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Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind was born in 1946 in Poland. In 1959 Libeskind and his family moved to New York City, where Libeskind attended Bronx High School of Science and later Cooper Union for architecture. In 1972 Libeskind briefly worked for another architect on our list, Richard Meier. He and his wife Nina Lewis founded Studio Daniel Libeskind in 1989. The Jewish Museum in Berlin was Libeskind’s first major international success. Some other notable works include the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, and the Imperial War Museum North in England.


Richard Meier

A graduate of Cornell University, Richard Meier worked with a number of notable architects, like SOM and Marcel Breuer (who's name you might recognize from our 25 Furniture Designers You Need to Know). In 1963 Meier established his own practice. Among his most well known projects are High Museum in Atlanta, Frankfurt Museum of Decorative Art in Germany and the Bronx Development Center in NYC. He has won the Pritzker Prize, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.


Sir Norman Foster

Manchester-born, Sir Norman Foster was both a graduate of Manchester University School of Architecture and Yale University’s Masters in Architecture program. He founded Foster + Partners in 1967. In 1999 he became a Pritzker Prize winner. Foster + Partners has received over 470 awards and citations for excellence in their 45 years in business, including Gold Medals from the RIBA and the AIA. Some of Foster’s most notable works are the Beijing Airport, Dresden Railway Station, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, research centers at Stanford University, and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.


Renzo Piano

Born in Genoa, Italy in 1937, Renzo Piano was destined to be an architect – or at least a contactor. His father, four uncles and brother were all contractors, so it seems natural that Piano would go into another adjacent field of construction. After graduating from Politecnico di Milano School of Architecture, Piano worked in the offices of Louis Khan in Philadelphia. Some of his most famous building are the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Menil Collection in Houston, and the California Academy of Sciences among others. Piano won the Pritzker Prize in 1998 and the AIA Gold Medal in 2008.


Santiago Calatrava

Spanish architect, artist and engineer, Santiago Calatrava was born in 1957 near Valencia, Spain. After completing high school Calatrava moved to Paris with the intention of studying at École des Beaux-Arts, but realized after arriving, his plan was unworkable. Calatrava moved back to Valencia and enrolled in Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura. Still unsatisfied with his education, he enrolled at ETH to study civil engineering. After he graduated Calatrava took a position assisting the ETH and began taking on small engineering commissions, like roofs and balconies. His big break came when he won a competition proposal in 1984 to design and build the Bach De Roda Bridge in Barcelona. This competition led to international recognition. Calatrava was not only know for building bridges, but for his large scale public works as well, such as the BCE Place Mall in Toronto, Tenerife Opera House in the Canary Islands and the Orient Railway Station in Lisbon. He has won the AIA Gold Medal and the Prince of Asturias Awards.


Rem Koolhaas

Popular architectural figure, Rem Koolhaas, has a large following due to his unconventional and sometimes weird buildings. In 1975 Koolhaas, his wife, and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis opened OMA, a collective “hothouse research lab” as described by Icon. In addition to architecture, Koolhaas is also an author (S, M, L, XL and Content), a theorist, an urban planner, a cultural researcher and a professor at Harvard. Among his numerous projects, he has designed the Seattle Central Library, and the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing (his largest work to date).


Zaha Hadid

A student of Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid is seen as a singular, unwavering force. She has struggled through her career with both clients and collaborators – being female in a male dominated field also didn’t help her succeed. But, despite these set backs, she won the prestigious Pritzker Prize award in 2004. She was the first (and at the moment only individual) woman to win the award. Hadid’s big break came from an unexpected place, when she was commissioned to design Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art. The New York Times describes the building as “the most important new building in America since the Cold War.” Once her talent was realized, commissions started coming in to design a variety of projects including, public transportation, libraries, archives and opera houses.


Cesar Pelli

Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli was born in 1926. He studied architecture at the University of Tucmán, before a scholarship lead him to the University of Illinois School of Architecture. After school, Pelli worked at the firm of Eero Saarinen and Associates. Pelli was with the firm for 10 years – later citing Saarinen and Corbusier as major influences. In this position he worked as project designer for the famous TWA terminal at JFK Airport. In 1977 Pelli and his wife opened Cesar Pelli and Associates with Fred W. Clarke. In 1995 he won the AIA Gold Medal for his architectural work. Some of Pelli’s most notable work is the World Financial Center in NYC, the Wells Fargo Center in Minneapolis and the Petronas Twin Towers (with Mahathir Mohamad).


Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius is best known as the first director of the prestigious design school, the Bauhaus. Gropius actually designed the school’s second location in Dessau, Germany. After leaving the Bauhaus in 1927, Gropius moved to England. In 1937 he was invited to teach at Harvard. While at the Ivy League school, Gropius and former Bauhaus teacher Marcel Breuer founded a joint architectural firm together. Together they deigned many notable works including the Pennsylvania Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair and Gropius’ private residence in Lincoln, MA. He has been awarded Gold Medals from The Royal Institute of British Architects and The American Institute of Architects.


Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Wisconsin in 1867, just 2 years after the end of the Civil War. His rural upbringing set the stage for his lifelong love and appreciation of nature. Wright is arguably the most famous architect in the U.S. In his lifetime he designed 141 works – including houses, offices, churches, schools, libraries and museums, and he received Gold Medal awards from The Royal Institute of British Architects and the American Institute of Architects. His buildings have been considered among the most significant architectural works to be designed in the last 100 years; four hundred and nine of his completed works are still standing today. Wright also helped create the open floor plan – designing rooms that flow and open out into each other. His appreciation of nature is apparent in his work and its arguable that no other architect took greater advantage of setting and environment than Wright did. An example of this careful consideration can be seen in “Falling Water”, one of his most famous designs.


Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910 to an already established architect father, Eliel Saarinen. The family moved to the U.S. in 1929. Saarinen studied at Yale and in 1936 he began working at his fathers architecture practice and also teaching at Cranbrook, where his father had been president since the Academy was founded in 1932. At Cranbrook he met Charles Eames and the two collaborated on new furniture forms (specifically molded plywood). In the 1940s Saarinen and Eames took part in the “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” at MoMA. Unlike Eames, Saarinen decided to focus mainly on Architecture, more so than furniture, designing the TWA terminal at JFK Airport and Dulles International Airport. He was posthumously awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1962.


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

German-born, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is considered a father of Modern Architecture. One of Mies’ most famous works was his Barcelona Pavilion at the International Exposition in Barcelona (where he also designed the Barcelona chair). Mies came to America in 1937, after the Bauhaus school (where he was director) was shut down due to pressure from the Nazi government. In 1944 he became a U.S. citizen and began one of the most successful periods in his career. During this time he designed and built The Farnsworth House (a minimalist house with only one interior room that was completely enclosed in glass – similar to his friend Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CN). In 1954 he completed the Seagram Building in NYC (with Philip Johnson) and in 1957 he completed the twin towers in Chicago, two of his most famous works. He has be awarded the AIA Gold Medal and the Royal Gold Medal for his architectural work.


Michael Graves

Michael Graves is one of the few post-modernists on our list. Born in Indianan, Indiana, he had a long-standing interest in drawing and painting, which influenced his architecture later in life. Graves worked withboth Carl Strauss, Ray Rousen, and George Nelson. Some of his most notable works are the Portland Building in Oregon, and the Steigenberger Hotel in Egypt. He won the AIA Gold Medal in 2001.


Le Corbusier

A pioneer of Modern Architecture, Le Corbusier’s career spanned five decades and numerous continents. Corbusier theorized five points that supported his modernist style of architecture: pilotis, free façade, open floor plan, unencumbered views, and roof garden. Many of Corbusier’s designs were airy and open, connecting the visitor to nature and creating a bridge between the structure and the outside world. He was honored as an AIA Gold Medalist in 1961.



SOM was founded by Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings and John O. Merill, they opened their NYC office in 1937. SOM is one of the largest architectural firms in the world, offering services in architecture, engineering, graphic design, interior design, and urban design among others. The company’s primary expertise is in high-end commercial high-rises. The firm has designed some of the most famous (and tallest) buildings in the world, such as the John Handcock building, the Sears Tower, Lever House and Burk Khalifa. Skidmore and Owings both won the AIA Gold Medal for their architectural achievements.


Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect and designer working in furniture, textiles and glassware. Unlike most architects, his style was very transition, from Nordic Classicism to pure Modernism to organic Modernism (which can be seen in the images above). His move to modernism may have been influenced by close relationships with Modernists like Lazlo Maholy-Nagy and Le Corbusier. Aalto liked to take control of all aspects of a design project, not only designing the building, but the furniture, textiles and furnishings as well. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that Aalto received world recognition. In the U.S. his reputation grew following the positive reception of his Finnish pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair, which another architect on our list, Frank Lloyd Wright, called “a work of genius.” Throughout his career Aalto designed a wide range of work from civic planning to painting – designing over 500 buildings, spanning 5 countries, and won the AIA Gold Medal for architecture. 


Louis Sullivan

Louis Sullivan is considered to be the creator of the modern skyscraper and the father of Modernism. He was the mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright and an influential figure to the Chicago group of architects who came to be known as the Prairie School. Born in Boston in 1856, Sullivan studied architecture for a year at MIT before leaving for the École des Beaux-Arts. Sullivan’s most famous works were the National Farmers Bank of Owatonna, Merchants National Bank, and Peoples Federal Savings and Loan. In 1944 he won the AIA Gold Medal. 


Charles & Ray Eames

Next to Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames may be the most well-known, and well-documented architects on our list, though not specifically for their architecture. In collaboration with his wife Ray, Eames created a creative collective, working on furniture, industrial design, manufacturing, photography and film in addition to architecture. Their most famous architectural work is their home in Pacific Palisades, California, created as part of the Case Study House program, sponsored by Art & Architecture magazine. Their legacy is inspiring beyond architecture, be sure to check out Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter - a new film about the prolific couple. 


Ieoh Ming Pei

Ieoh Ming (or IM) Pei is often called the Master of Modern Architecture. He was born in China in 1917 and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai. In 1935 Pei moved to the U.S. to go to school at Pennsylvania University School of Architecture, but ended up transferring to MIT. After graduating he began studying at Harvard School of Design where he became friends with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Pei’s notable projects include Kennedy Library, the Louvre, and the Meyerson Symphony Center, among others. Pei won the Pritzker Prize in 1983 and the AIA Gold Medal in 1979. 


Philip Johnson

Born in Cleveland, OH in 1906, Philip Johnson was one of the most notable and influence Modernist architects of his era, designing some of America’s greatest Modern landmarks. In 1943 he graduated Harvard Graduate School of Design, after which he worked with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Before becoming an architect Philip Johnson was the founding director of MoMA’s department of Architecture – where he produced his landmark exhibition “The International Style” in 1932. In 1978 Johnson won the AIA Gold Medal for his architectural work. His most notable work was his private residence in New Canaan, CN, The Glass House. 


Oscar Niemeyer

scar Niemeyer is a Brazilian architect specializing in Modern architecture. He was instrumental in reshaping Brazil’s identity in popular culture and in the field of architecture. In addition to making important contributions to his country, he was also a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete used solely for aesthetic impact. Some of Niemeyer’s most famous works include the United Nations in New York City, National Congress of Brazil and the Modern Art Museum Niterói. He was the 1988 recipient of the Pritzker Prize for architecture. 


Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown

Best known for his contributions to post-modern architecture, Robert Venturi, in collaboration with his wife Denise Scott Brown, have worked on a number of notable projects including the Seattle museum of Art and the Sainsbury addition to the National Gallery in London. Born in Philadelphia in 1925, Venturi attended Princeton University, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1950. He studied under Eero Saarinen (another Architect on our list). In addition to his architectural work, Venturi is also well known for his theoretical work, including his 1966 book, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, and has won the Pritzker Prize. 


Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller or “Bucky” was a theorist, architect, engineer, inventor and futurist. Fuller taught at Black Mountain Collage in North Carolina, where he reinvented his most notable contribution to architecture, the Geodesic Dome. This lattice shell-structure has been used as parts of military radar stations, civic buildings, environmental protest camps and exhibition attractions. Fuller also designed the Dymaxion House, an energy efficient and inexpensive house that was never produced. In 1970 Fuller won the AIA Gold Medal for architecture. 


Jean Novel

French architect, Jean Novel attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At 25 Novel, started a firm with François Seigneur. In addition to his physical contributions to architecture, novel also contributed to the intellectual advancement of the discipline, he co-founded Mars 1976 in and the Syndicat de l'Architecture. He also organized the competition to rejuvenate the Les Halles district and founded the first Paris architecture biennale in 1980. In 2008 he received the Pritzker Prize for his work on over 200 projects. 


Frank Gehry

Priktzer Prize and AIA Gold Medal winning, Canadian-American architect, Frank Gehry is one of the most famous contemporary architects practicing today. Simpson’s fans might recognize his name from various episodes – the creator’s seem to be big fans of the architect, and not without merit, Gehry is one of the few architects to be dubbed a “Starchitect.” Gehry opened his architectural firm in L.A. in 1962. The firm now employs 120 architects including 9 partners in addition to Gehry. Some of the architect’s most notable works include the Guggenheim in Bilbao, MIT’s Stata Center and the Walt Disney Center in Los Angeles.