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12 Architects that Changed the

World
24 JANUARY 2011 77 COMMENTS
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From time to time, there is a great artist that changes the way we perceive masterpieces and other people and gives
us new emotions. Still, humanity gives birth to visionaries in other domains as well. And architecture is yet another
great field where these bright minds create marvels and change perspectives.
Some architects are even responsible for creating masterpieces with an emotional impact on people and can change
the way we perceive cities and countries. Artists or not, these farsighted architects, were and many continue to be,
the masters in redesigning our future. Here are 12 great builders that through their innovation spirit and devotion
changed our world.

1. Oscar Niemeyer (b. December 15, 1907)

His portrait

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho is considered to be a pioneer in creating new possibilities for using
the reinforced concrete just for aesthetical reasons. He started with designing the first state-sponsored skyscraper in
the world, for the Brazilian government. It was completed in 1943 and after decades it was recognized as the first
example of Brazilian modernism.
He was part of the international team that designed the UN headquarters in New York and his conceptual plan was
the main source of inspiration for the constructors. His membership in the Brazilian Communist Party limited his
chances of working in the United States and got him exiled up until 1985. By the time the exile ended, he designed
the main administration buildings in Brasilia, the countrys new capital city.
While in Europe, he created several buildings, including the headquarters of the French Communist Party and the
Mondadori Publishing House office near Milan. After returning to his home-country, Niemeyer continued to design
impressive structures around Brazil such as: Niteri Contemporary Art Museum, the Catedral Militar Igreja de N. S.
da Paz, the Memorial dos Povos Indigenas and many others. At his age (103), he continues to work at his office in
Rio de Janiero.
Source
His work
Museu de Arte Contempornea de Niteri

Museu Oscar Niemeyer

Parlamento Latino Americano

2. Antoni Gaud (25 June 1852 10 June 1926)

His portrait
Antoni Plcid Guillem Gaud i Cornet was a Catalan architect that although worked during the Art Nouveau times,
several other influences can be noticed in his works. Those made him famous for their unique design that went
beyond the limitations of Modernism. The Gaudis signature city is Barcelona, but his early works include several
other projects around Spain.
As a devoted Catholic, he designed a structure that will become one of the most populous churches in the world
Sagrada Familia. He designed it to have 18 towers 12 for the 12 apostles, 4 for the 4 evangelists, one for Mary and
one for Jesus. The work on Sagrada Familia commenced in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026.
Gauds masterpiece is a combination of three styles Spanish Late Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau. The plan of
the building is truly unique, characterized by a remarkable complexity: there are double aisles, three portals and three
faades. The whole structure is 90 meters long, 60 meters wide and it will be 170 meters high when the last tower will
be finished.
Park Gel is one more of his works and another landmark in Barcelona. It is considered a municipal garden and the
entrance is free. The park features a terrace and a long bench in the form of a sea serpent, roadways with built in bird
nests and colonnaded footpaths and many more. Other brilliant works of Gaudi include Casa Cavalet, Casa Vicens,
Casa Batll and Casa Mill.
Source

His work
Sagrada Familia

Casa Mill

Casa Batll

3. Louis Sullivan (3 September 1856 14 April 1924)

His portrait
Louis Henri Sullivan is definitely the father of modern architecture. His particular style is characterized by a
simplification of form, while the ornamental details are given by the structure and the theme of the building. Sullivan is
considered the creator of the modern skyscraper, due to its participation to the construction boom in Chicago that
followed the Great Fire of 1871.
Louis Sullivan was one of the first architects at his time to embrace the column-frame construction technique, which
allowed taller buildings with larger windows to be erected. This method used steel girders, suspended from the walls,
floors and ceilings in order to carry all the weight of the building. He was hired by Dankmar Adler in 1879, with whom
he designed famous structures like: The Auditorium Building in Chicago, Wainwright Building in St. Louis and
Prudential Building in Buffalo, New York.
The Auditorium Building is one of his best-known designs and it was first the home for the Chicago Civic Opera and
Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Nowadays it stands a national historic landmark. His individual works include The
Sullivan Center (formerly known as Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building) in Chicago, the Bayard-Condict
Building in New York City and the Krause Music Store in Chicago. All of his personal structures were enriched with Art
Nouveau details. Through Louis Sullivan, the Art Nouveau style originally emerged in Belgium crossed not only
borders, but oceans too.
Source
His work
The Prudential Building

Krause Music Store

Bayard-Condict Building

4. Frank Gehry (b. 28 February 1929)

His portrait
Awarded with the most important architect of our age by Vanity Fair, Frank Gehry has an amazing portfolio, whose
works are said to be the masterpieces of contemporary architecture. Even if this statement might be arguable, one
thing is clear: Gehrys buildings (including his private residence) are worlds hottest tourist attractions. He was the
only major architect of our times that became famous through his private residence in Santa Monica, California.
Frank Gehry is definitely an advocate of the Deconstructivism. This style, also called DeCon architecture, is a
development of postmodern architecture characterized by ideas of fragmentation by manipulating the surfaces.
Unlike the most styles in use, the main belief in DeCon is that forms do not follow function. Although many specialists
are criticizing this type of buildings, they always manage to catch a passerbys eye.
Gehry designed tens of buildings all over the world and currently another 23 projects are in construction or on hold.
Some of his most prominent works include: The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, The Guggenheim Museum
in Bilbao, Der Neue Zollhof in Dsseldorf and the Marqus de Riscal Vineyard Hotel in Elciego.
Source
His work
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Der Neue Zollhof

Marqus de Riscal Vineyard Hotel

5. Ieoh Ming Pei (b. 26 April 1917)

His portrait
Pei was born in China and at the age of 17 he came in United States of America to study architecture. 76 years later,
he is deservingly called one of the greatest masters of modern architecture. He is well-known for his large, abstract
geometrical forms and for incorporating the traditional Chinese style in his work.

Pei started his career in 1950 with the design of quite a regular corporate building in Atlanta, Georgia. After
establishing his own company, in 1955 he focused on urban projects such as the Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan, New
York City or the Society Hill Towers. He started to make a real difference with the Mesa Laboratory, located just
outside Boulder, Colorado. The new laboratory fitted amazingly well in the local landscape and years later became an
award-winning masterpiece due to its aesthetic features, its functionality and the durability in time.
His following projects included new buildings for some American universities, airport terminals, public libraries and
even city halls. He soon started designing buildings all over the world for governments, international banks and
prestigious cultural institutions.
Peis most popular works are: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, The National Gallery
of Art in Washington D.C., Le Grand Louvre (The Pyramid) in Paris, The Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the
Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.
Source
His work
Le Grand Louvre

The Bank of China Tower

Museum of Islamic Art

6. Alvar Aalto (3 February 1898 11 May 1976)

His portrait

Aalto was contemporary with the economic boom and with the industrialization of Finland, therefore many of his
clients were major Scandinavian industrialists. No less than four architectural styles are reflected in his work he has
done throughout the years, that is why in our times Aalto remains one of the most versatile architects of the world.
In the 1920s, Aalto was and adept of the Nordic Classicism style and he expressed himself through a series of single
family houses. Functionalism is the second style he tried and his best work in this period is the library of Viipuri, in
present called Vyborg, Russia. This structure is particularly famous for its wave-shaped ceiling in the main auditorium,
while the exterior has a typical modernist structure.
His mid career was marked by experimentation, a time of redbrick buildings that started with the Baker House of the
MIT and reached its apogee with the design of the Helsinkis University of Technology. Monumentalism is
unfortunately his last career stage. Two of his greatest projects are the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki and the Aalto
Theater Opera House in Essen, completed after his death.
Source
His work
University of Technology

Finlandia Hall

Aalto Theater Opera House

7. Le Corbusier (6 October 1887 27 August 1965)

His portrait
Charles-douard Janneret, known under the pseudonym Le Corbusier (French for the raven-like one), was not only
an architect and a pioneer of the International Style, but also a designer, urbanist, writer and painter. He was one of
the first in his branch that was concerned by the quality of life in big, crowded cities.
Le Corbusier started his five decade career with designing villas through the use of modern techniques. He designed
Villa Savoye near Paris, a construction that is said to be a milestone for modern architecture. This was Le Corbusiers
idea of a machine a habiter (a machine for living in), a remarkable project that proved to be as beautiful and
functional as a machine.
Le Corbusier thought that his austere and unornamented buildings will help to build cleaner and brighter cities in the
future. This concept lead to two developments: The German Bauhaus style, concerned on the social aspects of
designing buildings and Americas International Style a symbol of the Capitalism, a prevailing style among the office
builders and upper-class people. Le Corbusiers major buildings include Unit dHabitation in Marseille, The National
Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp and The Centre Le Corbusier in
Zrich.
Source
His works
The Centre Le Corbusier

Unit dHabitation

Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut

8. Santiago Calatrava (b. 28 July 1951)

His portrait
Calatrava was born in Valencia and is one of the greatest architects, sculptors and structural engineers Spain has
seen in the last century. The early world-wide recognition led to offices opening in Valencia, Zrich, Paris and New
York City.
He started his career running numerous civil engineering projects, such as bridges and train stations. The bridge
Puente del Alamillo in Seville is the most prominent work as a civil engineer and it rapidly became a landmark of the
city. The Montjuic Communications Tower in Barcelona and the Allen Lambert Galleria were his first works as an
architect. The 54-story twisting tower in Malm, Sweden (HSB Turning Torso) was also designed by Calatrava and is
the second tallest residential buildings in Europe.

Calatrava has less than two decades of designing amazing buildings, but he holds an impressive portfolio that will
open more record-breaking opportunities in the future. He is currently designing the future station at World Trade
Center Transportation Hub and it is planning numerous other projects.
Source
His work
Puente del Alamillo

Ciutat de les Arts i les Cincies

Turning Torso

9. Walter Burley Griffin (24 November 1876 11 February 1937)

His portrait
Walter Burley Griffin is an American architect and landscape architect that designed Canberra, Australias capital city.
He developed the L-shaped floor plan and the carport and it was the first user of reinforced concrete.
In 1911 the Australian Government held an international competition to build the countrys new capital city. Griffin also
participated in the contest and his plan was selected as a winner in the next year. World War I broke out in 1914, so
the funds for the new capital were considerably diminished. Griffin confronted himself with slower progress of working
than he expected.
The creation of a Federal Committee to supervise his work in 1920 made Griffin to resign from the project and
completely withdraw from any further activity in Canberra. All of his buildings plans for Australias new capital were
never built. Afterwards, he opened offices in Melbourne and Sydney. One of the first major projects after leaving
Canberra was the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne.
In America, his work consisted of building family houses in the states of Illinois and Iowa. He also got the chance of
designing Newman College at the University of Melbourne, Palais de Danse in St. Kilda (later destroyed by a fire) and
Castlecrag, a suburb of Sydney.
Source
His work
Canberra city plan

Capitol Theatre

Newman College

10. Norman Foster (b. 1 June 1935)

His portrait
Foster is Britains greatest builder of landmark office buildings. After earning his Masters degree at the Yale School of
Architecture, Foster created his own company Foster and Partners.
The firms breakthrough was The Willis Building in Ipswich, designed with open-plan office floors, roof gardens, a 25m
pool and gymnasium a true revelation for its time (1974). Through his work, Foster managed to transpose in
architecture, the effect of globalization upon the major cities of the world.
During his four decade career, he obtained more than 190 awards and citations and won 50 national and international
contests. In the latest years of his activity, a major part of his work is based on environmentally responsible
technologies that help lower the buildings carbon footprint. Normans work cannot be defined otherw than exceptional
and truly remarkable.
His structures are setting new standards for the interaction between building, the environment and people. There are
dozens of grand works signed by Norman, including the following: the Millennium Bridge in London, 30 St Mary Axe
or the Gherkin in London, Hearst Tower in New York City, Wembley Stadium in London and Torre Caja in Madrid.
Source
His works
30 St Mary Axe

Hearst Tower

Torre Caja

11. Zaha Hadid (b. 31 October 1950)

Her portrait
Zaha Hadid was born in Iraq and was the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize (often called the Nobel Prize
in architecture). She completed her studies in London, where she started working at the architecture company of her
former teachers. In 1980, she opened her own practice in London Zaha Hadid Architects.
Although she is a winner of numerous international contests, she had the misfortune of never seeing many of her
projects built. Forbes ranked Hadid the 69th most powerful women in the world in 2008, while New Statesman ranked
her the 42nd most influential figure on the planet in 2010.
Her work is generally daring, unconventional and artistic and her structures are often characterized by a
Deconstruvist approach. MAXXI the National Museum of the 21 st Century Arts is considered to be her finest work,
but the subsequent structures are also highly acclaimed: the Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Bergisel Ski Jump in
Innsbruck, Phaeno Science Center and the Opera House in Guangzhou.
Source
Her works
MAXXI

Bridge Pavilion

Phaeno Science Center

12. Rem Koolhaas (b. 17 November 1944)

His portrait
Koolhaas is probably the most influential architect and urban planner Netherlands ever had. He first studied
scriptwriting in Amsterdam and only came to write two movies: a horror and a soft-porn. Next, he studied architecture
in London and at the Cornell University. In 1975 he founded The Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam and
his first major project was the Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague, in 1987.

He became famous before completing his first building, due to its special talent in writing. Koolhaass first book
was Delirious New York, written while he was traveling in the United States. He got eventually acclaimed for its
practical abilities as well. Specialists say that his work is a perfect bond between the Modern and the Deconstructivist
styles, but there are some that consider that his structures are rather part of the Humanist style.
The most populous buildings designed by Koolhaas are: the Central Library in Seattle, Casa da Msica in Porto,
Museum of Art at the Seoul National University and China Central Television Headquarters in Beijing.
Source
His work
China Central Television Headquarters

Seattle Central Library

Casa da Msica