40 Most Famous Architects of the 21st Century

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Architecture begins with an idea – and the maestros of architecture not only set out on radical journeys into the unknown; they also made it back with gems of sheer beauty and incredible ingenuity.

I dared to make a list of 40 indisputably famous 21st Century architects who have shaped the iconic and memorable buildings of our generation. Initially, I wanted to make a countdown from 40 to 1, but I conceded to the fact that architecture and architects cannot be ranked – that design has an obvious subjectivity associated with it. So I will instead arrange my list alphabetically, from A to Z and trust that I have captured the outliers of the architecture today. And whilst the very concept of ‘stararchitecture’ is a hot subject in design and architecture circles; let’s put our differences aside and celebrate these men and women – even if it’s just for their ability to stand out.

Álvaro Siza

© Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira (born 25 June 1933) is a Portuguese architect and architectural educator, internationally known as Álvaro Siza. He graduated in architecture in 1955, at the former School of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. He completed his first built work (four houses in Matosinhos) even before ending his studies in 1954, the same year that he started his private practice in Porto. In 1992, he was awarded the Pritzker Prize for the renovation project that he coordinated in the Chiado area of Lisbon, a historic commercial sector that was all but completely destroyed by fire in August 1988. Siza believes that architects don’t invent anything, that they just transform reality – a philosophy that saw the jury citation for his 1992 Pritzker Prize state that, “Like the early Modernists, his shapes, moulded by light, have a deceptive simplicity about them; they are honest.”

Expo’98 Portuguese National Pavilion

© Flickr CC user Pedro Moura Pinheiro

The Building on the Water

© Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Antoine Predock

© 2007 Vladimir Paperny

Antoine Predock (born 1936 in Lebanon, Missouri) is an American architect based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the Principal of Antoine Predock Architect PC – a studio that he established in 1967. Predock attended the University of New Mexico and later received his Bachelor of Architecture from Columbia University.

Predock first gained national attention with the La Luz community in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and later the Nelson Fine Arts Centre at Arizona State University became his first nationally won design competition. Predock’s work includes the Turtle Creek House, built in 1993 for bird enthusiasts along a prehistoric trail in Texas; the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College and a new ballpark for the San Diego Padres. In 2006, he won the AIA Gold Medal. And in 2007, Predock was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

© Aaron Cohen/CMHR-MCDP

Trinity River Audubon Centre

© Sean Fitzgerald

Ben van Berkel

© UNStudio

Ben van Berkel (born in 1957) is a Dutch architect and founding partner of the internationally acclaimed architectural practice – UNStudio. He studied architecture at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam; and later at the Architectural Association in London, where he received his AA Diploma with Honours in 1987.

In 1988 he and his wife, Caroline Bos, set up an architectural practice in Amsterdam named Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau, which realized, amongst others projects, the Karbouw office building, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam. In 1998 van Berkel and Bos relaunched their practice as UNStudio, where UN stands for “United Net” in a bid to acknowledge the collaboration of the architectural design process.

Ben van Berkel has lectured and taught at many architectural schools around the world. Before he became Professor Conceptual Design at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 2001, he was Visiting Professor at Columbia University, Princeton University and Harvard University. And in 2011 Ben van Berkel was appointed the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Central to his teaching is the inclusive approach of architectural works integrating virtual and material organisation and engineering constructions. His most notable recent buildings include Theatre Agora, Mercedes-Benz Musuem and the W.I.N.D. House.

Theatre de Stoep

© Jan Paul Mioulet

Theatre Agora

© Iwan Baan

Bernard Tschumi

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

Bernard Tschumi (born 25 January 1944) is an architect and educator who is commonly associated with deconstructivism. Son of the well-known architect Jean Tschumi, born of French and Swiss parentage, he works and lives in New York City and Paris. He studied in Paris and at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where he received his degree in architecture in 1969.

Tschumi has taught at Portsmouth Polytechnic in Portsmouth, UK, the Architectural Association in London, the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, Princeton University, the Cooper Union in New York and Columbia University where he was Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation from 1988 to 2003. His first notable project was the Parc de La Villette, a competition project he won in 1983. Other projects include the New Acropolis Museum, Rouen Concert Hall, and Bridge in La Roche-sur-Yon.

New Acropolis Museum

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

Alesia Museum

© Christian Richters
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  • PrinceAyOkuns

    Wonderful co-creator & re-designer of environment with The Almighty…am going to be one of them…by His grace

  • Hafedh Yahya

    Congrats Samuel for this interesting collection of information. however you miss some information about the origins of some architect like Zaha she was born in Iraq /Mosul. great job thank you again

  • nick mata

    If we will post our architectural works here, i guess we’ll put our best works for others to see as an inspiration and maybe justify “award winning”… Where are the best works of Shipla Architects being an award winning architect?

  • Manuel Marichal

    Kudos, Samuel, getting the most 40 famous in one
    list is not easy, but a few good names could be left out the list. I suggest you
    add (10) ten more and make the list with 50 including: IM Pei,
    Nicholas Grimshaw, Michael Hopkins, KenzoTange, Craig Edward Dykers &
    Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (Snφhetta), Diller Scofidio+Renfro (RS+R), Coop
    Himmelblau, Arata Isozaki and Adrian Smith+Gill Gilles (AS+GG)
    And by the way, Burj Khalifa design credits goes to Adrian Smith who left SOM in 2006 to start his own firm with Gill Gilles known as AS+GG Architecture in Chicago

    • Joe_3

      Sou Foujimoto, SANAA, Chipperfield (huge miss from the list of 40), David Adjaye, Aires Mateus, Souto De Moura, John Mcaslan.. A few from the 40 also belong in a 20th century list…

  • Matt Dorry

    Of course, with her death, it’s only natural Zaha be at the end of the list. I’m surprised I made it to the end without violently vomiting. It’s disgusting. All of it. These people are spiritually and philsophically bankrupt, if not morally, if they think there’s any beauty or worth or truth to the monstrosities they erect.

    • yoda

      The list is created in an alphabetical order you fool.. Zaha is in the end coz her name starts with a Z.. not coz she is dead.

  • Phaidon_Shreve

    What? No Alberto Campo Baeza. Start over.

  • Çağatay Yanaraltın

    no alberto campo baeza but bjarke lmao