“The mother art is architecture,” said Frank Lloyd Wright. “Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”
While the great architect that was Frank Lloyd Wright is no longer with us, today’s working architects seem to be taking his words to heart. Indeed, the last half century has seen the creation of such iconic buildings as the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Riverside Museum in Scotland, and the Burj Al Arab tower in Dubai. While some of these buildings, like the Guggenheim, literally house our culture, others, such as the Burj Al Arab, act as a lasting symbol of a civilization. In either case, these buildings are just a few examples of the way modern architecture has continued to bring Wright’s words to life by representing the “soul of our own civilization.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that such culturally significant buildings would be designed by the most amazing architects alive today, architects that are following in the footsteps of such greats as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Antoni Gaudi. In fact, the buildings mentioned above were all designed by the architects on this list, who have been chosen as the 10 Most Amazing Architects based upon such factors as: resume, awards won, name recognition, and of course, the cultural significance of their projects.
1. Frank Gehry
Amazingly, Frank Gehry, one of the most recognizable architects in the world, gained his first bit of fame through the design of his own residence! The Gehry Residence, located in Santa Monica, California, is said to be one of the earliest examples of deconstructive architecture. Made with such unconventional materials as corrugated steel and chain-link fencing, Gehry’s home has long been the topic of awe. Since then, Gehry’s long list of recognizable works include the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (pictured); the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; the New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida; and the Cinematheque francaise in Paris, France; among a number of others. Currently, Gehry is working as the designer of the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.
2. I.M. Pei
Born Ieoh Ming Pei in Guangzhou, China, I.M. Pei is undoubtedly one of the most amazing and recognizable architects in the world. Known for his classic and thought-provoking style, Pei’s impressive resume includes the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Dorchester, Massachusetts; the west wing of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; the Fragrant Hill Hotel in China; the Mile High Center in Denver, Colorado; and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio; and the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris (pictured); to name but a few. In 1983, Pei was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize for his contributions to the field of architecture. Though Pei retired from full-time practice in 1990, he has taken on work as an architectural consultant from his sons’ architectural firm, Pei Partnership Architects.
3. Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid, easily the most famous female architect in the world, has proven herself a wonderful role model for women in the male-dominated field of architecture. Born in Iraq and educated at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon and the School of Architecture in London, Hadid has designed such famous buildings as the Riverside Museum in Glasgow (pictured), Scotland; the Guangzhou opera house in China; and the aquatics center for the London Olympics. In 2004, Hadid became the very first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize for a pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. Currently, Hadid is working on the Hadid Tower for CityLife in Milan, as well as a building that is said to become the centerpiece for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
For more about Zaha Hadid and other prominent female architects, check out The Most Impressive Female Architects Alive Today.
4. Renzo Piano
Best known for his museum projects, Italian architect Renzo Piano has designed such works as the Auditorium Parc della Musica in Rome, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the NEMO science museum in Amsterdam, the New York Times Building in Manhattan, and The Shard in London, which is now the tallest skyscraper in the European Union. Most notably, Piano is the co-designer of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (pictured), for which it was declared by the New York Times that Piano had “turned the architecture world upside down.” Piano’s work has won him a number of prestigious awards including the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1998), the Erasmus Prize (1995), the AIA Gold Medal (2008), and a spot on TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world (2006).
5. Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel is a French architect who has become the go-to designer for some of the most visited and recognizable buildings in the world. A founding member of Syndicat de l’Architecture (the foremost French union for architects), Nouvel has designed such buildings as the Reina Sofia Museum expansion in Madrid, Spain; the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Copenhagen Concert Hall in Denmark; the Doha Tower skyscraper in Qatar, and the Torre Agbar skyscraper in Barcelona (pictured), for which he was awarded the 2008 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Nouvel is currently working on a number of projects, including the Louvre Museum’s new branch in Abu Dhabi.
6. Sir David Chipperfield
With projects in more than 20 countries on four continents, it’s no wonder Sir David Chipperfield is one of the most amazing architects in the world. Centered in Britain, with additional offices in Berlin, Milan, and Shanghai, Chipperfield has been the main design force behind works such as the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach, Germany (pictured); the Valentino New York Flagship store; the America’s Cup Building in Valencia, Spain; Neues Museum in Berlin; the Liangzhu Culture Museum in China; and numerous other museums, hotels, and government buildings. Even more impressively, Chipperfield’s projects have won more than 100 architecture and design awards, including the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize (2007), the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture (2011), and the Deutscher Architekturpreis (2011).
7. Santiago Calatrava
Known for his unique neofuturistic style, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has to his name nearly 100 projects spanning more than three decades. Though his early career is characterized by bridges and train stations, he is also known for a wide variety of museums, hotels, sports complexes, and theaters, among other things. His most notable works are many, and include the Athens Olympic Sports Complex in Athens, Greece; the Alamillo bridge in Sevilla, Spain (pictured); the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem in Israel ; the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies in Valencia, Spain; the Liege-Guillemins railway station in Liege, Belgium; and the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Calatrava’s work has been recognized by numerous awards, including the European Prize for Architecture, the AIA Gold Medal, and the Auguste Perret Prize.
8. Moshe Safdie
Born in Israel, but a longtime resident of Canada, Moshe Safdie is an architect, urban designer, educator, theorist, and author who has long been an influential figure in the world of architecture. Safdie’s architectural style is a unique blend of dramatic curves, geometric patterns, and ample use of windows and green spaces. He has designed more than 40 buildings over the course of his career, some of the most amazing of which include Habitat 67 in Quebec, Canada (pictured); the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the Yad Vashern Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem; the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh; and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles; among so many more.
9. Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor is a Swiss architect who has become widely known and respected for his minimalist designs. Despite managing a very small firm in Haldenstein, Switzerland, Zumthor has created quite an impressive portfolio including such works as Therme Vals in Graubunden, Switzerland; the Cloud Rock Wilderness Lodge in Moab, Utah; and the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London (pictured), among others. Zumthor’s work has been the recipient of more than sixteen prestigious awards in the last three decades, some of the most impressive of which include the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (2006), the Pritzker Prize (2009), and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal (2013).
10. Tom Wright
Though he has only one major work to his credit, that work is so magnificent that it’s hard to overlook Tom Wright as one of the top ten most amazing architects. Based in London, Wright has spent most of his career as the head of Atkins, a multinational engineering, design, planning, and architectural design company. In 1993, Wright was hired as the design director for the Jumeirah Beach Resort in Dubai, for which he designed the iconic Burj Al Arab (Tower of the Arabs), now one of the most recognizable buildings in the world (pictured). Built in the shape of a dhow’s (a traditional Arabic ship) sail, the Burj Al Arab is designed to celebrate both Dubai’s seafaring heritage and its modern move toward the future. Currently, Wright is working to establish a new practice, WKK.