical ideas and their education are the key to understanding the work of an architect.

The Perspectives of Architecture

Architecture is a form of art and thus represents a precise historical and geographic context, and it reflects the vision and the education of an architect. Architects show their personalities and eccentric ideas through their designs, and they are not always immediately accepted by the public. In the history of architecture, we can find hundreds of controversial personalities who did implement radical change in architectural thought and vision but considered extravagant and unusual. These adjectives are usually due to their new perception of architecture, originated by different educational backgrounds and the interpretation of the surrounding world. 

Hereafter, some “unusual architects” are described, as well as their design philosophy. Frank Gehry, the Canadian architect well known for his deconstructivist architecture, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Viennese painter who dedicated his maturity to architecture, Ma Yanson, the architect that looks at the future.

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry is one of the most famous architects in the world. His design “signature” is the use of extremely unusual relations among architectural objects. The main feature of his design is to drastically change the relationship among the architectural elements, giving a completely new aspect to the common association to the word “building”. His works seem more like sculptures, and he often implements unusual and poor materials. Interestingly, his mother was in love with art, and he has grown up surrounded by many artistic personalities, which may have influenced his unconventional way of seeing the world. He has the extraordinary capacity of absorbing all the possible input and influence around him. A great example of his work is the Lou Ruvo Brain Center for Health in Las Vegas (2007-2010). The building structure arouses the curiosity of the observer, inviting them to discover and explore the interior. 

How do architects upbringing and philosophies affect their design? - Sheet1
Ruvo Brain Center for Health, Photograph credits to Matthew Carbone_ ©

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was a Viennese painter, born in 1928 and died in 2000, who dedicated part of his late-life to architecture. It is clear the influence that his painting career had on this secondary activity. The peculiarity of his works lies in the use of curved shapes and natural elements (such as water and vegetation) inside the buildings. He believed that the closer life was to the natural environment, the better for people. In the same way, the floors of his works follow a natural morphology: he used to state that the horizontal flat floor was an invention of architects and had nothing to do with what humans need. His popular houses in Vienna, called Hundertwasserhaus, are still a landmark in the city. His idea was to create cheap but pleasant apartments also for those who could not afford the sumptuous and expensive flats of the city centre. His mission was to make unique and beautiful every piece of architecture he designed: for example, again in Vienna, he refurbished the external part of an incinerator, with colours, decorations and pleasant and curious shapes, that made it easier to be accepted by the surrounding neighbourhoods. 

How do architects upbringing and philosophies affect their design? - Sheet2
Hundertwasserhaus, Photograph credits to Bwag_©

Ma Yanson

Ma Yanson is a young Chinese architect who worked for Zaha Hadid and Peter Eisenmann before founding his studio, MAD Architects in 2004. The influences of his previous working experiences are visible in his works. The philosophy of Mad and his studio is what in Chinese is called Shanshui City, theorized by a Chinese Scientist, indicating a city that could allow his citizens to stay out of nature and return to it. For Ma Yanson this concept applies also to human emotions: he sees as the city of the future an urban landscape with, at its centre, sensations and feeling. Seeing in the return to nature an instinctive tendency of human beings, he considers Shanshui City the future of our world. In his works, the effort to contrast the typical Chinese architecture of the city, with tall, straight buildings repeated hundreds of times to create districts, is evident. He uses curved lines and twisted volumes and attempts at integrating the building in the landscape in the most natural way possible, often using reflective materials that accentuate the natural light. A perfect example of his concept of architecture is the pair of curvilinear skyscrapers in Mississauga in Canada. The peculiarity of this project is that the verticality is not emphasized although composed of tower-like construction. Instead, each storey presents an oval floor plan and differs in orientation from the one above and the one underneath, giving the sensation of a naturally curved body.

How do architects upbringing and philosophies affect their design? - Sheet3
Absolute Towers by MAD, Photograph credits to Iwan Braan and Tom Arban_©

There are thousands of different ways to be an architect, as there are thousands of ways to be a person: each of us, during our life, is influenced by what we study, who we meet, where we live and travel. Everything around us impacts our decision and approach to life, sometimes consciously, other times unconsciously. And this happens to artists and architects, who, thanks to their cultural and philosophical background, try to convey a message.

References n.d. Biography of the architect: MAD Architects Ma Yansong. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 12 November 2021]. n.d. Frank Gehry. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021].

Frearson, A., 2012. Absolute Towers twisted skyscrapers by MAD. [online] Dezeen. Available at:  [Accessed 12 November 2021]. n.d. Friedensreich Hundertwasser | Tag | ArchDaily. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021]. n.d. Gehry’s Philosophical Approach. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021]. n.d. Gehry, Frank nell’Enciclopedia Treccani. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021]. n.d. Gehry, Frank nell’Enciclopedia Treccani. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021].

Gibson, D., 2019. Frank Gehry on Architecture and Movement – The Aspen Institute. [online] The Aspen Institute. Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021]. n.d. Hundertwasser – Friedensreich Hundertwasser. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021].

MasterClass staff, 2021. What Is Frank Gehry’s Design Philosophy? Learn About Frank Gehry’s Work and Creative Process. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 November 2021].

McKenna, A., 2016. Ma Yansong | Chinese architect. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at:  [Accessed 12 November 2021].

Mueller, N., 2016. The Wild World of Hundertwasser: How Architecture Enhances Landscapes – Garden Collage Magazine. [online] Garden Collage Magazine. Available at:,both%20at%20the%20hands%20of  [Accessed 11 November 2021].


Francesca Colombo is a Master Architecture student in Italy. She considers architecture as a tool to face social problems and create better cities, accepting and celebrating people’s diversity. She dreams of living and working in a European capital.

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