Barack Obama wanted to be an architect, so did Brat Pitt. Hollywood can’t get enough of them. For architects, it is not important what we learn about architecture from the films, but rather, what the films may reveal about popular perceptions of architects.
The Complete List: (Is there anyone missing?)
Paul Newman in “The Towering Inferno”:
Keanu Reeves in “The Lake”:
Steve Martin in “HouseSitter”:
Woody Harrelson in “Indecent Proposal”:
Michael Keaton in “White
When J. Max Bond, Jr. was a student at Harvard, racists burned a cross outside his dormitory. Concerned, a white professor at the University advised Bond to abandon his dream of becoming an architect.
Years later, in an interview for the Washington Post, Bond recalled his professor saying, “There have never been any famous, prominent black architects… You’d be wise to choose another profession.” Fortunately, Bond had spent a summer working for African-American architect Paul Williams, and he knew that he
The 2009 Pritzker architecture prize winner was born in Basel, Switzerland. The son of a cabinet maker, he is not a celebrity architect, not one of the names that show up on shortlists for museums and concert hall projects or known beyond architecture circles. He hasn’t designed many buildings; the one he is best known for is a thermal spa in an Alpine commune. And he has toiled in relative obscurity for the last 30 years in a remote village in the Swiss mountains.
He is often praised for the detailed craftsmanship of his designs.
Frederick Olmsted was a landscape architect before the profession was founded. He was a visionary who foresaw the need for national parks, devised one of America’s first regional plans, and designed America’s first large suburban community.
Although Olmsted is famous today for his landscape architecture, he did not discover this career until he was 35. During his youth, Frederick Law Olmsted pursued several professions. Olmsted became a respected journalist and social commentator. Traveling through the southern United
Daniel Libeskind’s parents survived the Holocaust and met while in exile. As a child growing up in Poland, Daniel became a gifted player of the accordion. The family moved to Tel Aviv, Israel when Daniel was 11. He began playing piano and in 1959 won an America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship. The award made it possible for the family to move to the USA. Living with his family in a small apartment in the Bronx borough of New York City, Daniel continued to study music. He didn’t want to become a performer, however, so he
American architect Raymond Hood straddled the centuries. He became famous for Neo-Gothic and Art Deco buildings. By the end of his career, however, Raymond Hood was designing buildings so modern that they foretold the International Style.
Raymond Hood became famous in 1922 when he and John Howells won a competition to design the Chicago Tribune Tower. The design by Raymond Hood and John Howells was selected over some 200 entries, including designs by great names like Walter Gopius, Adolf Loos, and Eliel Saarinen.
Living during an era when American business leaders amassed huge fortunes, Gilded Age architect Richard Morris Hunt became known for designing palatial homes with lavish interiors.
Working with artists and craftspeople, Richard Morris Hunt designed lavish interiors with paintings, sculptures, murals, and interior architectural details modeled after those found in European castles and palaces.
1888-1892: Vanderbilt Marble House, Newport, Rhode Island
1888-1895: Biltmore Estate
Anna Keichline was the first woman to become a registered architect of Pennsylvania.
An inventor, Anna Keichline patented seven inventions. Anna Keichline’s first patent was for an improved combined sink and washtub design. In 1924, she patented a kitchen design that included sloped countertops and glass-doored cabinets. In 1929, Anna Keichline patented a design for a space saving bed that folded away into the wall.
Her best known invention was the K Brick patented in 1927. The K Brick was a precursor to the modern
Maya Lin grew up in Ohio surrounded by art and literature. Her educated, artistic parents came to America from Beijing and Shanghai and taught at Ohio University.
Maya Lin is best known for her large, minimalist sculptures and monuments. When she was only 21 and still a student, Lin created the winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Many people criticized the stark, black monument, but today the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most famous monuments in the United States. Throughout her career, Maya
Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha is known for socially responsible architecture that uses simple shapes and minimal resources. Paulo Mendes da Rocha often called a “Brazilian Brutalist” because his buildings are constructed of prefabricated and mass-produced concrete components.
During the 1950s, Paulo Mendes da Rocha joined an avant-garde movement in São Paulo, Brazil. His work, known as Paulist brutalist architecture, used simple shapes and materials. Importance was placed on people and society rather than
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are two important Swiss architects known for innovative construction using new materials and techniques. The two architects have nearly parallel careers. They were born the same year, attended the same school, and in 1978 they formed the architectural partnership, Herzog & de Meuron.
In 2001, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were chosen to share the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.
2008: Beijing National Stadium, Beijing, China
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Zaha Hadid was the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize. Her work experiments with new spatial concepts and encompasses all fields of design, ranging from urban spaces to products and furniture. Zaha Hadid is also known for her exhibition designs, stage sets, furniture, paintings, and drawings.
From parking garages and ski-jumps to vast urban landscapes, Zaha Hadid’s works have been called bold, unconventional, and theatrical. She studied and worked under Rem Koolhaas, and like
Eileen Gray began her career as a lacquer artist. She is best known for her furniture designs. In the early 1920s, architect Jean Badovici encouraged Eileen Gray to begin designing small houses.
Eileen Gray’s contributions were overlooked for many years, but she is now considered one of the most influential designers of modern times. Working with geometric forms, Eileen Gray created plush furniture designs in steel and leather. Many Art Deco and Bauhaus architects and designers found inspiration in Eileen Gray’s unique
Eduardo Souto de Moura, a 58 year old architect from Portugal, is the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, the world architecture’s highest honor.
The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through architecture.
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue was an innovator who combined Gothic and Hispanic designs with modern ideas. He revolutionized church architecture by reawakening Medieval traditions, and his fanciful Spanish Churrigueresque buildings for the Panama-California Exposition brought new energy to Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the United States.
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue never attended college. Instead, at age fifteen he went to work in the New York office of Renwick, Aspinwall and Russell. In 1898, he formed his own partnership with
Bruce Goff did not receive a formal education in architecture. At age 12, he apprenticed to Rush, Endacott of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bruce Goff became a partner in the firm in 1930, and later became a professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma.
Expressive and original, Goff’s buildings were often constructed with unusual, throw-away materials. Bruce Goff was a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, and, like Wright, Goff based his works on the principles of Organic Architecture. However, Goff developed his own approach to
Best known for his Gothic Revival skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, Cass Gilbert had enormous influence on the development of architecture in the United States.
Although Cass Gilbert’s name is rarely mentioned today, he exercised enormous influence on the development of architecture in the United States. He is perhaps best known for his Gothic Revival skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, which was the world’s tallest building at the time. Combining modern technologies with historic ideas, Gilbert designed many public
A leading architect for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Bruce Graham transformed Chicago’s skyline, designing some of the City’s most famous skyscrapers.
Bruce Graham was considered one of America’s leading designers of high-rise buildings. Although he never studied with Mies van der Rohe, he was instrumental in applying “Miesian” ideas to Chicago’s skyscrapers. Most significantly, Graham used the tubular frame principle for several important buildings.
After the 1970s, America began to look
Inspired by Roman pageantry, French architect Charles Garnier wanted his buildings to have drama and spectacle. His design for the magnificent Opera House in Paris combined the classicism of Renaissance architecture with ornate Beaux Arts ideas.
Jean Louis Charles Garnier was born into a working class family. He was expected to become a wheelwright like his father. However Garnier wasn’t healthy and his mother didn’t want him to work in a forge. So, Charles
Garnier took mathematics courses at the École Gratuite de
Peter Eisenman headed an informal group of five New York architects who wanted to establish a rigorous theory of architecture independent of context. Called the New York Five, they were featured in a controversial 1967 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and in a later book titled Five Architects. In addition to Peter Eisenman, the New York Five included Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier
Until recently, Peter Eisenman was known mainly as a teacher and a theorist. His first major public building was
Husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames became famous for their furniture, textiles, industrial designs, and practical, economical house designs. The couple met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and married in 1941. They shared credit for all their design projects.
They were among America’s most important designers, celebrated for their contributions to architecture, industrial design, and furniture design. The Eameses believed that a house should be flexible enough to accommodate work and play.
Leonardo da Vinci was an artist who painted some of the most beautiful paintings of all times. He was also a man of science who took a logical approach to solving practical problems. These two sides of Leonardo da Vinci came together in his architectural drawings.
He drew designs for buildings, bridges, and even whole cities. His drawings give us an idea of the workings of a building, not just its outward appearance. His designs for buildings include magnificent castles, cathedrals, and chateaus. His sketches include details about
Daniel Burnham designed some of the world’s earliest skyscrapers and helped create the first complete plan for controlling urban growth. Drawing upon the City Beautiful movement, Daniel Burnham proposed a plan for Chicago that included extensive parkland and laid the foundation for modern theories of urban design.
Since 1917, Burnham’s firm has been practicing architecture under the name Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.
1890: With Charles Atwood, the Reliance Building,
Architect Donald Wexler helped define Palm Springs, California as a center for mid-century modernism. He also set a new tone for prefab construction when he designed sophisticated steel houses for the Alexander Construction Company.
Donald Wexler worked for Richard Neutra in Los Angeles and for William Cody in Palm Springs. Between 1952 and 1961. Donald A. Wexler Associates was launched in 1963.
Working with Richard Harrison, Donald Wexler had designed many school buildings using new approaches to steel construction. Wexler
Born in 1928, Norma Merrick Sklarek was the first African-American woman to be licensed as an architect in the United States and the first woman to be elected Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
In 1985, she helped establish the first architectural firm to be formed and managed by an African-American woman. Sklarek was born to West Indian parents who had moved to Harlem, New York. Sklarek’s father, a doctor, encouraged her to excel in school and to seek a career in a field not normally open to females or to African
Frank Lloyd Wright is America’s most famous architect. During his 70-year career, Frank Lloyd Wright designed 1,141 buildings, including homes, offices, churches, schools, libraries, bridges, and museums. Five hundred and thirty-two of these designs were completed, and 409 still stand.
Frank Lloyd Wright never attended architecture school. As a child, he worked on his uncle’s farm in Wisconsin, and he later described himself as an American primitive – an innocent but clever country boy whose education on the farm
After the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren designed new churches and supervised the reconstruction of some of London’s most important buildings.
In the seventeenth century, architecture was considered a pursuit that could be practiced by any gentleman educated in the field of mathematics. Christopher Wren began designing buildings when his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, asked him to plan a new chapel for Pembroke College, Cambridge.
King Charles II commissioned Christopher Wren to repair St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Pritzker Prize-Winning Architect of the Sydney Opera House, Jorn Utzon was perhaps destined to design buildings that evoke the sea. Utzon’s father was director of a shipyard in Alborg, Denmark, and was a brilliant naval architect. Several family members were excellent yachtsmen, and the young Jørn became a good sailor himself.
Utzon has created a style marked by monumental civic buildings and unobtrusive housing projects. He incorporates the balanced discipline of Asplund, the sculptural quality of Alvar Aalto, and the organic
Louis Sullivan is widely considered America’s first truly modern architect. Instead of imitating historic styles, he created original forms and details. Older architectural styles were designed for buildings that were wide, but Sullivan was able to create aesthetic unity in buildings that were tall.
Sullivan’s designs generally involved a simple geometric form decorated with ornamentation based on organic symbolism. As an organizer and formal theorist on aesthetics, he propounded an architecture that exhibited the spirit
New York architect Robert A. M. Stern takes history to heart. A postmodernist, he creates buildings that express affection for the past. Stern served on The Walt Disney Company Board of Directors from 1992 to 2003 and has designed many buildings for The Walt Disney Company.
Robert A.M. Stern’s Boardwalk at Disney World suggests an American seaside village from the early 20th century. The buildings illustrate the evolution of architectural styles from the Victorian to the Vienna Secessionist movement. The mini-village is not
Whether designing furniture, airports, or grand monuments, Eero Saarinen was famous for innovative, sculptural forms.
Eero Saarinen began his career designing furniture in collaboration with Charles Eames. Their work was featured in the 1940 exhibition “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” at the The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Although Eero Saarinen’s early education was grounded in Art Nouveau, he was drawn to the streamlined International Style. However,
Famous for designing massive stone buildings with semicircular “Roman” arches, Henry Hobson Richardson developed a late Victorian style that became known as Richardsonian Romanesque, a style featuring semicircular “Roman” arches set in massive stone walls.
During his short life, Henry Hobson Richardson designed churches, courthouses, train stations, libraries, and other important civic buildings.
Henry Hobson Richardson is known as the “First American Architect” because he broke away from
Pritzker Prize-Winning Architect.
Renzo Piano was born into a family of builders. His grandfather, father, four uncles, and brother were contractors. Renzo Piano payed honor to this tradition when he named his architecture firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Renzo Piano is often called a “High-Tech” architect because his designs showcase technological shapes and materials. However, human needs and comfort are at the center of Piano’s designs.
Critics note that Piano’s work is rooted in the
Cesar Pelli is often praised for using a wide variety of materials and designs, seeking new solutions for each location. Believing that buildings should be “responsible citizens,” Cesar Pelli strives to design buildings that work within the surrounding city.
After completing his Master’s degree in architecture, Pelli spent ten years working in the offices of Eero Saarinen. He served as Project Designer for the TWA Terminal Building at JFK Airport in New York and Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale University. He later
I.M. Pei is known for using large, abstract forms and sharp, geometric designs. His glass-clad structures seem to spring from the high tech modernist movement. However, Pei is more concerned with function than theory. His works often incorporate traditional Chinese symbols and building traditions.
In Chinese, Ieoh Ming means “to inscribe brightly.” The name Pei’s parents gave him proved prophetic. Over the past fifty years, Ieoh Ming Pei has designed more than fifty buildings around the world, ranging from industrial
The Renaissance master Andrea Palladio is often described as the most influential and most copied architect in the Western world.
Born Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola in Padua, Italy. Later named Palladio after the Greek goddess of wisdom. The new name was given to Palladio by an employer, the scholar Trissino.
Drawing inspiration from classical architecture, Palladio created carefully proportioned, pediment buildings that became models for stately homes and government buildings in Europe and America. One of many architectural
Architect and Environmentalist
Australian architect Glenn Murcutt pours his creativity into small, economical projects that conserve energy and blend with the environment.
The Pritzker Prize-winning architect Glenn Murcutt is not a builder of skyscrapers. He doesn’t design grand, showy structures or use flashy, luxurious materials. Instead, Australian architect Glenn Murcutt pours his creativity into smaller projects that let him work alone and design economical buildings that will conserve energy and blend with the
From his early work with Le Corbusier to his beautifully sculptural buildings for Brazil’s new capital city, Oscar Niemeyer shaped the Brazil we see today. He became a leader in the Brazilian communist party and spoke out in defense of liberal governments. Although Niemeyer often said that architecture cannot change the world, many critics say that his idealism and socialist ideology defined his buildings.
Oscar Niemeyer was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1970. In 1988, when Niemeyer was 80 years old,
Pioneer of the International Style
Born and educated in Europe, Richard Neutra introduced the International Style to America, and also introduced Los Angeles design to Europe. His firm designed many office buildings, churches, and cultural centers, but Richard Neutra is best known for his residential architecture.
Homes designed by Richard Neutra combined Bauhaus modernism with Southern California building traditions, creating a unique adaptation that became known as Desert Modernism. Neutra’s houses were dramatic,
Believing that “less is more,” Mies van der Rohe designed rational, minimalist skyscrapers that set the standard for modernist design.
The United States has a love-hate relationship with Mies van der Rohe. Some say that he stripped architecture of all humanity, creating cold, sterile and unlivable environments. Others praise his work, saying he created architecture in its most pure form.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began his career in his family stone-carving business in Germany. He never
Europe’s Modernist Architect
Adolf Loos was an architect who became more famous for his ideas than for his buildings. He believed that reason should determine the way we build, and he opposed the decorative Art Nouveau movement.
Adolf Loos was impressed by the efficiency of American architecture, and he admired the work of Louis Sullivan. In 1898, he opened his own practice in Vienna and became friends with philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, expressionist composer Arnold Schönberg, satirist Karl Kraus, and other
San Francisco, California – Designer of Hearst Castle
Julia Morgan was one of America’s most important and prolific architects. She was the first woman to study architecture at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman to work as a professional architect in California. During her 45-year career, Julia Morgan designed more than 700 homes, churches, office buildings, hospitals, stores, and educational buildings. Julia Morgan helped rebuild San Francisco after the earthquake and fires of
Newark, New Jersey – Architect of the Getty Center
A common theme runs through Richard Meier’s striking, white designs. The sleek porcelain-enameled cladding and stark glass forms have been described as “purist,” “sculptural,” and “Neo-Corbusian.”
Meier was born in Newark, New Jersey. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University in 1957, worked for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill briefly in 1959, and then for Marcel Breuer for three years, prior to starting his
Louis I. Kahn competed only a few buildings, yet he is widely considered one of the great architects of the twentieth century.
Born Itze-Leib (or, Leiser-Itze) Schmuilowsky (or, Schmalowski). Kahn’s Jewish parents immigrated to the United States in 1906. His name was changed to Louis Isadore Kahn in 1915. Louis I. Kahn grew up in Philadelphia. As a young man, he struggled to build his career during the height of America’s Depression. Kahn established three families that lived only a few miles
Philip Johnson was a museum director, writer, and, most notably, an architect known for his unconventional designs. His work incorporated diverse influences such as the neoclassicism of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the modernism of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
After graduation from Harvard in 1930, Philip Johnson became the first Director of the Department of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He coined the term International Style and introduced the work of modern European architects such as Ludwig
Oita, Kyushu, Japan
Arata Isozaki is known for using bold, exaggerated forms and inventive detailing. He often integrates Eastern ideas into his designs. Many critics have identified Arata Isozaki with the imaginative, Japanese New Wave movement known as Metabolism.
Educated in Japan, Arata Isozaki often integrates Eastern ideas into his designs.For example, Isozaki wanted to express a yin-yang theory of positive and negative space when he designed the Team Disney Building in Orlando, Florida. Also, because the offices were to
Berlin, Germany – Founder of the Bauhaus.
Walter Gropius was a German architect and art educator who founded the Bauhaus school of design, which became a dominant force in architecture and the applied arts in the 20th century. Walter Gropius believed that all design should be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. His Bauhaus school pioneered a functional, severely simple architectural style, featuring the elimination of surface decoration and extensive use of glass. The Bauhaus school attracted many artists, including
Architect and Product Designer – Princeton, New Jersey
Borrowing heavily from the past, architect Michael Graves combines whimsy and sophistication. His buildings often incorporate columns, pediments, arches, and other historic details.
Michael Graves is often credited with moving American architectural thought from abstract modernism to post-modernism. Graves founded his practice in Princeton, New Jersey in 1964 and taught at Princeton University in New Jersey for almost 40 years. His works range from grand projects such
“Deconstructivist” Architect, Santa Monica, CA
Inventive and irreverent, Frank Gehry has been surrounded by controversy for most of his career. Using unorthodox materials like corrugated metal and chain link, Gehry creates unexpected, twisted forms that break conventions of building design. His work has been called radical, playful, organic, and sensual.
Early in his career, Frank Gehry designed houses inspired by modern architects such as Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright. As Gehry’s career expanded, he
Spanish Modernist Architect, Catalonia, Spain
Leading the Spanish Modernist movement, Antoni Gaudí has been classified with Gothicism (sometimes called warped Gothicism), Art Nouveau, and Surrealism. He was also influenced by Oriental styles, nature, sculpture, and a desire to go beyond anything that had ever been done before. Defying labels, Antoni Gaudí’s work might be simple called, Gaudí-ism.
While seeking his degree in architecture in Barcelona, Gaudí also studied philosophy, history, and economics. He believed
High Tech Architect – Manchester, England
Born in a working class family, Norman Foster did not seem likely to become a famous architect. Although he was a good student in high school and showed an early interest in architecture, he did not enroll in college until he was 21 years old. Foster won numerous scholarships during his years at Manchester University, including one to attend Yale University in the United States.
At the beginning of his career, Foster worked as a member of the successful “Team 4″ firm
Leader of the International Style
Le Corbusier pioneered modernism in architecture and laid the foundation for what became the Bauhaus Movement, or the International Style.
During his long life, Le Corbusier designed buildings in Europe, India, and Russia. Le Corbusier also designed one building in the United States and one in South America.
The earlier buildings by Le Corbusier were smooth, white concrete and glass structures elevated above the ground. He called these works “pure prisms.” In the
Architect, engineer and sculptor
Famous for his bridges and train stations, Spanish modernist Santiago Calatrava combines artistry with engineering. His graceful, organic structures have been compared to the works of Antonio Gaudí.
Santiago Calatrava is currently working on a new train and subway station at the World Trade Center site in New York City. Calling Calatrava’s work “open and organic,” the New York Times said that the new terminal will evoke the kind of uplifting spirituality that is
Father of Modern Scandinavian Architecture
Born at the cusp of Modernism, Finnish architect Alvar Aalto became famous for both his buildings and his furniture designs. Aalto’s unique style grew out of a passion for painting and a fascination for the works of cubist artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
Alvar Aalto’s passion for painting led to the development of his unique architectural style. Cubism and Colage, explored by the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, became important elements in