Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time
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Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

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The role architecture plays in our everyday lives is astronomical. From the cool houses we marvel at on Freshome’s pages to historical & iconic buildings that we recognize instantly, architecture surrounds us daily. The architects behind these buildings and homes are what we love and the following 10 architects have paved the way for ingenious design, cutting edge innovation and have become pioneers of our built environment. Take a look at what we think are 10 of the greatest modern architects of our time.

1.)  Frank Gehry (born 2.28.1929):

There is no mistaking Gehry’s works, as they are the most distinctive, and innovative architectural phenomena around. His deconstructive forms are iconic as tourists flock to all of his buildings worldwide to marvel at the architectural forms he creates.  Named by Vanity Fair as “the most important architect of our age”, he has set the precedence for contemporary architecture. His ability to create spaces that manipulate forms and surfaces is his most notable feats and we all love his unique uses of materials that almost defy all logic in how they work together.

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Frank Gehry Wine e1344906311417 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Frank Gehry’s – City of Wine Complex, Northern Spain

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Frank Gehry Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center e1344904432751 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Frank Gehry – Lou Rovo Center

His most notable projects include: The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Der Neue Zollhof in Düsseldorf and the Marqués de Riscal Vineyard Hotel in Elciego.

2.)  Frank Lloyd Wright (born 6.8.1867):

Some consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be the greatest architect of all time. For he thought of interior & exterior spaces as one and was ahead of his time in building forms, construction methods, and never went to a formal architecture school.  His humble American upbringing led him to learning under Louis Sullivan – another legend in architecture and to this day Wright is noted for his prairie-style buildings and organic influences. His organic and natural forms that seemed to become one with nature and his innovative detailing are still considered to be the best building and design concepts, even after nearly 150 years.

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FLWright collage Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest works: Guggenheim, Fallingwater and more…

His most notable projects include: The Guggenheim Museum in New York City, New York, Fallingwater Residence in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, Arizona State University Gammage Auditorium & Taliesin West – Wright’s home and studio in Scottsdale, Arizona.

3.)  Ieoh Ming Pei – I.M. Pei (born 4.26.1917):

The Chinese born architect came to study architecture in the United States as a teenager and later became one of the greatest architects of modern architecture. Almost 80 years later I.M. Pei’s work can be seen worldwide and are noted for their unique use of geometric forms and incorporating Chinese influences into his work. His National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado embodies Pei’s iconic geometric forms and unity with natural elements in their surroundings. Pei’s work graces some of the most prestigious government and acclaimed sites throughout the world.

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IMPei National Center for Atmospheric Research   Boulder Colorado Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

I.M. Pei’s – National Center for Atmospheric Research

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IMPei Louvre Paris Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

I.M. Pei’s entrance to the Le Grand Louvre in Paris

His most profound projects include: 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.

4.) Zaha Hadid (born 10.31.1950)

The first woman architect who ever won the Pritzker Architecture prize went to the legendary Zaha Hadid. Born in Iraq Hadid went on to win this iconic award which is often termed the ‘Nobel peace prize of architecture’. Hadid’s forms are characterized as futuristic, unconventional, daring and artistic. Many of her projects were never built and she still was ranked on Forbes list at 69th most powerful women in 2008. Her beautiful buildings always leave us with our mouths open, as if to say, “How did she design that?”

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Zaha Hadid architecture e1344977673368 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Zaha Hadid and her many works, including a mobile museum for Chanel with Karl Lagerfield

Her most noted projects are: MAXXI – the National Museum of the 21st Century Arts the Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Phaeno Science Center and the Opera House in Guangzhou.

5.)  Philip Johnson (born 7.8.1906)

Noted as the American architect who founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Johnson’s architectural works are easily identifiable. His glass house in Connecticut is one of the most familiar residences with its minimal interiors and expansive glass vistas were just one example of his use of the material. His amazing use of glass, steel and later crystal became his world-renowned fame.  The Crystal Cathedral in California looks as though it should be in a child’s fairytale book it is the epitome of forward-thinking architecture that characterized Johnson’s Minimalism and Pop-Art styles.

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Philip Johnson Glass House e1344979687682 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Philip Johnson’s private residence – The Glass House

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Philip Johnson crystal cathedral Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Philip Johnson’s Crystal Cathedral

His most notable works are the Seagram Building in New York City, in collaboration with architect, Mies van der Rohe, Philip-Johnson-House in Berlin, Germany, The Museum of Television of Radio & The Crystal Cathedral in California.

6.)  Tom Wright (born 9.18.1957)

Is it possible to become one of the greatest modern architects of our time if you are only noted for one building? When the building is the most recognizable hotel in Dubai, yes. British architect, Tom Wright is responsible for the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Acclaimed for its luxurious amenities as a hotel and also one of the most recognizable buildings in modern architecture. Noted with the world’s tallest atrium, and equipped with its own helicopter landing pad and tallest tennis court at the top, Tom Wright definitely deserves to join the list of great modern architects.

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Tom Wright Burj Al Arab e1344984119606 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Tom Wright’s Burj Al Arab in Dubai

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Tom Wright Burj Al Arab2 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Tom Wright’s – helipad is also the worlds highest tennis court

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Tom Wright Burj Al Arab3 e1344984759250 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

The atrium looking up in Burj Al Arab Hotel

Tom Wright

7.)  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (born 3.27.1886)

Referred to commonly as “Mies”, the German-American architect is termed one of the pioneers of modern architecture along with Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. Mies was known for his minimalist and “less is more” approach to architecture and his forward thinking of using plate glass and structural steel to divide interior spaces is one of his most notable characteristics in architecture. His innovative open floor plan concepts were first thought of by Van der Rohe and many of his interior concepts & furniture styles are widely used in today’s architecture and interiors.

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Mies Crown Hall Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Mies’ – Crown Hall

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Mies Barcelona Pavilion by van der rohe Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Mies’ – Barcelona Pavilion

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Mies Barcelona chair Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Mies Van Der Rohe – Barcelona chair is iconic in furniture design

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Mies portrait Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Mies Van Der Rohe

His most notable projects include Barcelona Pavilion, in Barcelona, Spain, New National Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Seagram Building in New York City and Crown Hall in Chicago, Illinois.

8.)  Renzo Piano (born 9.14.1937)

The Italian born architect was named one of Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people in 2008. Piano who is an Italian Pritzker prize-winning architect has been instrumental in shaping modern architecture that stands on its own in recognition. The Shard – Europe’s tallest skyscraper in London has faced much controversy in its construction, but many feel it has given London a way to join the 21stcentury. In his younger years he worked with the world-renowned architect Louis Kahn and soon become known for his unique applications of materials and details.

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Piano The Shard2 e1345030206792 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

The Shard Bridge

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Piano Kansai airport e1345030426602 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Piano’s Kansai International Airport

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Piano NEMO Amsterdam e1345030773338 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Piano’s – NEMO Science Center

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Piano portrait Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Renzo Piano

Piano’s most notable projects include: The newly opened Shard in London, England, NEMO Science Center in Amsterdam, The New York Times building in New York, and Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan.

9.)  Jean Nouvel (born 8.12.1945)

Nouvel is a French born architect who has won numerous prestigious awards and honors over the years for his projects, including the Prtizker Prize in 2008. Nouvel’s most acclaimed fame came from winning the design competition for the Arab World Institute in Paris that brought him international fame. Mechanical lenses in the south wall open & shut automatically and are reminiscent of Arabic latticework. The devices control interior lighting automatically from exterior light levels. Nouvel’s work is known worldwide and his use of innovative architectural concepts set him apart from many modern architects today.

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Nouvel Arab World Institute e1345032458499 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Nouvel’s Arab World Institute

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Nouvel Arab hallway Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Nouvel’s innovative use of day lighting devices in the Arab World Institute

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Nouvel Dentsu building Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Nouvel’s Dentsu Building

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Nouvel portrait e1345033330813 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Nouvel’s master plan for Seguin Island in France

Nouvel’s projects of note include: Arab World Institute in Paris, Denstu Building in Tokyo, Ziaty Andel in Prague, and Gasometer A in Vienna and Les Grandes Tables of Seguin Island in Paris.

10.) Moshe Safdie (born 7.14.1938)

Safdie is another product of Louis Kahn’s apprenticeship that led to his remarkable modern architecture career. Originally from Haifa, Safdie is known for his 1967 International & Universal Exposition – Expo 67, which was Canada’s main celebration during its centennial year, and was deemed a remarkable cultural achievement. Safdie has been awarded with much recognition of which the Gold Medal, from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada is among the finest.

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National Gallery of Canada Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Safdie’s – National Gallery of Canada

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MosheSafdie Habitat67 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Safdie’s – Habitat 67

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Safdie Khalsa Gallery buildings and reflecting ponds1 Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Safdie’s – Khalsa Heritage Memorial

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MosheSafdie portrait Iconic Legends: The 10 Greatest Modern Architects of Our Time

Moshe Safdie

Safdie finest projects include: The towering & glass filled – National Gallery of Canada,  Habitat 67 in Montreal, & Khalsa Heritage Memorial in Punjab, India.

Narrowing down the top 10 architects of modern architecture is a feat in itself, for there are thousands of architects and designers who have paved the way for creating awe-inspiring additions to our built environment. We would love to know Freshome who you would add to this list, for we know that that our so many we wish we could have included!

  • Frank Gehry_WaltDisneyConcertHall
  • Frank-Gehry-Cleveland-Clinic-Lou-Ruvo-Center
  • Frank Gehry_Wine Complex
  • FLWright Fallingwater-1
  • FLWright collage
  • I.M. Pei's - National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • IMPei Louvre Paris
  • IMPei
  • Zaha Hadid architecture
  • Philip-Johnson Glass House
  • Philip-Johnson crystal cathedral
  • Philip Johnson portrait
  • Philip Johnson portrait2
  • Tom Wright Burj Al Arab
  • Tom Wright Dubai Tennis Championships
  • Tom Wright Burj Al Arab3
  • Tom Wright portrait
  • Mies Crown Hall
  • Barcelona Pavilion, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1929
  • Mies_Barcelona chair
  • Mies_portrait
  • Piano The Shard
  • Piano The Shard2
  • Piano Kansai airport
  • Piano NEMO Amsterdam
  • Piano portrait
  • Nouvel Arab World Institute
  • Nouvel Arab hallway
  • Nouvel Dentsu building
  • Nouvel portrait
  • Safdie Khalsa_Gallery-buildings-and-reflecting-ponds
  • MosheSafdie Habitat67
  • MosheSafdie portrait
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Safdie Khalsa_Gallery-buildings-and-reflecting-ponds
  • greatest-modern-architects

2 comments

  • julian F May 28, 2014 at 18:18 PM Login to Reply →

    i’ve also found very good architects in the work of young talents in each part of the world. For example, surfing in the web, in my favourite country, in Italy, i’ve seen the fantastic work of the new architecture studio Officinaleonardo! They buil up incredible houses, automized and organic, true modern, i think the best houses in Rome or in Italy, where they usually work, but also all over the world (Etiopia, Perù, Romania). In the work of Officinaleonardo there is also a prominent research part, about mew themes, not only bioarchitecture and planet energy saving, but also nomadism, new materials, new expressions of psiche. I think, among the newest architecture firms in Italy, that Officinaleonardo is sincerely the most modern and innovative architecture studio in Italy and not only, perhaps also in Europe (but just under 50, from less than 5 years activity)

  • julius best June 20, 2014 at 16:09 PM Login to Reply →

    i have found my role model in the field of architecture.sustainable architects in a global economy