Do you want to be a starchitect?

Do you want pictures of your buildings flooding instagram feeds?

Does your design deserve a trendy story in AD or other trending magazines?

Do you want millions of architecture students around the world studying your structures?

Then this article is for you!

After a detailed study based on observing starchitects and their actions, from how they design to when they sleep (we couldn’t follow them to their bathrooms, that would have been something!) Here is a list of 12 definitive things you can do to become a starchitect.

1. Get yourself a name no one can pronounce.


Laszlo Moholy- Nagy?

Juhani Pallasmaa?


Just like our beloved movie stars, Architectural stars must have trendy names. And is it really trend-setting, if your name doesn’t scare journalists, students and architects alike?

Bjarke Ingels anyone?

2. Think outside the box

Be it design, material, structure, or just use of colors, you need to think differently.

Luis Barragan designed simple, aesthetic and minimal structures, and painted them a Pink so distinctive, it’s become synonyms with contemporary Mexican architecture!

Or considering the case of Walter Gropius, with a style so distinctive and new for its time, he ended up starting a worldwide art movement, The Bauhaus.

Starchitecture is about popularity, and people love originality and innovative thinking producing something they have never seen before.

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3. Have an attitude towards ‘Criticism’

You cannot go wrong with criticising journalists and criticisers! And who are they anyway, to tell you about how good/bad your design is!

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From Le Corbusier to Frank Lloyd Wright, every starchitect has been ridiculed over their design genius.

Starchitects face more criticism compared to their less famous counterparts. An architect becomes a starchitect when they build themselves with constructive criticism, and deal with negative criticism with trend-setting statements.

“What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina?”- Zaha Hadid on Qatar World Cup stadium’s (  ‘vagina stadium’ controversy.

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4. Test the boundaries of observable Architecture

Starchitecture is also about testing structural, conceptual and cultural boundaries, by taking calculated risks.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Brunelleschi dome at the Cathedral de Santa Maria in Florence, the Gherkin in London, Burj Khalifa, etc would never be possible, if architects didn’t have a vision that pushed boundaries.

Sydney’s Opera house designed by Danish architect JornUtzon, after initial doubts on its credibility as a standing structure, was one of the first monuments to be tested by CAD for its structural strength.

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Zaha Hadid went from ‘the paper architect’, and having ‘anti-design’ designs, to ‘Queen of the Curve’ with her avantgarde and unrealistic designs.

Has your structural engineer ever lost sleep over a project?

Have your drawings been ridiculed by a couple of civil engineers?

Has someone said that your design is imaginary and can only be built on paper?

Then start imagining!

5. Trend-setters

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The key to becoming a starchitect, is not following architectural styles and trends, it’s setting them. Experiment with various styles and concepts, till you find your own niche.

Architects who have studied under starchitects, became famous by developing their own style, after keenly observing, studying and practicing with their masters. Louis Sulivan has had many famous architects work as chief draftsmen with him, one deviating prodigy was Frank Lloyd Wright. Today, OMA is such a starchitect producing factory, with Rem Koolhaas producing self thinking and trend setting architects like Zaha Hadid, Winy Maas, etc.

When handing Gaudi his degree, EliesRogent, director of Barcelona Architecture School, said: “We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show.” He turned out to be a legend in the architectural community, setting in motion a series of art movements, and giving unconventional architects around the world hope and motivation to follow their own trend setting innovative styles.

For more advice, visit- How To Create A Trend-Setting Design In The Age of Social Media Architecture

6. Get yourself a ‘Copytect’

Are you a starchitect if your structures have not been copied?

Some copying has led to trend-setting, as in the case of Sullivan, who helped the architectural community transition from ornamented and heavy classical architectural styles to skyscrapers, steel and electrical lighting.

Although the lines between inspiration and stealing are blur, copying any structure as it is has been considered a form of plagiarism, aggravating many starchitects over the ages.

Zaha Hadid found herself in and out of lawsuits, trying to hold copytects accountable for building towns and cities full of her structures, which of course she hadn’t built! One such example is  Hadid’sWangjing Soho complex in Beijing, which was being copied and constructed at the same time as Meiquan 22nd Century in Chongqing, and ironically was being built faster than Hadid’s project!

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Meiquan 22nd Century in Chongqing “INSPIRED” by ZHA’s Soho Complex.

Contrastingly, Robert Venturi has always maintained that ‘Quality is more important than originality’ and that there is no way to avoid inspiration and hence, imitation is not a crime. Doing something good is better than doing something first, according to Venturi who also emphasized on the dichotomous relationship of the influenced with the influencer-

The more an architect is influenced, the more he resents the person who has influenced him – and the less he acknowledges the influence.”

7. Masterclass

A $90 class that gives broke students and architects who already earn less than what they deserve a chance to understand and learn, from the master himself, Frank Gehry’s design philosophy and creative process.

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The course is extensive, with downloadable pdfs, homework, access to a community of students and architects undertaking the course and select students having their work reviewed by Gehry himself, apart from 17 lessons delivered by Gehry via talking head style videos.

Its extensive publicity has opened up the hidden community of architects, making it evident in the masses that architecture is a valuable (and expensive) skill.

The “sometimes controversial,” “iconoclastic” and “rambunctious.” pritzker prize winner has tried to give the students insight into his process.

“I hope this gives them the wings to explore and the courage to create their own language.”- Frank Gehry.

With education coming online, masterclass and other online courses are a way to reach millions of architects and students across cultures, styles, ideas and ethnicities, and starchitects have an immense cache of knowledge and experience worth sharing!

8.  Social Media/ Media coverage

Even before the internet, great architecture has always been documented for architects as well as others. Revolutionary architects who ended up changing the dynamics of architecture with their style had been expanding their influence and ideologies by designing projects across many countries, and in cases like Bauhaus, teaching them in architecture schools.

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Today, the introduction of internet, social media, and written journalism, has taken publicity to another level. Today, Gaudi’s  Sagrada Familia is one of the top 10 most instagrammable buildings, with many modern starchitects and their structures following suit. The craze is to such an extent, that ‘instagrammable’ has become a part of the clients brief and an architects / designers aim.

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Another form of media coverage is TV shows such as “Abstract: The Art of Design” on Netflix, where Bjarke Ingels, along with 8 designers from other creative fields, showcase an overly romantic view of what it means to be an actual designer.

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The importance of social media is growing, and so is criticism in architecture. With over 100 websites and online magazines providing insight into architectural problems, solutions, ideas, trends and versatility accessible by any kid with a smartphone or internet access.

9.  Talk Ted

Bjarke Ingels has 2 million views on his TED Talk. 2 Million people listening to and being inspired by his creative thinking and amalgamation of design, creativity, parametricism and technology.

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NeriOxman is famous for her research study and innovations in materials and has been a consistent, inspirational, and famous speaker at TED.

Ted has become a platform for not only famous architects, but every architect trying to bring about a change and eradicating evils and issues, from urban to individual level.

These talks are a way for you to reach the world, with your unconventional, humanitarian, problem solving and solution oriented architecture, and not just for architects designing with  distinctive shapes and colours.

Here’s 14 Influential TED Talks by Female Architects by RTF

10. The infamous ‘Architects’ attitude

“A big ego, mixed with an ample amount of arrogance and attitude.” is how architects are generally described, and we don’t deny it!

Gehry spoke once at Princeton in the 1980s, and was challenged by a member of the School of Architecture: “Mr. Gehry, do you have nightmares? Is that how you concoct this stuff?” Gehry didn’t even answer and explained later, “I just figured he was an idiot.”

The attitude isn’t restricted to outsiders! Architects constantly try to one up each other. When Mies van der Rohe said “less is more,” Venturi responded: “Less is a bore.”

New or old, (David Adjaye once corrected his introduction before a speech by reminding them that he is Sir David- knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017) famous or not, all architects have an undeniable and precious attitude towards their art, which to every extent, is celebrated and valued and justified (David Adjaye was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by Time magazine!)

This attitude comes from valuable assets like problem solving through design, providing cities and people with admirable spaces, and ofcourse, being creative. It is justified, and frankly necessary, in a world full of ignorant and biased critics and clients alike, who think they know better and don’t see the struggle behind architecture, and its value.

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11.  Embrace design in all its forms

Almost all famous architects, from Meis van der Rohe to Odile Decq, have ventured into designing other products, apart from buildings.

Design is a creative subject, creativity isn’t subjective.

These designs have been well received, such as van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair, or furniture designs by ZHA, setting trends and showing off their creativity, style and design genius on other platforms as well. This platform is wide, and includes everything from fashion to tech such as mobile phones!

Architects are and have always been primarily painters, musicians, sculptors, artists- designers.

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Furniture designs by ZHA.

20 Furniture designed by Famous Architects of the world by RTF lists the same!

12.  Deny the legibility of the word (starchitecture)

According to Starchitecture: Scenes, Actors, and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities by Davide Ponzini,

Starchitecture is a critical appraisal of the ways in which star architecture has been interpreted, depicted and discussed in public debates. One of the ways in which the debate simplified this complex matter is the well-known “Bilbao Effect.” The expectations towards designers being capable of changing the fate of one city are evidently exaggerated. In a public event for the Martha Museum in Herford he has designed, Gehry explained: “Since Bilbao people come to my office and want to hire me to do the Bilbao effect.”

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We cannot deny that starchitects and their fame have created an uprising and opening up of the secluded and silent community of architecture in the world. But assuming architectural dynamics to be synonyms with starchitecture, or that architecture is limited to what we see in starchitects and their design, style and capabilities is delusional and frankly misleading.

Being modest is an art, particular to famous people.

Gehry is famous for hating the term Starchitect and says that the term misunderstands his work entirely, implying that his architecture involves nothing more than eye-catching, flashy shapes.

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In the end, it’s not luck that these legends are being called starchitects. They have valuable assets that they use to benefit themselves, and not to mention, amazing design skills and imagination.

Persistence, Confidence, Individuality, Flair, Attitude and Communication skills are few qualities that string these famous celebrities in architecture together. They have proven time and again, with remarkable creativity, that they deserve to be recognised.

They constantly seek out competition, criticism and failure, and learn from it. They know how to inspire people, with their talent and art. And not just users, but their own staff and fellow architects. They collaborate and seek opinion, and relentlessly believe in themselves.

They constantly challenge themselves, and pursue growth and success. They keep designing, to solve problems and elevate cities. They adapt themselves with changing social dynamics, and design for the people, and not for fame. They test the observable limits of architecture to discover more, and keep up with change, such as technological advancements, social media  and sustainability. They are trend-setters, who are not affected by what people say, because they are also artists and believe in their art, design and creativity.

Do you have what it takes to be a STARCHITECT?


An Architect, a writer, a traveler, a photographer and much more, Shivani Chaudhary is, among all, an Architectural Journalist, trying to bridge the gap between the architectural community and the world. With a desire to end career stereotypes, she hopes to inspire young architects to explore their creativity and deviate from mainstream architectural practice.