What is architecture? That is probably one of the most frequently asked questions in the field of architecture. Everyone who sets foot in the field has their own interpretation of it, of its meaning and importance in the world which they develop usually based on their past experiences, refined through years of practice. Some architects develop styles unique from their peers which stands out as their ‘signature’ style—a distinctive style that defines their work. 

Here is a list of ten architects who have some distinctive elements or features in most of their designs. 

1. Frank Llyod Wright | Signature styles

Born in 1867, Frank L. Wright was encouraged to build since his early childhood- his mother used to give him wooden blocks to play with, and aspired for him to be a great man one day. When he was eleven, he was sent off to work at the farm in Wisconsin where he developed a fascination for nature. This fascination later developed into the Prairie style- the idea that the structure was ‘married’ to the ground it stood on, built with horizontal lines, craftsmanship, spaces, and colors which reflected nature- goldens, greens and browns. 

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Frank Llyod Wright ©www.commons.wikimedia.org
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Falling Waters, Pennsylvania ©www.architecturaldigest.com
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Guggenheim Museum, New York ©www.thejakartapost.com/

2. Mies van der Rohe

Considered as one of the most influential architects of the 20th Century, he is known as one of the pioneers of modernism. His aphorism “Less is more” (well, technically not his own- he borrowed it from Peter Behrens) is massively popular even now and can be heard in everyday conversations, in contexts not even remotely linked to architecture. His father was a stonemason and he worked with him until he was fifteen. He got his first independent commission in 1907 and through the years of working he developed his glass-and-metal-aesthetic around the 1920s.   

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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe ©www.commons.wikimedia.org
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The Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona ©www.usm.com/
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Farnsworth House, Illinois ©www.archdaily.com

3. Santiago Calatrava | Signature styles

He graduated with an architectural degree in 1974 and went ahead to study structural engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich. He started his own practice in 1981 in the same city and over the years gained a reputation for creating structures that were a blend of advanced engineering solutions that created a sense of drama in the landscape. He always tried to reflect natural rhythms and shapes in his structures.   

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Santiago Calatrava ©static01.nyt.com
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Quadracci Pavilion, Wisconsin ©www.archdaily.com
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World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York ©www.archdaily.com

4. Shigeru Ban

In his childhood, Ban wanted to be a carpenter. It was when his model of a house in 9th-grade was displayed as the best in his school that he thought about becoming an architect. He got his degree at 27, in 1984 from the Cooper Union in the US. Influenced by Alvar Aalto’s regionalist designs, and his liking for paper tube structures he developed a style in which affordable shelters could be made with ease. Later he went on to implement the same principles on more elaborate structures such as offices, universities, and other institutions. 

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Shigeru Ban ©www.archdaily.com
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Aspen Art Museum, Aspen ©www.archdaily.com
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Cardboard Cathedral, New Zealand ©www.archdaily.com

5. Zaha Hadid | Signature styles

One of the most iconic architects of the century, Zaha Hadid’s curvaceous forms is spell-bounding. She was born in 1950 in Baghdad- to a family that promoted her curiosity and zeal to learn at her will, and in a city, which gave the exposure which inspired her to become an architect. Her works seem to many as alien structures that have landed on earth. 

“There are 360 degrees, why stick to one?” 

-Zaha Hadid

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Zaha Hadid ©en.wikipedia.org/
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Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku ©www.archdaily.com
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MAXXI Museum, Rome ©www.archdaily.com

6. Laurie Baker

Named as ‘The Gandhi of Architecture’, the life and works of Laurie Baker were deeply influenced by indigenous lifestyles from an early age, and then he came to India and was gripped by the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi. From there on he sought out to understand the ‘ordinary’ lives of people and design for them- using all things natural and keeping as close to nature as he could. With experimentation using simple regional materials and techniques he developed a distinct style with exposed brick walls, brick jaalis and terracotta.

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Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies, Vilappilsala
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India Coffee House, Thiruvananthapuram ©indianexpress.com/

7. Frank Gehry

His buildings always contain a little quirky, a little crooked character- there was always something fishy about them. Born in 1929 in Canada, Frank Gehry is an architect known for his audacious sculptural forms. His structures are undulating, free-flowing sculptural forms that associated him with deconstructivism and post-modernism.

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Frank Gehry ©altaonline
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Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles ©altaonline
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Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao ©altaonline
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Marqués de Riscal Hotel, Álava ©altaonline

8. Charles Correa | Signature styles

Born in 1930 in Secunderabad, India, Charles Correa is famous for building the ‘non-building’. His structures don’t shout out their presence, but if you are inside one you will surely feel a sense of calm and serenity which is characteristic of him. His works infuse traditional principles and elements of architecture and planning with modernist tenets. He designed marvels like Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur and Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal which traverse through a series of open and closed spaces to engage the visitor in a dialogue with nature.  

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Charles Correa ©news.mit.edu/
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Image 14 – Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad ©www.dnaindia.com/
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Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur ©thearchiblog.wordpress.com/

9. Tadao Ando

He is known to formulate light and wind through his spaces, using mostly concrete and minimal interventions. “The primary reason is to create a place for the individual, a zone for oneself within society,” he says. He worked a lot of time in a woodworking shop from across his house when he was a child. It was there that he developed an interest in making shapes out of wood, and a fascination for nature- how trees changed their characteristic based on sunlight. 

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Tadao Ando ©entrerayas.com/
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Church of Light, Osaka ©www.archdaily.com/
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Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas ©entrerayas.com/

10. Daniel Libeskind | Signature styles

Propelled in his childhood by music, Daniel Libeskind was born in post-war Poland in a Jewish family. After completing his graduation, he spent many years teaching and developing his theories of design in place of creating buildings. He sent an entry to a competition to design the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which he won. That became his first commission and paved the way for numerous other commissions and a portfolio of the most iconic ‘deconstructed’ buildings. 

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Daniel Libeskind ©www.inexhibit.com/
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Jewish Museum, Berlin ©libeskind.com/
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Bundeswehr Military History Museum addition

Pursuing his bachelors’ degree of architecture, he is still exploring whatis it exactly that draws him to it. He believes that every story is worth knowing and wants to exchange them with the world irrespective of the form- brush strokes, words, musical notes or bricks and mortar.