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The Most Influential Architects of the Modern Era

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright | Photo Credit: James Vaughan

A building is more than a shelter or a place to store things; it’s a reflection of cultural views and values, an artistic expression, and a means to beautify our surroundings. Here we’re introducing some of the architects who have made monumental contributions to their field and to concepts of art and design around the world.

“Architecture is more than making a statement from the street. It’s making an environment for living.” – Dion Neutra


Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

Image credit: Wikimedia

Many consider him the most famous architect of all time. Wright brought to maturity the concept of “organic architecture,” which seeks to make buildings a part of their landscape and harmonious with nature. His Prairie Home style influenced residential design throughout the 20th century with its open-plan layout, rows of windows, and long, low profile. In later years, he developed several more architectural styles, accepted commissions from all over the world, and became a renowned writer and lecturer.

Known for:

  • Guggenheim Museum, New York City

  • Taliesin

  • Martin House

  • Fallingwater

  • Frederick C. Robie House


Frank Gehry (b. 1929)

Image credit: Wikimedia

Gehry merges residential and industrial styles and infuses them with a sense of whimsy and motion. His work can be considered both post-modern and deconstructive: His use of curves and color lifts standard design to the artistic level of sculpture. He’s also known for more than his buildings: Gehry’s corrugated-cardboard furniture brought him international attention in the 1960s and 1970s.

Known for:

  • Facebook headquarters, Palo Alto, CA

  • Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

  • Guggenheim Museum, Spain

  • Der Neue Zollhof, Germany

“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” – Frank Gehry


I.M. Pei (1917-2019)

Image credit: Wikipedia

Known for combining geometric forms, natural elements, and Chinese artistry in his designs, Pei was viewed as a modernist, using clean, straight lines and wide-open spaces enclosed by glass and steel. But what he really wanted was to unite modernism and traditionalism, which he called the “impossible dream.” Elements of international and brutalism architectural styles can also be seen in his works.

Known for:

  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

  • National Gallery of Art, East Building, Washington, D.C.

  • The Pyramids at the Louvre, Paris

  • Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong


Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Image credit: flickr, trevor.patt

Possibly the most famous woman architect of modern times, Hadid’s designs were futuristic, visionary, radical, and sometimes impossible to build. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the first woman and first architect to win the London Design Museum’s Design of the Year.

Known for:

  • Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati

  • Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University

  • Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria

  • Phaeno Science Center, Germany

  • Guangzhou Opera House, China

“There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” – Zaha Hadid


Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe (1886-1969)

Image credit: Wikimedia

A pioneer of the International style of architecture, Mies worked under the philosophy that “less is more.” He took industrial-age design concepts and gave them elegance and is considered the father of modern minimalism. His designs are simple and clean-lined, often with structural elements exposed or even highlighted, and have influenced the designs of skyscrapers across the world.

Known for:

  • Barcelona Pavilion, Spain

  • New National Gallery, Berlin

  • Seagram Building, New York City

  • Crown Hall, Chicago

  • Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois

"God is in the details.” – Mies Van der Rohe


Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)

Image credit: Getty

Saarinen followed in the footsteps of his architect father and put his stamp on the world of architecture with designs that began as predominantly geometric but developed into a more sculpture-like form. Cantilevered outcroppings, asymmetry, horizontal lines, and steel framing characterize his style.

Known for:

  • Ingalls Hockey Rink, “The Whale,” Yale University

  • Gateway Arch, St. Louis

  • Dulles International Airport, Virginia

Sources: Britannica | Arch20


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