There is no doubt that architecture is one of the most important and impressive forms of art in the world. The buildings and structures that architects create are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also serve a practical purpose.

In this article, we will take a look at several world famous architects and their most notable works. Each of these architects has made a significant contribution to the field of architecture and has left a lasting legacy.

What is Architecture?

What is architecture? Architecture is the process and/or product of designing and constructing buildings and other physical structures.

Architecture is different from landscape architecture. The latter is the design of outdoor spaces, such as parks and gardens. Landscape architects often work with architects to create a unified look for a building and its surroundings.

Architecture is a very important part of our lives. It affects the way we live, work, and play. Good architecture can make us feel happy, comfortable, and safe. Bad architecture can have the opposite effect.

World Famous Architects

Over the centuries, some of the world’s most talented and renowned architects have designed some truly iconic buildings and structures. From classical designs to contemporary masterpieces, these architects have made their mark on history. Let’s take a look at their work!

The most famous architects in the world
World famous architects and their buildings

1. Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most famous and influential architects of the 20th century. He is best known for his Prairie Style homes, which were designed to fit in with the natural landscape.

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous works is the Fallingwater house, which is built over a waterfall in Pennsylvania. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is another masterpiece of form and function, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania
Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania, United States

2. Le Corbusier

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, was another renowned architect in the early 20th century. Of Franco-Swiss origin, he designed buildings all over Europe and North America, including the famous Villa Savoye in France.

Le Corbusier is famous for his use of concrete as a building material and for his designs which incorporate natural light into their interiors. Notre Dame du Haut, a Roman Catholic chapel in Ronchamp, France is characterized by its gently curved walls.

Notre Dame du Haut chapel by Le Corbusier
Notre Dame du Haut chapel by Le Corbusier

3. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe was a German architect who lived in the early 20th century. He was famous for his minimalist design philosophy, which he called “less is more”.

One of his most well known buildings is the Barcelona Pavilion in Spain, which he co-designed with Lilly Reich. Originally erected in 1929 as the German national pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, it was rebuilt from 1983 to 1986. This modern architecture masterpiece features four different types of stone: green Alpine marble, Roman travertine, ancient green marble and golden onyx.

Barcelona Pavilion by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Barcelona Pavilion by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

4. Louis Kahn

Louis Kahn was another famous architect who lived in the early 20th century. Born in Estonia, he immigrated to Philadelphia with his family at the age of 4.

He has been described as one of America’s greatest architects and designed several iconic buildings, including the Salk Institute in California and the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas. A proponent of the monumental architecture style, he combined materials like concrete and oak to great effect.

The Salk Institute frames a view of the Pacific Ocean
The Salk Institute frames a view of the Pacific Ocean

5. Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry is a contemporary Canadian-American architect who has become famous for his unique and often controversial designs. His most famous buildings include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

A leading light in Deconstructivism, which is characterized by fragmentation, he has redefined traditional shapes and forms. Gehry’s buildings evoke a feeling of movement.

One great example is The Dancing House, also known as Fred and Ginger. This Prague landmark was co-designed with the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić.

Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry
Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry

6. Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano is an Italian architect who has designed some of the most famous buildings in the world, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern and The Shard in London.

Influenced by his family builder background, his works focus on accessibility and harmony with nature. In 1998, Renzo Piano was awarded the Pritzker Prize, which is considered to be the highest achievement in architecture.

The Shard skyscraper in London
The Shard skyscraper in London

7. Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid was a British architect who became famous in the early 21st century for her futuristic and often gravity-defying designs. She was nicknamed the Queen of the Curve, as many of her structures don’t have right angles.

Zaha Hadid’s most renowned works include the London Aquatics Center, Guangzhou Opera House in China, Antwerp Port House in Belgium and Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Heydar Aliyev Centre, Azerbaijan
Heydar Aliyev Centre, Azerbaijan

8. Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas is a Dutch architect famous for his innovative designs which merge technology with architecture. His most famous works include the Seattle Public Library and Casa da Musica in Portugal.

Koolhaas aims to blend tradition and modernity in his designs. He once said, “Talk about beauty and you get boring answers, but talk about ugliness and things get interesting”.

Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library

9. Norman Foster

Norman Foster is a British architect, known for his modernist designs, which merge engineering and architecture to create functional yet aesthetically pleasing buildings.

Some of Norman Foster’s most iconic building designs are the Reichstag Dome on top of the Reichstag in Berlin and 30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin, in London. Norman Foster Studio also created London’s Millennium Bridge, previously nicknamed the Wobbly Bridge as it moved when people walked on it. This deliberate effect was so unnerving to some that it sadly had to be stabilized.

The Reichstag Dome
The Reichstag Dome – best architects in the world

10. Ieoh Ming Pei

Ieoh Ming Pei was a Chinese-American architect of the 20th century who is famous for his iconic glass and steel buildings. Some of his most notable projects include the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston and the Louvre Museum Pyramid in Paris. The latter was a controversial design which is now recognized as a modern masterpiece.

Pei integrated many geometric patterns such as circles, squares and triangles in his work. He lived until the ripe old age of 102.

The Louvre pyramid
The Louvre pyramid by I.M. Pei

11. Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was a famous Finnish-American architect famous for designing famous buildings such as The TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Gateway Arch in St Louis Missouri and Dulles International Airport near Washington Dc.

He also designed many famous furniture pieces including the Tulip Chair which is one of his most well known creations from the 1950s era.

The Trans World Flight Center at JFK Airport
The Trans World Flight Center at JFK Airport

12. Richard Rogers

Another important name on our list of world famous architects is the late Richard Rogers. His landmark projects include the Centre Pompidou, Lloyd’s of London and Heathrow Airport Terminal Five.

Richard Rogers’ style is best described as high-tech architecture. He had a strong interest in urban regeneration, sustainability and social responsibility.

This “starchitect” was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal and the French Légion d’Honneur.

Lloyds of London building by Richard Rogers
Lloyds of London building by Richard Rogers

13. Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi was a famous Spanish architect born in 1852 in Reus. Gaudi is famous for designing unique buildings such as La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell in Barcelona.

Much of Gaudí’s work was inspired by nature and organic shapes. La Sagrada Família is still under construction more than 130 years after Gaudi began working on it.

Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain
Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain

14. Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer was one of the world’s most famous architects, renowned for his modern and minimalist architecture. He was born in Brazil and designed much of the city of Brasilia, which became a World Heritage Site. The Church of St Francis of Assisi has a free form interior space with no walls or visible support structures to separate it from its surrounding plaza. The main dome is composed entirely out of stained glass, and the exterior is painted bright blue.

Some of his other architectural works include The Cathedral of Brasília, Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium in Ravello, Italy and Casino da Madeira in Funchal.

Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba, Brazil
Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba, Brazil

15. Louis Sullivan

Often considered to be the “father of contemporary architecture”, Louis Sullivan was one of the most influential people in the Chicago School of Architecture. Born in Boston in 1856, Sullivan pioneered aesthetically pleasing yet functional buildings.

Among this famous architect’s works are the Wainwright Building in downtown St. Louis and Bayard-Condict Building in New York. The Sullivan Building, formerly known as the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building is a fine example of Sullivan’s organic aesthetic. The facade’s cast-iron decoration was inspired by local plants.

Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building (Sullivan Center)
The Sullivan Building – Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

16. William Pereira

This architect from Chicago, Illinois was known for his futuristic designs such as The Geisel Library, The Transamerica Pyramid and the Thene Building at LAX. Before becoming an architect, William Pereira was a Hollywood set designer who won an Oscar for his work on Reap the Wild Wind, a Cecil B. DeMille movie.

During World War II, when he became an Army civilian camouflage expert, he despaired of the urban sprawl that he saw while flying. After the war, he taught architecture at the University of California before setting up his architectural studio. Several famous architects did stints at his architectural classes and firm, including Gin D. Wong and Frank Gehry.

A proponent of beauty in all things, Pereira dreamt up a master plan for the University of California Irvine campus. The idea was to have a city of tomorrow, that integrated with the environment and local community.

UCI Libraries Gateway Study Center
UCI Libraries Gateway Study Center – GregsWikidContributions

17. Buckminster Fuller

An innovative champion of the geodesic dome, Buckminster Fuller was granted US patents for these particular designs. They were inspired by an incident where he experienced a sensation of being suspended above the ground in a white sphere of light.

Having previously been depressed after the death of his 3 year old daughter, which he believed was due partly to their damp living conditions, he found a new energy to focus on sustainability and the future of humanity.

As well as geodesic structures like the Montreal Biosphere (originally the U.S. pavilion at Expo 67), Fuller designed a Dymaxion car and house, which both sought to use resources more efficiently.

The Montreal Biosphere, Canada
The Montreal Biosphere, Canada

18. Wolf D. Prix

Austrian architect Wolf D. Prix and his studio, Coop Himmelb(l)au are famous for their ground-breaking deconstructivist designs. These include BMW Welt in Munich, Musée des Confluences in Lyon, Dalian International Conference Center in China and Martin Luther Church in Austria.

This architectural practice sees buildings as functional artworks, open to their surroundings. The House of Music in Aalborg, Denmark is a fine example of this, with its structure encouraging exchanges between students, teachers, the audience and artists.

BMW Welt, Munich, Germany
BMW Welt, Munich, Germany

19. Santiago Calatrava

This Swiss-Spanish architect may often deliver his projects late, but they’re always unforgettable! From the  Museu do Amanhã in Rio de Janeiro to the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia and Milwaukee Art Museum, these imaginative structures breathe new life into cultural institutions.

Calatrava is also known for his bridge designs, such as the Peace Bridge in Calgary, Canada and Reggio Emilia Ponti in Italy.

The Oculus Center, NYC
The Oculus Center, NYC

20. Philip Johnson

The last famous architect on our list is Philip Johnson, who is best known for his Glass House residence. Johnson created this home in New Caanan, Connecticut and lived there himself. Designed to let the outside in, the house is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open to the public for guided tours.

Johnson himself was a controversial figure who once expressed admiration for fascism, although he later said that he regretted that.

The Glass House by Philip Johnson
The Glass House by Philip Johnson – top famous architects

In Conclusion: World Famous Architects

We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the most famous architects in the world and their iconic buildings. These architects have made an indelible mark on history, so it is worth taking a look at one or two of their creations if you happen to be in the vicinity.

There are many more than these architecture greats we could mention! If you know any other architect not mentioned here who deserves recognition for his/her work please let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading this guide to the world’s best architects – we’ll see you next time!

Read next: The Most Famous Sculptures in the World

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World famous architects to know
World famous architects to know

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8 thoughts on “20 World Famous Architects and Their Works”

    1. joselitorayos_1959@hotmail.com

      1.Philip Johnson (AT&T)
      2.Buckminster Fuller (Geodesic Dome pioneer)
      3.Michael Graves (Post modernist)

    2. Many thanks for the suggestions, we’ve heard that Philip Johnson is a rather controversial figure but we might include him anyway with a caveat, and we’ll look at including the others – Buckminster Fuller’s designs are amazing!

    3. Paul R. Williams Architect
      member of AIA
      architect to the stars of Hollywood and Beverly Hills CA in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s …. notable design on LA airport !

    4. Wolf d Prix Coop Himmelblau

      BMW Weld Munich
      Musee du Confluence Lyon
      Asiatic Film centre Busan
      European Central Bank
      MOCAPE China

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