by Dušan Cvetković
Dušan Cvetković
Published February 16, 2021

Looking for the most Famous Architects so that you could study their works or even look at their amazing projects?

Here is your list of the best of the best.

Here are the best architects that you always hear about (or at least, should know about).

Famous Architects - What Makes Them Famous?

This article will introduce you to the best architects. Not just of today, but throughout history.

Of course, there are ways of measuring these kinds of things.

The best architects need to be innovators. Period.

Architects as Innovators

They need to be artists, start movements, and obviously, make cool buildings.

Now there are four types of architects in this article.

There are historic architects, the architects we study. The architects that have started movements, that have built buildings way ahead of their time. 

Saint Peter's Square

Photo Credit: Silar

These are architects that have built buildings that have shaped the built environment for years.

Then there are well-known architects. These architects could be the architects that have created great buildings. They have been famous designers of their time.

Dessau Bauhaus

Photo Credit: Thomas Lewandovski

However, they can also be young architects. The up and coming architects that are still creating a name for themselves. The architects that are still innovating.

Dwellings in Vertical Farms

Photo Credit: Precht

Lastly, there are Starchitects. These are architects that you see on tv. The architects that make beautiful, futuristic buildings. The architects that everyone wants to work for.

It is important to note, just because architects are famous does not necessarily mean that they are the architects doing the best work.

Architecture comes in many forms. These architects are the best at their form of Architecture. 

Filippo Brunelleschi 1377-1446

Filippo Brunelleschi

Filippo Brunelleschi was an italian architect famous for being one of the founders of Renaissance Architecture.

He is not only the founder of an era, but also what I call the “Dome Expert”. He was an engineer that invented new ways for domes to be constructed, eventually creating what is the largest dome in History at the Florence Cathedral.

His most notable works include the Florence Cathedral and the Basilica of San Lorenzo

Florence Cathedral

Photo Credit: Bruce Stokes

Basilica of San Lorenzo

Photo Credit: Sailko

Quote: “Do not share your inventions with many; share them only with the few who understand and love the sciences.”

Michelangelo 1475-1564


Michelangelo was not only a famous sculptor and painter. But also a famous historic architect creating what is known as Mannerist Architecture: Architecture that intentionally breaks known architectural design principles.

Michelangelo’s notable works include The Laurentian Library, Sistine Chapel ceiling, and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Laurentian Library

Photo Credit: Michael Simons

Sistine Chapel ceiling

Antoine Taveneaux

St. Peter’s Basilica

Photo Credit: Silar

Quote: “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

Andrea Palladio 1508-1580

Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio was an Italian architect that is best known for his symmetric country homes that relied heavily on proportion, leading to the Palladian Style.

Palladio remains as one of the most influential architects in history being a direct influence on even early American architects like Thomas Jefferson, 200 years later. This is largely in part to his own architecture manuscript, Four Books of Architecture.

Villa Capra de Rotonda

Photo Credit: Stefan Bauer

Quote: “Beauty will result from form and Correspondence of the whole…”

Antoni Gaudí 1852-1926

Antoni Gaudí

The founder of form found architecture; Antoni Gaudi is a powerhouse of beautiful ornate work which comes from his own very unique mixture of victorian detail work, gothic principles, and baroque forms.

La Sagrada Familia

Photo Credit: C Messier

Antoni Gaudi’s most famous works are of course the Sagrada Familia, where he created the famous hanging model, and the Casa Batlló. It is crazy to think that many of Gaudi’s forms were even possible at that time.

Casa Bastlló

Photo Credit: Rheins

Quote: “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.”

The First Modern Architects

As much of Europe began paying people less and making more (the industrial revolution) machinery had begun to work its way into architecture.

The increasing exploration with ironwork, the bessemer process (for steel production), and the Spanish flu pandemic (that actually started in Kansas, United States), buildings began prioritizing light and air as well as new forms of ornamentation.

New methods of decoration and creating sheltered space created a shift in architecture style to something a bit more modern.

These next architects laid the foundations for architecture's most notable era, the Modern era.

Otto Wagner 1841-1918

Otto Wagner

Otto Wagner is the founder of the modern movement. Plain and simple. In many of his later works, Wagner disregarded decoration and stressed the importance of geometry that represents function, and was one of the first architects to use steel and glass to create wide open, bright spaces.

Austrian Postal Savings Bank

Photo Credit: Jorge Royan

His most famous works include the Austrian Postal Savings Bank and the Church of St. Leopold.

Church of St. Leopold

Photo Credit: Bwag

Quote: “Something Impractical cannot be beautiful.”

Walter Gropius 1883-1969

Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus school in Germany. He is the founder of the international style and worked under Peter Behrens alongside Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, and Le Corbusier.

Bauhaus school in Dessau

Photo Credit: Spyrosdrakopoulos

His most famous of his long list of works include the Bauhaus school in Dessau, and the Walter Gropius House in Interbau Apartment Blocks in Berlin.

Walter Gropius Haus

Photo Credit: Manfred Brückels

Quote: “Architecture begins where engineering ends.”

Louis Sullivan 1856-1924

Louis Sullivan

Louis Sullivan is known as the father skyscrapers. Although not creating the first, he definitely created his fair share through his principles that later created the First Chicago School in architecture.

He is most known for his intricate design and the phrase “form follows function”.

Prudential Building

Many of his works are still being used. His most notable include the Prudential Building in Buffalo, New York, and his “jewel-box banks” more specifically the People’s Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Jewel Box Banks

Photo Credit: JohnTheBear

Quote: "It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic...that life is recognizable in [A building’s] expression, that form ever follows function.”

Frank Lloyd Wright 1867-1959

Frank Lloyd Wright

He is labeled as the Greatest American Architect in History and continues to influence architects directly through his Taliesin Fellowship.

Fallingwater, Pennsylvania

Photo Credit: Daderot

FLW’s most famous works include Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, and the Guggenheim in New York City. However, all of his works are remarkable.

Guggenheim in New York City

Photo Credit: Jean-Christophe Benoist

Some of his lesser known works include the unbuilt “Mile High Illinois”, and the “Solar Hemicycle” in Hawaii.

Mile High Illinois

This royal palace of the city of Isfahan was originally created as gates that lead to the vast palace that spread from the Naqsh-e Jahan Square to the Chahar Baq Boulevard.

Solar Hemicycle

Quote: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”

Le Corbusier 1887-1965

Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier, originally Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, is.. Well… where do I start.

He was a genius architect and perhaps the most important architect of the 1900’s. “Corbs” as we call him spent much of his early life traveling, looking for inspiration as he was never content with the built environment.

Villa Savoye

Photo Credit: Valueyou

His most works include Villa Savoye, which exhibited his 5 points of architecture, and Unité d’habition.

Unite d’habition

Quote: “A house is a machine for living in.”

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe 1886-1969

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

Where Le Corbusier defined what Modern Architecture could be, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (shortened to mies) defined what modern architecture should be.

Mies was a former Bauhaus director that fled from Nazi Germany and settled in Chicago where many of his famous works came to be and where he defined his minimalist architectural style

S.R. Crown Hall

Photo Credit: Joe Ravi

His works truly are poetic and innovative. His most famous of these works are S.R. Crown Hall at Illinois Institute of Technology, and the German Pavilion at Barcelona.

German Pavilion

Photo Credit: Ashley Pomeroy

Quote: "Less is More"

Louis Kahn 1901-1974

Louis Kahn

Louis Kahn pushed the boundaries of what modern architecture and the built environment could be.

His massive concrete works and experimental opening and apertures not only brought brutalism to the United States, but also created a precedent for what is possible with concrete and modern educational facilities.

Salk Institute

Photo: Naquib Hossain

His most famous works that you can still visit are the Bangladesh National Parliament buildings, and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

Bangladesh National Parliament buildings

Quote: "A great building must begin with the unmeasurable…”

Phillip Johnson 1903-2005

Phillip Johnson

Towards the end of the modern era many architects were shifting away from modern ideas of volume and experimenting with more known forms and scales.

One Architect right on this cusp was Phillip Johnson, the first architect to win the Pritzker Prize.

Glass House

Photo Credit: Staib

As a practicing architect from the modern era all the way to the early 2000s, Phillip Johnson had to adapt to many different styles and technologies. That's exactly what put him on this list.

Beck Residence

Notable works by Phillip Johnson include the Glass House (1949) and Beck Residence (1964)

Quote: "Architecture is the art of how to waste space."

I. M. Pei 1917-2019

I. M. Pei

Pei is another one of those architects who was right on the cusp of the Modern Transition into Post-Modern architecture.

While studying at Harvard, research many new and rising architects at the time like Le Corbusier. This and his friendship with Walter Gropius created I.M. Pei's unique mixture of Bauhaus design and post-modern architecture.

John F. Kennedy Library

Photo Credit: Fcb981

Notable works of I. M. Pei include John F. Kennedy Library, which Pei felt was his most important project, and his Pyramid at the Louvre.

Louvre Pyramid

Photo Credit: Benh Lieu Song

Quote: "You cannot defend your design without knowing what you're designing for."

Postmodern Architecture

As people and cities began recognizing that Modern Architecture rarely actually met the needs of the user’s space and its people, architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown began realizing the power of architectural form as a symbol to its user.

This began a shift in architecture which started the post-modern movement: a reaction to the modern era that is known for its experimentation with well known geometries and how these geometries might fit together to be cohesive.

This was a huge change from the Modern movement and really set the chain of events that created the architecture we have today.

Famous Postmodern Architects

As postmodern architecture took off, the amount of famous architects skyrocketed as the first cold war slowly came to an end and cities, not just in the U.S., began investing more and more into the built environment.

Robert Venturi 1925-2018

Robert Venturi

Robert Venturi and his wife Denise Scott Brown started the postmodern movement with just a few literary works, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning From Las Vegas.

Through these works and his firm, Venturi stressed that buildings should never be purely diagrammatic. He also stressed the importance of buildings reflecting the complex lives of the people who use them.

Venturi House

Photo Credit: Smallbones

His most famous built works are the Venturi House, the building that started postmodernism, and Gordan Wu Hall.

Gordon Wu Hall

Quote: "Less is a bore."

Denise Scott Brown

Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi’s wife, Denise Scott Brown deserves all the recognition for starting the Postmodern movement along with her husband.

However, being a woman in architecture was and still never fair as Denise Scott Brown was never seen as an equal at her own firm she started with Robert Venturi.

In fact, Denise Scott Brown wrote about this very inequality in her essay, Room at the Top? Sexism and The Star System in Architecture.

Denise Scott Brown

Denise Scott Brown

Her most important works include the campus plans for some of the most prestigious American colleges (Brown, University of Michigan, etc.), Provincial Capitol Building and the Seattle Art Museum.

Seattle Art Museum

Photo Credit: Benjamin Benschneider

Quote: ”Architecture cannot force people to connect, it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive.”

Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman fits into this category well, but it is difficult to fit architects into specific categories as we get closer to contemporary architecture as many architects are not restrained to specific style.

Peter Eisenman is one of those architects. He works with the manipulation of known forms and has often been labeled a Deconstructivist.

Memorial for the Murdered Jews

Photo Credit: Metoc

His most famous works include the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Wexner Center For the Arts at Ohio State University.

Wexner Center

Photo Credit: Wexner Center for the Visual Arts and Fine Arts Library

Quote: “The Architecture we remember is that which never consoles or comforts us.”

The Architecture of Technology and Place: Contemporary Architecture

As I mentioned before, contemporary architecture is a little hard to define because there are so many different things going on, so many different practices, all with their own style.

Currently, we are in an era of Parametric Architecture, and are discovering so many new forms that could have never been done without a computer.

However, what really defines Contemporary Architecture is the importance placed on place and context as a design priority; making every design vastly different.

Famous Architects Today

There are so many famous architects these days that are practicing so many different styles of architecture and that can be explained easily.

There have been so many famous architects since the 90’s because of the way buildings are documented and shared on phones, on the internet, and through tourism.

This has created the “star-architect” or “Starchitect”.

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry

The first to be one of these “Starchitects” was Frank Gehry. If you’ve seen a Frank Gehry design, or him holding up his middle finger, then you know why.

Talk about a work of art, his projects take advantage of material properties on a model scale and then scale them up by a thousand.

His projects are so complex, Its a wonder that they ever get built.

Dancing House

Photo Credit: Dino Quinzani

These complex projects include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Dancing house in Prague.

Guggenheim at Bilbao

Photo Credit: PA

Quote: “I don’t know what people hire architects and then tell them what to do.”

Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas is one of the most influential architects and urbanists to date.

He became famous with his work Delirious New York which describes the changing landscape of a city and criticizes the high rise buildings as well as the design process for many contemporary buildings.

Seattle public Library

Photo Credit: Nicola Delfino

His project emphasizes the importance of designing a building in sections and continues to be extremely innovative and functional.

His most famous buildings include the Seattle Public Library (Originally to be one of the first libraries with no books, but was later changed in design) and the Casa Da Musica.

Casa Da Musica

Photo Credit: Felipe Fortes

Quote: “Infrastructure is much more than architecture.”

Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron

Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron

You may have heard of their firm named after them, but what you don’t know is their partnership goes all the way back to their childhood.

It's hard to pin down any style to their work, but one thing that is consistent is the attention to detail in materiality in each of their work.

Bankside Power Station

Photo Credit: Mike Chino

Their most famous of these works are one of their earliest, an adaptive reuse of the bankside power station in London, and one of their latest, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.


Photo Credit: Hackercatxxy

Quote: “Building a city actually means building a place for people to inhabit in the future” - Jacques Herzog

Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio

Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio

These two architects and spouses are constantly pushing architecture to its limits and redefining the role of certain architectural elements.

Blur Building

Photo Credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Their firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro are changing the perception of what the core of a building is and how the facade of the building relates to the core.

New York Highline

Photo Credit: La Citta Vita

Their most famous work of course being the New York Highline, but their most interesting work to me is their Blur Building, and of course their Miss Meatpacking District Meat Gown.

Miss Meatpacking District Meat Gown

Photo Credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Quote: “We like to take impossible things and actually make them happen.” Elizabeth Diller

Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano

Famous for turning a building inside out, Renzo Piano has been innovating in a way that many architects have not.

While many architects have been innovative with form and digital design, Renzo Piano is also innovative in his construction and the connection that his project has with their site.


Photo Credit: Cristian Bortes

This is present to the extreme in two of his projects, The Centro Georges Pompidou, and The NEMO science center in Amsterdam.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Quote: “One of the greatest beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like life starting all over again.”

Zaha Hadid 1950-2016

Zaha Hadid

Many people know Zaha Hadid as the “Queen of the Curve”, but not many people know what these curves stem from.

Zaha Hadid is not just a parametric designer, the narratives for her forms come from her interest in manipulating the human perspective.

I mean, have you ever tried to sketch one of her buildings in perspective? Even if you do it right, it will look like you messed up.


Two projects that exemplify this the best are her KAPSARC building and her Vitra Fire Station.

Vitra Fire Station

Photo Credit: Andreas Schwarzkopf

Quote: “[Architecture] should be able to excite you, to calm you, to make you think.”

Bjarke Ingels

Bjarke Ingels

Bjarke Ingels, to me, is the architect that defines this era of the “starchitect”.

His firm BIG doesn’t just build architecture either, BIG is famous for taking on any project they feel they can innovate with.

Because of his ability to diagram and design from his diagrams, his beautiful forms are based heavily on program organization. This is what makes him stand out, and his diagrammatic forms are amazing.

8 House

Photo Credit: 準建築人手札網站

Every building of his is famous, but the ones that come to mind are his 8 House, and his Amager Resource Center, a factory that has a functioning ski slope on it.


Photo Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj

Quote: “Architecture is about trying to make the world a little more like our dreams”

Jeanne Gang

Jeanne Gang

Jeanne Gang, like Zaha Hadid, is another big name in the world of parametric design.

What sets Jeanne Gang apart from other famous architects in her field is her emphasis on research, both of the Built Environment and the Technologies that are used to design and construct buildings. 

Aqua Tower

Photo Credit: George Showman

Her most famous projects are the Aqua Tower in Chicago, and MIRA in San Francisco.


Photo Credit: Tom Harris

Quote: “Good Ideas come from everywhere. It’s more important to recognize a good idea than to author it.”

Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando is one of those architects famous for his style. I mean, the guy has a concrete construction process that only he and those that construct his buildings are allowed to know about.

But unlike brutalism, his purely concrete structures are famous for being tranquil and peaceful.
His concrete doesn’t make a statement as much as it sings a song. 

Church of Light /

Photo Credit: Bergmann

Some of his projects that sing this song are his Modern Art Museum and Fort Worth Texas, and his Church of Light.

Modern Art Museum

Photo Credit: David Woo

Quote: “My hand is the extension of the thinking process.”

Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor is the context architect.

His designs are heavily rooted in place, surroundings, and atmosphere. However, it is this reason that his designs are so unique and mesmerizing.

Steilneset Memorial

Photo Credit: Stylegar

There is a long list, each project vastly different from the last. Two of his rather famous projects are the 7132 Hotel and the Steilneset Memorial.

7132 Hotel

Quote: “What I try to do is the art of buildings, and the art of building is the art of construction, it is not only about forms and shapes and images.”

Bright Minds That Are Changing the Game: Famous Young Architects

You may have noticed just how old most of these famous architects are.

I mean, it's crazy to think that someone in their 60s and 70s can be so innovative. Especially with today's design technology. Whether they are designing themselves or having a college student make their models, they are famous for their innovation.

I have always been told that you’re a young architect until you’re 55.

To end our exploration of the most famous architects through time, we are going through the up and coming architects that will innovate for the next generation.

Chris and Fei Precht

Chris and Fei Precht

Chris and Fei Precht are among the most famous of the up and coming architects. Fei Precht being the architect and Chris Precht, the innovator.

Precht is revolutionizing the architecture industry by incorporating modular (sometimes moving) parts, vernacular materials, and biodiversity in each project while using some of the most innovative construction techniques in architecture thus far.


Photo Credit: Precht

Studio Precht’s most famous projects are the TelAviv Arcades and the Farmhouse project. You can find all of their projects on their Instagram where they are always posting his fabrication methods.

TelAviv Arcades

Photo Credit: Precht

Quote: “The future is in collaboration and in trying to connect to people outside our industry.”

Sanne van der Burgh

Sanne van der Burgh

Gijs Rikken

Gijs Rikken

These two architects, both practicing at MDRDV, are great examples of rising architects in a firm that has a history of being one of the boldest studios in contemporary architecture.

Their projects are consistently reimaging the textures in the built environment and their relationship to context of a site.

The couch

Photo Credit: Daria Scagliola & Stijn Brakkee

Two of their most famous projects include the Crystal House and The Couch.

Crystal House

Photo Credit: Daria Scagliola & Stijn Brakkee

Who did we miss?

Wow, we covered a lot of history and a lot of famous architects.

The last 2000’s years have seen a lot of different styles and priorities, but architecture is changing faster and faster every single year. Who is your favourite one?

About the Author

Dušan Cvetković is a professional architect from Serbia and official Authorized Rhino Trainer with international experience in the industry. Collaborated with numerous clients all around the world in the field of architecture design, 3D modeling and software education. He's been teaching Rhinoceros3D to thousands of architects through How to Rhino community and various social media channels.