There’s no doubt that one of the best things about architecture is its universality. Wherever you come from, whatever you do, however you speak, architecture has somehow touched your life. However, when one unexpectedly has to pronounce a foreign architect’s name... things can get a little tricky. This is especially the case when mispronunciation could end up making you look less knowledgeable than you really are. (If you're really unlucky, it could end up making you look stupid in front of your children and the whole world.)
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 22 architects with names that are a little difficult to pronounce, and paired them with a recording in which their names are said impeccably. Listen and repeat as many times as it takes to get it right, and you’ll be prepared for any intellectual architectural conversation that comes your way.
1. Adolf Loos
2. Antoni Gaudí
Remember to place your emphasis on the “í.”
5. David Adjaye
6. Eero Saarinen
Finns are notorious for their elongated vowel sounds—be sure to exaggerate!
8. Juhani Pallasmaa
Once again, the elongated vowels!
9. Jørn Utzon
10. Kazuyo Sejima
11. Kenzō Tange
12. László Moholy-Nagy
In Hungarian, one’s family name is said first, so you may also come across "Moholy-Nagy László." However, after decades working at the Bauhaus in Germany and then in the US, he adopted the Western name order.
13. Le Corbusier
14. Luis Barragán
Barragán is all about rolling your “rrr” sound.
15. Ma Yansong (Mǎ Yánsōng)
In Mandarin, there are 4 main tones that can result in 4 different meanings of the same character. Hitting the right tone is the key to getting this name right.
16. Mies van der Rohe
In German, the “e” at the end of “Rohe” is not silent.
17. Moshe Safdie
18. Pierre de Meuron
19. Smiljan Radić
Although Radić is a Chilean architect, he is of Croatian descent, lending his name a pronunciation that certainly isn’t Spanish.
20. Vo Trong Nghia
21. Wolf D. Prix
"Prix" is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled—not like the "prix" in "Grand Prix" as many seem to believe.
Anyone we've missed out? Comment with any names you find difficult to pronounce, and we can try to figure it out for you in a future article.