Architects are the essence of architecture. There are several architects around the world adding a new definition of architecture every day. With different styles and different designing methods, architects are growing and adding value to society. We list down ten such prominent architects that have played a huge role in shaping the field of architecture.
1. Eero Saarinen
Eero Saarinen was a Finnish – American architect, sculptor, and furniture designer. He was famous for his dramatic forms giving a freshness to the boring uniformity of modern architecture. He used sculptural forms that added character to the building. He believed that a structure should make an eloquent statement. He designed furniture, of which the two most acknowledged pieces are The Womb Chair and The Tulip Chair. He has been presented with several awards for his work in the field of architecture.
One of the most famous structures designed by Eero Saarinen was The Gateway Arch. A national monument that stands 630 feet tall, at the banks of the Mississippi River. It is made out of stainless steel and is in the form of a weighted catenary arch.
2. Santiago Calatrava
Born: July 28, 1951, Benimamet, near Valencia, Spain.
Santiago Calatrava is a Spanish – Swiss architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter. In 1979, he received his Ph.D. in ‘Technical Science’ for a thesis ‘On the Foldability of Frames’. He was known for his sculptural bridges and buildings. His design styles are inspired by zoomorphic forms, giving the structure a sculptural form and a rhythmic shape that blends with nature yet manages to stand out. With his knowledge of structural engineering, he manages to achieve structural solutions with dramatic visual statements. To transform his vision into reality, he majorly uses materials like concrete and steel.
Of the many well-known structures, one is the ‘World Trade Transportation Hub’. This building was designed as a replacement for the original Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system that was destroyed on September 11 2001. It is located in Lower Manhattan, located to the east of the original World Trade Center Twin Towers. This is a public gathering space that is filled with natural light in the daytime and acts like a lantern at night. The structure manages to break the monotony of surrounding dense commercial towers
3. Ieoh Ming Pei
Born: 26 April 1917, Guangzhou, China.
Dead: 16 May 2019, Manhattan, New York, United States.
I.M. Pei is a Chinese – American architect with a six-decade career. He was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1983. He was a Modernist architect with clean, reserved, and sharp-edged designs. His use of simple geometries never failed to create a monumental impact on the world. His designs were bold yet pragmatic. With his work, he tried to prove that modernism could produce buildings with gravity. Standing strong on his beliefs he kept designing structures with various simple forms providing the world with his particular brand of modernism.
Two of the most famous structures by I.M. Pei are the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (1978), in Washington, D.C., and the extension of the Louvre in Paris, France (1989). Keeping in mind the history and architecture of the Louvre, the architects designed an extension i.e. a centrally located Glass Pyramid. This is the main and the largest entrance in the main courtyard providing direct access to the galleries in three wings of each museum. The pyramid acts like a skylight for the expansion building under the courtyard, consisting of public amenities and technical support for the museum.
4. Oscar Niemeyer
Born: 15 December 1907, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Dead: 5 December 2012, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Oscar Niemeyer is a Brazilian architect. He played a vital role in the development of Modern Architecture. He was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. As a designer, he held on to his roots and origin of Brazil, which can be seen through his architecture, adding the beauty of Brazilian culture to modern architecture. His designs are portrayed as lyrical sculptures. He developed on the principles of LeCorbusier, to produce free-form spaces. He stated that his concerns were to bring structural solutions that would characterize a city’s architecture.
Of the various remarkable works by Oscar Neimeyer, Metropolitan Cathedral, Brasilia is one of the most expressive buildings designed by him. The planning of the Cathedral is that there is a dark tunnel that leads the visitor to the interior of the circular aisle of 70 meters in diameter, portraying the idea of people walking from the darkness to the light; in other words, people walking in search of spirituality. The use of a glass dome helps bring in plenty of light, creating a magical space for the public.
5. Philip Johnson
Born: 8 July 1906, Cleveland, Ohio, United States.
Dead: 25 January 2005, New Canaan, Connecticut, United States.
Philip Johnson is an American architect. He was the first architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979. But even before he started designing buildings, he was influencing architecture. He was a curator and curated the 1932 show, ‘Modern Architecture: International Exhibition’ held at the Museum of Modern Art along with Henry-Russell Hitchcock. He was highly inspired by the work of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and has collaborated with him on several projects. Although he has achieved accolades for his work in the International style, he could design in a wide range of styles.
The Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut, is a structure designed by Philip Johnson as his residence. The house was one of the first projects by the architect and it gained quick and significant attention. The idea of openness with the help of glass was inspired by the Farnsworth House by Mies Van der Rohe. It is now a part of the National Trust Historic Site and is open for the public to visit.
6. Louis Kahn
Born: 20 February 1901, Kuressaare, Estonia.
Dead: 17 March 1974, Pennsylvania Station, New York, United States.
Louis Kahn is an Estonian – American architect. He has garnered several prizes and awards for his astonishing work in the field of architecture. To Kahn, architecture is a thoughtful making of spaces. He used simple geometry and materials to exhibit his ideas. He valued mass and weight but his designs made the structure look weightless. He wanted his building to be monumental and symbolic. Light played a key role in his designs. He saw architecture as a way to create community and hoped to design buildings that would provide family and community life. Kahn was also involved in the city planning of Philadelphia, in the post-war period.
One of the most notable works by Louis Kahn is the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959 – 1965). Jonas Salk, MD selected Kahn to design the research facility. The facility has two mirror-image structures, centering on a grand travertine courtyard. He flooded the facility with natural light. The materials used for this building were concrete, teak, lead, glass, and steel. The thin water channel bisects the courtyard, drawing attention toward the horizon.
7. Toyo Ito
Born: 1 June 1941, Seoul, Korea (now South Korea)
Toyo Ito is a Japanese architect. He was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2013. He wishes to fade the boundary between the interior and the exterior, visually as well as experientially, through his designs. He plans the buildings in a way that they look borderless; hence the facades are not designed separately but are the results of abrupt sectional cutting of the forms. He believes in creating nature within the building. Like a forest, he wants his building to have free openness, i.e. no walls obstructing the user, allowing them to use the space as per their will. He quotes, “There is no confinement in my architecture. It always dissipates.”
One of the famous buildings showcasing his ideas is Sendai Mediatheque, (1997 – 2001). It is located in Sendai, Japan. This building is a perfect example of Toyo Ito’s principles as the vertical tube steel lattice columns in the interior exhibit the trees of the interior forest and the floor plans have unobstructed open spaces. It has a transparent glass facade allowing the structure to blend along with the surrounding environment.
8. Antoni Gaudi
Born: 25 June 1852, Baix Camp, Spain.
Dead: 10 June 1926, Old Hospital de la Santa Creu, Barcelona, Spain.
Antoni Gaudi is Catalan architect. He is significantly known for his Catalan Modernism. His exceptional unique styles brought recognition to his work. His meaning of architecture was developed from the patterns of nature. He designed buildings that were free-flowing, curvy organic forms, and colourful and extravagant. He often used colourful, undulating tile work in a method called trencadis, a Catalan word meaning cracked or broken. This method uses broken pieces of ceramics, and these were recycled as mosaic tiles which were used as colourful decorative patterns.
One of the most magnificent and larger-than-life buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi, whose construction began in 1882, which is still ongoing and is estimated to be completed by 2026, i.e. 100 years after the death of the architect, is ‘La Sagrada Familia’ Barcelona, Spain. He used angular columns, vaults, and arches to distribute the load on the interior. These complex shapes were intended to enhance the temple’s acoustics and quality of light. This building marks the highest height in the world at 170m.
9. Kengo Kuma
Born: 8 August 1954, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Kengo Kuma is a Japanese architect. He has developed his philosophy by understanding the vernacular methods and natural techniques of designing and believes in being involved with the environment to understand the possibilities of the project. He strives to achieve humbleness through his designs. He plays with his elevations with the use of materials to bring in the natural light. He makes use of natural materials like glass, concrete, stone, and timber with modern technologies. Kuma quotes “If the journey of the ingredients is too long, the taste of the sushi is compromised. That is a problem that can’t be solved by modern technology, and that programme of using local material in season is the secret of good taste, and the secret of my style.”
Of the many successful projects, Kengo Kuma gained world recognition for his ‘Japan National Stadium’ (2016-2019) which was the grand stage for Tokyo Olympics 2020. Following the vernacular methods, Kuma provided the extended eaves as a vertical succession of slanting bands cladded with Larch and Okinawa pine. This design provides shade and airflow directed to the seats. The interior is majorly made out of wood and the roof trusses are out of timber and metal connectors. To ensure that the light reaches all the corners of the arena, a gigantic skylight is provided on the roof.
10. Bjarke Ingels
Born: 2 October 1974 (age 47 years), Copenhagen, Denmark.
Bjarke Ingels is a Danish architect. He originated the idea of ‘Hedonistic Sustainability’, i.e. along with the environment, the idea of a sustainable building could be about enhancing the well-being of the user using it. His approach to architecture is more about experimenting with space. His work showcases a playful and practical approach to architecture with the use of simple geometries. Ingles is assigned a master planning of a city called ‘Telosa’ which is to be built from scratch in the U.S. desert.
Of the many remarkable projects by Bjarke Ingels, one that catches an eye with its unique pyramid-shaped design, is the residential building ‘ VIA 57 West’ located in Manhattan, New York, USA. This building is a good combination of a European perimeter block and a typical American skyscraper, calling it a ‘courtscraper’. This building goes upto the height of 450 feet.
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- (Santiago Calatrava | Biography, Buildings, Architecture, Style, & Facts, 2022)
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- (Casa Batlló)
- (Antoni Gaudi: Buildings, Architecture & Style)
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- (“The Life & Architectural Career of Kengo Kuma – Archisoup | Architecture Guides & Resources”)
- (Arquitectura Viva)
- (Bjarke Ingels -Bio)