The architecture of the 20th century is a collection of thought-provoking and encapsulating modernism which evolved in different forms across several parts of the world. Embodied styles such as expressionism, futurism, art deco, amalgamated during this time, with the innovative construction techniques and materials such as concrete, steel, and glass. Some architects steered this architectural style and presented some of the most groundbreaking projects as an example of functionality, minimalism, and unconventional design approach. Take a look at some of the most renowned 20th-century architects and their inspiring designs.
1. Alvar Aalto
Background: The Finnish born architect in the year 1898, was a pioneer in the field of modernism with some of the most noteworthy projects across the world in the domain of architecture, furniture, and glassware. After studying at the Helsinki University of Technology, the architect moved to Jyväskylä in 1923 starting his practice. However, he collaborated with architect Erik Bryggman in 1927 and moved to Turku until 1933 when he finally established himself in Helsinki. His work was acclaimed with the Prince Eugen Medal in 1954, the Royal Medal for Architecture by RIBA in 1957, Gold Medal from AIA in 1963 and was received an honorary doctorate from NTNU in 1960. Some of his most influential projects richly capture his design approach by use of local materials, integrated context, and functional materials.
Notable Projects: Viipuri Library, Paimio Sanatorium, Paimio, Finland, Villa Mairea in Noormarkku, and Baker House Dormitory in Cambridge.
2. Aldo Rossi
Background: The Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect had led a remarkable journey in the field of architecture with his contributions in architectural theory, urbanism, and influential design approach. After completing his architectural education at Politecnico di Milano in 1959, Rossi briefly collaborated with Ernesto Nathan Rogers for the magazine Casabella-continuita. Through later years, he taught at the School of urban planning in Arezzo, Institute of Architecture in Venice, and Politecnico di Milano. Beyond Europe, he also taught at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cooper Union and Cornell, the most prestigious institutions in the United States. From the 1960s, Rossi excelled with his design projects in a joint effort with Salvatore Tarrago.
Notable Projects: Gallaratese Housing D Block in Milan, Quarter Schutzentrasse in Berlin, ComplessoResidenziale Monte Amiata in Milan, Cimitero Di San Cataldo in Modena illustrated his ability to amalgamate contextuality, sensibility, and urban culture.
3. Arthur Erickson
Background: Born in 1924, the Canadian architect had an enriching career. He studied at the University of British Columbia and McGill University. In 1953, he started his practice in association with Geoffrey Massey in Vancouver. They primarily designed residential buildings until their prolific design in 1963 for the Simon Fraser University located on Burnaby Mountain. However, he ended his partnership with Geoffrey in 1972 and went on to design projects such as the Museum of Anthropology in UBC and Robson Square. His work was awarded with a Gold Medal from the AIA in 1986, Companion of Order of Canada in 1981, Gold Medal from Royal Architectural Institute of Canada to name a few.
Notable Projects: Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, McGaugh Hall at UC Irvine, and San Diego Convention center.
3. Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi
Background: A pioneer in the field of architecture, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, B V Doshi was born in 1927 in India. After studying at Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, he went to Europe working closely with Le Corbusier on his projects in Paris from 1951-1954. He returned to India to oversee Corbusier’s projects Mill Owners Association Building and Villa Sarabhai in Ahmedabad. He started his practice in 1956, today is known as Vastushilpa Consultants. Nearly a hundred projects executed by him were residences, low-cost housing, institutional buildings, which resonated with his ideology of ‘architecture for the people’. Besides he worked with Louis Kahn and Anant Raje for IIM Ahmedabad Campus and M F Hussain for an underground art Gallery designed for him known as Amdavadni Gufa. He also founded and designed the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology in 1966.
Notable Projects: Premabhai Hall, Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, Shakti Bhawan, IFFCO Township in Kalol, Tagore Memorial Hall, and Sangath in Ahmedabad.
5. Charles Correa
Background: The prominent architect was born in the year 1930 in Secunderabad. Upon his return from the United States for higher education, he began his career in Mumbai, 1958. Mahatma Gandhi Sangrahalaya in Ahmedabad, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly, National Crafts Museum in New Delhi were some of his initial projects. However, as an Urban Planner, he designed Navi Mumbai from 1970-75 and founded Urban Design Research Institute in 1984 for improvement of urban environment and communities. His designs brought together the deep-rooted traditional attributes and modern design language with a climate-conscious approach.
Notable Projects:Kanchanjunga Apartments Mumbai, Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, British Council in New Delhi, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal.
6. Eero Saarinen
Background: Son of Eliel Saarinen, an established and renowned architect, Eero was born in the year 1910 in Finland. Known for his neo-futuristic approach, Eero created note-worthy designs in the domain of furniture and architecture. After studying at Yale University in 1934, he traveled across Europe and Africa for nearly a year. He eventually joined his father’s firm primarily working on furniture design. In the year 1947, his design for St. Louis Gateway Arch was a winning entry, bringing his architectural work in the limelight. A blend of experimentation, exploration, and futuristic ideas made his work commendable.
Notable Projects: TWA Terminal, Washington DC’S Dulles International Airport, and General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan
7. Erich Mendelsohn
Background: Known as the Father of Streamline Moderne, the Jewish-German architect was born in 1887. Beginning his practice in Berlin, the Einstein Tower, Postdam was his first project which gathered immense discussion around its design. However, due to increasing tensions in the World War, he moved to England where he collaborated with Segre Chermayeff for the design of De La Warr Pavilion. He was commissioned during this period for hospital projects in Palestine. In the year 1941, he moved to the United States where he acted as an advisor to the government and designed projects, especially for the Jewish community. During his last years, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley.
Notable Projects: Park Synagogue, De La Warr Pavilion, and Einstein Tower, Postdam.
8. Frank O. Gehry
Background: The world-renowned, Pritzker Prize-winning Canadian architect was born in 1929. Gehry studied at the University of Southern California and briefly at Harvard Graduate School of Design. The deconstructivism style of architecture became his niche over the years. However, he initially worked with Victor Gruen Associates in Los Angeles and later for Andre Remondet where he critically studied works of Le Corbusier. He started his practice in 1960 and during the 1980s, he primarily designed residential projects in Southern California. While experimenting with spaces for his Santa Monica home, Gehry adapted a junk art approach with the use of unusual materials and techniques.
Notable Projects: Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, NationaleNederlanden Building in Prague and Experience Music Project in Seattle.
9. Frank Lloyd Wright
Background: Thearchitect who innovated the ‘Prairie style’ houses, was a pioneer in residential architecture with the eminent project in the United States. Learning from Louis Sullivan, Wright adhered to the ideology of ‘form follows function’. He extensively designed his projects including the interiors, fixtures, and fittings. His designs such as the Falling Water, Unity Temple, Guggenheim Museum, are exemplary projects that shifted from the conventional idea of enclosing spaces within four walls and encompassed dramatic horizontal lines and masses. His work was awarded with the RIBA gold medal, AIA gold medal, and Franklin Institute’s Frank P. Brown Medal.
Notable Projects: Falling Water, Robie House, Avery Coonley House, Unity Temple, Willtis House, Johnson Wax HQ, and Taliesin.
10. Fazlur Khan
Background: The Bangladeshi- American architect and engineer was the innovator behind the structural system of skyscrapers. Born in 1929, Dhaka, he studied at the Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, and continued further studies at the University of Illinois Urbana with Fulbright Scholarship. In 1955, he joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago, and became a partner in 1966. Among many innovations, he came up with Tubular systems, Framed tube systems, Trussed Tube, and x- Bracing, the Bundled tube used in some of the most famous structures in the United States.
Notable Projects: DeWitt-Chestnut Apartments in Chicago, John Hancock Center in Chicago, Sears Tower in Chicago, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, and United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.
11. Geoffrey Bawa
Background: Famously known for hisblend of traditional Asian architecture with Contemporary style, Geoffrey Bawa was one of the most influential architects. Born and brought up in Ceylon, following the footsteps of his father, he went to Cambridge in 1938 to pursue Law. Unsure of his future in the legal profession, he traveled across East Asia, the United States, and Europe. He found his fascination with gardens and acquired architectural education later in 1957. In partnership with UlrikPlesner, he began his practice and continued working independently after 1967. The scale and nature of projects spanned across residential, commercial, institutional, and hospitality.
Notable Projects: The Lunuganga, Seema Malaka, Steel Corporation Office and Housing, Kandalama Hotel, and Sri-Lankan Parliament Complex.
12. Hassan Fathy
Background: The Egyptian architect born in 1900 was a pioneer for modern Islamic architecture and the appropriate use of technology. He focused primarily on architecture for the poor with ancient design methods, materials, and sensibility. His deep-rooted consideration for history, need for Egyptian families, functionality, materials, and awareness were awarded Chairman’s Award by Aga Khan Foundation, and Gold medal by Union Internationale des Architectes in 1980 and 1984 respectively.
Notable Projects: New Gourna Village, Andreoli Residence in Cairo, Ceramics Factory in Qina and New Baris Village in Kharga, Egypt
13. I M Pei
Background: The Pritzker Prize-winning architect is known for his outstanding projects such as the Glass Pyramid at Louvre, John Hancock Building in Boston, Boston Museum of Fine Arts to name a few. Born in China in 1917, he studied at MIT, Cambridge, and Harvard University, where he also taught briefly. After working for Webb & Knapp, he began his practice in 1955. He designed shortly, the groundbreaking projects like John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. which brought him immense fame. A bold character of structure with contrasting material and surfaces, and juxtaposing forms became his design statement.
Notable Projects: Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and Luce Memorial Chapel, Taichung.
14. Jorn Oberg Utzon
Background: Best known for the Sydney Opera House, JornUtzon was a Danish architect born in 1918.He studied at Copenhagen Royal Academy of Arts in 1942 and worked with architects Alvar Aalto, Gunnar Asplund, Arne Jacobsen, and Poul Henningsen. In 1957, Utzon won the design competition for Sydney Opera House, for which he moved to Australia. He designed important projects in Denmark, Kuwait, and Spain upon his return. He was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2003 besides RAIA Gold Medal, Alvar Aalto Medal, Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement prior.
Notable Projects: Bagsværd Church near Copenhagen, The National Assembly Building in Kuwait, Can Feliz in Spain, and Utzon Center in Denmark.
15. Kenzo Tange
Background: The Japanese architect was a visionary of modernism with astounding projects in Japan. His breakthrough came with winning the entry of Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park in 1949. He designed several buildings in Japan such as Kagawa Prefectural Government Hall and Yoyogi National Gymnasium. Kenzo was commissioned for the Supreme court of Pakistan in 1965, Overseas Bank in Singapore, and the American Medical Association Building in Chicago. He was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1987, the RIBA gold medal in 1965, and the AIA Gold medal in 1966.
Notable Projects: Tokyo Olympic Arena, Kuwait Embassy in Japan, Shizuoka Tower, and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park.