Who are Some Famous Architects?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A number of people from all over the world are noted for their contributions to the field of architecture. The most famous architect is probably Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked in the 20th century, but many other names are well known and revered in the field of architecture. These famous architects are usually noted for the distinctiveness and individuality of their work, and many of them have such strong styles that their buildings are instantly recognizable. In a few instances, single architects totally turned the practice of architecture on its head, setting new trends and styles.

The Bauhaus School was a branch of modern architecture that spread from Germany to the US.
The Bauhaus School was a branch of modern architecture that spread from Germany to the US.

While many people think of people who worked relatively recently when they talk about famous architects, people have been famed for their building projects for thousands of years. Imhotep of Egypt, for example, is a noted architect of the ancient world. Christoper Wren, a British architect, is another famous architect who worked in a prior era, and Giacoma de Vignola and Leonardo da Vinci were Italian architects who worked during the Renaissance, developing the quintessential style which people associate with this period in history.

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian architect who worked during the Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian architect who worked during the Renaissance.

Stanford White, William Morris, Alexander Parris, Giuseppi Japelli, Alfred Waterhouse, Otto Wagner, Gottfried Semper, and Ignatius Bonomi are some famous architects from the 19th century. In the 20th century, some well known names include Buckminster Fuller, Antonio Gaudi, Adolf Loos, Alvar Aalto, Michael Graves, I.M. Pei, Aldo Rossi, Carlo Scarpa, Charles Eames, and Fumihiko Maki. These individuals pioneered schools of design such as Modern architecture and Bauhaus, and they had a major effect on society and culture in addition to architectural trends.

Unfortunately, there are very few famous female architects.
Unfortunately, there are very few famous female architects.

One of the interesting things about architecture as a field is that most famous architects aren't known just for their buildings. They are also noted for their furniture design, crafts, and landscape design in many cases. The Eames Chair, for example, was developed by Charles Eames. Developing beautiful and distinctive furnishings and works of art is a natural extension of a career in architecture, because great architecture is usually beautiful or distinctive, and its crafters often have a very excellent sense of aesthetics.

Unfortunately, there are very few famous architects who are women, and very few women work in the field. Notable female architects did not start appearing in any real numbers until the 20th century, and they face an uphill struggle in establishing themselves and getting their work known. Elizabeth Diller, Maya Lin, Mary Colter, and Amanda Levete are some of the more well known female names in architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned Tokyo's Imperial Hotel, which was later rebuilt.
Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned Tokyo's Imperial Hotel, which was later rebuilt.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Most, if not all, the architects listed are dead, which is a shame. It shows that we only care about people and their work after they have passed away, rather than when they are still design architecture.

So can you name any famous architects of now - the present day?


@matthewc23 - I think you've come up with some really good observations. I also think you may be onto something about Americans not being interested in design as much, but I still think the possibility exists for there to be famous architects among us.

The first thing to consider is how long after their designs were implemented did people like Wright become famous? At the time of creation, most architects' buildings are considered extreme and impractical. Only later is the beauty realized.

I think that the famous architects of tomorrow are the men and women designing "green" houses that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly. I would be interested to know others' thoughts on this.


From the article and my own limited knowledge of architecture, it seems like famous modern architects are few and far between. I can't say that I know the name of any current architects.

I can see a couple of possible reasons for this. Maybe it is the case that today, our buildings are less creative, and most architects don't have a reason to be noticed. Many of our current buildings are often styled after earlier designs, as well.

The other option, which I think may be the case, is that building design is not at the forefront of American's minds at the moment. In the 1920s and 30s when skyscrapers were being built, the Art Deco movement was in full force. This is when people like Frank Lloyd Wright gained popularity. I don't see most countries as being excited about building design in the 21st century.


@cardsfan27 - I absolutely agree. I visited the house several years ago, and it was certainly a trip back in time.

What I find fascinating about many of the most famous architects is that they were also prolific inventors. Until reading this article, I wasn't aware that Leonardo da Vinci's training was in architecture. I only knew him for his paintings and inventions.

I also know that the geodesic dome was created by Buckminster Fuller, and the shape has been used in many famous buildings. For those unfamiliar with the geodesic dome, the most famous structure with the shape is probably Epcot Center at Disney World.


Anyone who is visiting Pittsburgh or is in southwest Pennsylvania must go see Fallingwater.

Fallingwater is probably Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous building. Most people are familiar with the design of the house. It is famous for being built in the 1930s on top of a waterfall in the Allegheny Mountains.

We visited the home while traveling through Pennsylvania a few years ago, and the house is absolutely breathtaking. It was amazing being able to see how home design has changed over the past 70 years. It was also interesting to learn more about one of America's most famous architects.

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