Architects and their signatures

Architects and their signatures

Editor’s note: We welcome Bob Borson to ArchDaily. We will be presenting periodic updates from his popular blog Life of an Architect, generating a space for conversation among architects.

What does your signature say about you? The way you leave your name behind on a piece a paper tells more about you than just saying “sorry I hit your car but I don’t have insurance“. It should come as no surprise but I don’t subscribe to mystical thinking like being an Aries and that my horoscope tells me to “prepare for an exciting trip” … yeah, right. Getting pushed down the stairs should hardly qualify as an exciting trip. According to those people in the mystical know – how you sign your signature actually does mean something and does provide some insight into the mind behind the name.

Your first name relates to your individual ego – If your first name is larger than your family name, it suggests that you are proud of YOUR OWN accomplishments. However, the larger the first name, the larger the desire to APPEAR important. This can also indicate a low self-esteem.

The Family name projects social status – If your family name is larger than your first name, you take great pride in family achievements and reputation, rather than in your own accomplishments.

Legible signature – If the signature is legible and simple, the writer is unpretentious, honest and straightforward. This person will follow the rules and do as they are told… just the same as when they were in school.

Illegible Signature – If the signature is illegible, the writer may be in such a hurry that they can’t take the time to shape the letters properly… doctors, executives, movie stars. An illegible signature is often a sign of a big ego… someone who expects others to KNOW who they are. This person also wants to keep their personal lives private and shielded from the outside world.

Check out some of the world’s most famous architects’ signatures after the break.

Looking at the signature of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better know as Le Corbusier, it’s obvious that the beginning stroke of the “L” stands for pilotis and that the sweeping broad stroke of the “C” clearly stands for roof top garden – the 1st and 5th point in his Five Points of Architecture made famous in the book “Vers une Architecture“. The clearly defined first “r” indicates a love for stainless steel, while the casual, almost sloppy final “r” is a nod towards his famous quote: “Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois.”

To anyone paying attention, the over-sized “R” in the signature of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe indicates obvious pride in family accomplishments. The vertical strokes that are loosely tied together indicate the same skin and bones approach he took towards his architecture. The lengthy lead in stroke to the “M” is an indication of his loathing for the Nazi’s who thought his work was not “German enough”, something that eventually lead to frustration over evaporating commissions and brought him to the states.

The signature of Tadao Ando tells us that “I am a superstar and only need to go by one name …. like Cher”. The separation of the last letter in the signature, the ’O‘, and it’s exaggerated proportions and separation from the ‘And‘, is a pop cultural reference to the American Classic song “… and Bing-O was his name-O” while the upwardly sloping tilt of the signature tells us that Tadao Ando had humble origins but expects to have his name in polished chrome and lights. The dot over the “n”, since there isn’t a letter there that needs a dot, tells us that “I can knot reelly spell all that wel”… Then again, he doesn’t need to, does he?

This is the signature of Renzo Piano – not that you would ever be able to tell. Clearly the signature of an international superstar, acknowledged as the recipient of the Knight Grand Cross, Pritzker Architecture Prize, AIA Gold Medal, Kyoto Prize and the Sonning Prize. He has more important things to do than sign his name (except on the back of the checks he is depositing into his bank account). What you may not know is that the two dots at the end of his signature are a homage to Egyptian hieroglyphics, specifically “Apophis” the Snake God and the God of Chaos – an ironic nod towards the buildings he creates which are notable for their clarity and serenity.

The extremely legible signature of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, famous for pioneering the formal possibilities of reinforced concrete, show that he is a man among the common man despite the vertically rising tilt of his signature. The loop at the bottom of the capital “O” in Oscar, the hook present in the “N” in Niemeyer, but the lack of any embellishment in the “y“ show that he is a man of detail, prone to folly at times. Also, looking at the final “r” you know that he believes that “… sofas are not bourgeois, but are – in fact – very comfortable and good for afternoon siestas.” I would have to agree with him on that.

What can you say about the signature of Richard Meier? Completely illegible (does it say “Texas” at the end??) which is a clear indication of assumed stardom and self-importance … but the squiggly line embellishment at the bottom (closely resembling a sad clown smile) is an attempt after the fact of a strong desire for our love and acceptance. Meier has built a career based on the theories of others – particularly Le Corbusier – and the casual self-importance and self-loathing present in the beginning, middle and end of this signature speak volumes … and a love of the color white.

Big first name is an indication of ego and everyone knows Frank Lloyd Wright had a big ego. The squished together”Lloyd Wright” show that there were no family accomplishments of note that were of any importance to Frank and that this was his show and everything was about him (just ask any of his clients…)

Looking at this signature, you can tell it is the signature of an unknown and unproven architect, loved by maybe 4 people, 1 dog and 1 aged cat (yes, you can tell all from the signature if you know what to look for). The symmetry of scale comparing the first name to the last are an indication of extreme loyalty. The marching “R” at the beginning tells you that this person knows how to enter a room … but the lengthy concluding stroke tells you that he doesn’t know how or when to leave it. The boldness of the strokes indicate the appearance of confidence, but the combination of cursive versus block print tell you that this person hasn’t figured out who they are yet. What you are left with after studying this signature as a whole is that this person likes to party …. as long as there aren’t too many people present.

What does your signature tell you about yourself, or more importantly, what does it tell others?

Original article here: Architects and their signatures

About this author
Cite: Bob Borson. "Architects and their signatures" 07 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.