Architects often develop their design philosophies based on their experiential knowledge and priorities when it comes to designing a structure. These philosophies go on to define the skyline of a city or the style of an era and become essential milestones in the development of Architecture. Some philosophies like, ‘Form ever Follows Function’ coined by Louis Sullivan, which resonates deeply with an architect tend to become unwritten laws or rules that they follow during their design process. Others go on to revolutionize the industry by breaking the conventional rules.

A simple statement like, “I don’t build in order to have clients, I have clients in order to build” by Ayn Rand can sometimes have the power to put things into perspective. Given below are 10 architects who transformed Architecture with their ingenious philosophies and continue to influence us with their novel approach.

1. Le Corbusier | Design Philosophies

“Architecture is a learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in light” -Le Corbusier

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Known for his numerous works and contributions to the field, Corbusier formulated and published his “5 Points of Modern Architecture” philosophy which include the use of Pilotis which raises the building on reinforced pylons and enables free circulation, Free Plan design that allows for flexible interior planning by separating load-bearing columns from the walls, incorporating a Roof Garden to recover the green space lost on the ground, arranging Horizontal Windows or Ribbon windows for ample ventilation and maintaining a Free Facade to keep the structure light and open. Despite any formal education, Le Corbusier’s vast experience enables us to learn from his designs and philosophies.

2. Frank Lloyd Wright

“The mother art is Architecture. Without an architecture of our own, we have no soul of our own civilization.”-F.L Wright

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A pioneer of Organic Architecture, F.L Wright was one of the earliest architects to appreciate the balance in harmony between the built form and nature and connecting the inhabitants with the architecture. He developed his unique Prairie Style of architecture that reflected the Prairie landscape, with low roofs, long rows of windows and horizontal clean lines that defined the building. At a time when ‘cookie cutter’ houses were rising, Wright rebelled by giving residences their individual identity. A practice that must be revived, at a time where identical glass skyscrapers with no individuality, continue to dominate the skyline.

3. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe

“Less is more”- Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe

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One of the most prominent architects of the 20th century, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe was a modernist who rejected the traditional system of enclosed rooms and used glass to create a connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces. He developed the Chicago school of architecture, a style that promoted simple rectilinear forms and mastered the use of steel and glass creating a new typology of skyscrapers. His emphasis on details and open floor designs allowed multi-functionality inspired his famous aphorisms that are still applied while designing today.

4. Sir Norman Foster

“As an Architect, you design for the present, with the awareness of the past, for a future that is essentially unknown.”- Norman Foster

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British architect, Sir Norman Foster is known for designs that keep up with the changing environment. Sustainability and Innovation are the key elements in his design process. Foster’s early collaborations with Buckminster Fuller inspired him to design environmentally sensitive structures while understanding the relationship between energy, weight and performance. His highly optimistic attitude towards technological led projects and the Industrial style made him one of the pioneers of Hi-Tech Architecture. “Vast areas will soon be enclosed with lightweight space-frame structure or inflatable plastic membranes with full climatic control,” he predicted in 1969. Foster’s optimistic approach and constant innovation lead the architects of this generation to think big responsibly.

5. Oscar Niemeyer | Design Philosophies

“I had some good opportunities. I was lucky to have had the chance to do things differently. Architecture is about surprise.”

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Oscar Niemeyer is known for challenging the monotonous contemporary architecture of his time by using bold curves and large voluminous spaces with minimum ornamentation. His use of concrete for curved surfaces was considered revolutionary in his era. His mission through architecture was to create a world that was equal to all. His work reminds us to be bold and faithful to our beliefs and continue to strive for beauty in our designs through innovations.

6. Zaha Hadid

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

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British- Iraqi architect, Dame Zaha Hadid won the Pritzker Prize in 2004 becoming the first woman to receive this prestigious award. Trained under architects like Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi and Elia Zenghelis, who encouraged her radical thinking and understood that her visions for the future, Hadid continued to develop designs that broke the mould. She understood that architecture was about the welfare of people, not just for shelter but also for pleasure. A structure that would surprise them and incite excitement, is what she strived to achieve. Determined to overcome the resistance that came her way, she made sure that her structures did not fit into a conventional building typology yet continued to reach pragmatic solutions and she leaves behind a legacy that continues to inspire architects to do the same.

7. Frank Gehry

“Architecture should speak of its time and space, but yearn for timelessness”

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Frank Gehry, known for his controversial designs and flamboyant structures has become a household name in the Architectural industry. Refusing to fit into a category, Gehry prefers his work to reflect a language of its own. A language that redefines time, art and human emotions. Unrestrained and unconcerned by societal norms, Gehry believes in freedom of expression and humanizing architecture to evoke emotions. His experimental nature and bold narratives have not only won him several accolades but also labelled him as “The most important architect of our era”. Philip Johnson said that the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was the “The greatest building of our time”.

Frank Gehry’s structures lead by example, the importance of passion while designing and that exploration can lead to wonders.

8. Tadao Ando

“I believe that the way people live can be directed a little by Architecture”

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Minimalist architect, Tadao Ando reminds us about the beauty in simplicity. Inspired greatly by his Japanese culture, Ando strives to create spaces that invoke physical experiences and sensations. He believes that a good building has the power to change the city and reform society. The importance of using light to create depth and to design spaces that connect with nature can help its user feel spiritually empowered. His buildings are often associated with terms like “Zen” and are said to create the “Haiku Effect,” which highlights his style of architecture.

9. Laurie Baker

“Cost-effective houses are not just for the poor;they are for everyone”

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Laurie Baker’s philosophy of designing while being responsible and prudent with our resources and imbibing the characteristics of its surrounding is of immense importance at a time when architecture is losing its cultural uniqueness and its natural resources. His belief that the building derives its personality from its user reflects the philosophies of F.L Wright. Baker’s designs display maximum efficiency, individuality and cost-efficiency all due to the use of indigenous materials and craftsmen. His philosophy that stresses the use of ‘common sense’ reminds us that we must avoid extravagance and the ‘excess’ to become a responsible architect.

10. Bjarke Ingles | Design Philosophies

“Sustainability can’t be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or a philanthropic cause. It has to be a design challenge.”

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Bjarke Ingles, the founder of the BIG Architects, is a highly influential architect of the 21st century. Trained under Rem Koolhaas, Ingles founded his design practice with a vision to merge fiction with reality. ‘Bigamy,’ the term coined by the architect describes his philosophy of amalgamating design elements that don’t necessarily fit together to create a new genre of its own. This enables the architect to visualize concepts and formulate ideas that may seem impossible. Another term derived using this philosophy is the “Courtscraper” that combines skyscrapers with courtyards that are usually absent in high-rises.  His philosophy resonates with the emerging architects who aspire to build a structure that tends to the present-day problem while utilizing technology to innovate unique structures.


Meghna Madanmohan, an Architect by profession, Anxious by nature and an Aspiring Author by choice. She believes that empathy is the true path to being a successful Human and Architect. Her quest to seek answers continues now from one design to the next article.