27 Songs With Architectural Shout-Outs

Architecture, like music, inspires us daily. Our sister site ArchDaily Brasil, in partnership with Spotify, created an architecture- and urbanism-themed playlist, with shout-outs to cities, buildings and even architects themselves. In the list you'll find everything from David Bowie singing about Philip Johnson and Richard Rogers, to Laurie Anderson citing Buckminster Fuller and the Beatles fretting over a visit to an apartment.

Listen to the playlist after the break and add songs with architecture shout-outs in the comments. 

Laurie Anderson - The Big Top

American artist Laurie Anderson portrays the revolutionary architectural and urban vision of Buckminster Fuller.

When Buckminster Fuller came to Canada, he kept asking the same question: 
“Have you ever really considered how much your buildings actually weigh?” 
The Canadians took this very seriously. (Hey, we never thought of that!) 
He showed them pictures of domed cities, cities with no basements, no foundations. 
Cities that could be moved in a minute. 
Portable cities.
Portable towns.

Domo "Fly's Eye" de Buckminster Fuller © John Warren

Talking Heads - Don’t Worry About the Government

David Byrne is perhaps most aware of the key roles of architecture and art that "affects the way we see ourselves in the city and how we relate to each other."

It's over there, it's over there
My building has every convenience
It's gonna make life easy for me
It's gonna be easy to get things done
I will relax alone with my loved ones

dEUS - The Architect

dEUS depicts the ego and all the power of architects in this extremely sincere song. It is likely that most architects can identify with at least a portion of these lyrics.

What is the architect doing
He is by the riverside
What is he thinking out there
He is committing egocide

David Bowie - Thru These Architect's Eyes

Bowie needs no introduction and when he sings of great masters such as Philip Johnson and Richard Rogers we like him even more.

Stomping along on this big Philip Johnson
Is delay just wasting my time
Looking across at Richard Rogers
Scheming dreams to blow both their minds

Imagem cortesia de Royal Academy of Arts. Divulgação da Exposição “Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out”

The Beatles - Norwegian Wood

One of the Beatles probably visited the home of a fan of minimalist architecture. Apparently, it was not a very comfortable experience.

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me
She showed me her room, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair

The Decemberists - Here I Dreamt I was an Architect

If you are reading this, you too have probably dreamt at some point of being an architect (if you aren't one already). Here's The Decemberists version of this dream.

And I am nothing of a builder 
But here I dreamt I was an architect 
And I built this balustrade 
To keep you home, to keep you safe 
From the outside world 
But the angles and the corners 
Even though my work is unparalleled 
They never seemed to meet 
This structure fell about our feet 
And we were free to go 

Pavement - The Hexx

The practice of architecture is, at times, one filled with frustration. 

Architecture Students are like virgins with an itch they cannot scratch
Never build a building until you're fifty what kind of life is that?

The White Stripes - Little Room

The White Stripes explore some scale problems in this 50-second song.

Well you're in your little room
and you're working on something good
but if it's really good
you're gonna need a bigger room
and when you're in the bigger room
you might not know what to do
you might have to think of
how you got started
sitting in your little room

Kamau e Instituto - Poesia de concreto

Brazilians Kamau e Instituto portray the hidden worlds of a city by highlighting the inequalities that exist within.

Algum teto de concreto da cidade, abriga o restante
da liberdade semelhante a que escorreu pela sargeta da calçada
se escondeu entre as paredes ou partiu pra outra
morreu de fome de frio de sede
pois sem abrigo não há, pra onde voltar
pra poder descansar e pensar
na estratégia pra continuar lutando pra manter a liberdade que se tem

Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe. Imagem cortesia de 375parkavenue.com

Gnarls Barkley - Feng Shui

What do you say about Gnarls Barkley song that quotes Mies van der Rohe?

In this house the decor is obvious obscure. 
It's clearly the theory of Less is More.

Underworld - Mmm skyscraper I love you

Here is Underworld's ode to high-rise buildings.

Mmm skyscraper I love you. mmm skyscraper I love you.
Thirty thousand feet above the earth. its a beautiful thing.

Elvis Costello - Hoover Factory

The great composer Elvis Costello covers heritage and gentrification issues when he sings about the possible hipster destination, Hoover Factory.

Green for go, green for action
From Park Royal to North Acton
Past scrolls and inscriptions like those of the Egyptian age
And one of these days the Hoover factory
Is gonna be all the rage in those fashionable pages

Caetano Veloso - Sampa

Speaking of gentrification, São Paulo comes to mind. Here Caetano has beautifully portrayed all of the feelings that a city can inspire in people.

Alguma coisa acontece no meu coração
Que só quando cruza a Ipiranga e a avenida São João
É que quando eu cheguei por aqui eu nada entendi
Da dura poesia concreta de tuas esquinas
Da deselegância discreta de tuas meninas

Something happens in my heart
Only when it crosses Ipiranga and São João Avenue
When I got here I didn't understand anything
Not the concrete poetry of your street corners
Not the discreet inelegance of your girls

Vista aérea de São Paulo. Image © Paul Clemence

Tom Zé - A Briga do Edifício Itália e do Hilton Hotel

Speaking of São Paulo, we could not overlook the wonderful fight described by Tom Zé between two of the biggest icons of Paulista architecture. The words are masterful, indulging in the history and beauty of the two buildings.

O Edifício Itália
era o rei da Avenida Ipiranga:
alto, majestoso e belo,
ninguém chegava perto
da sua grandeza.
Mas apareceu agora
o prédio do Hilton Hotel
gracioso, moderno e charmoso
roubando as atenções pra sua beleza.

The Itália building
was the king of Ipiranga Avenue:
Tall, majestic and handsome,
noone came close to its greatness.
But now the Hilton Hotel building showed up
elegant, modern and charming,
stealing attention with its beauty

Chico Science & Nação Zumbi - A Cidade

Continuing with more Brazilian songs, the atomic maracatu Chico Science and Zombie Nation could not be left out. "The City" is certainly a nice summary of what conforms an urban environment.

E a cidade se apresenta
Centro das ambições
Para mendigos ou ricos
E outras armações
Coletivos, automóveis,
Motos e metrôs
Trabalhadores, patrões,
Policiais, camelôs

The city presents itself
as the center of ambition
To the bums or rich people,
and other types of scammers.
Buses, Cars,
Motorcycles and Metros,
Workers, bosses,
policemen and street vendors

China - Arquitetura da Vertigem

This song by China portrays real estate speculation in Recife, but it could easily fit in many other urban centers.

Verticalização por metro quadrado
De muros altos, olhos tensos pra guardar o medo
Que mora ao lado

Vertilicalization per square meter

High walls, strained eyes to keep fear
Who lives next door

Criolo - Fermento pra Massa

Criolo depicts simple urban mobility problems that interfere with breakfast. 

Hoje eu vou comer pão murcho
Padeiro não foi trabalhar
A cidade tá toda travada
É greve de busão, tô de papo pro ar

Bob Marley - Concrete Jungle

Life in the city is chaotic and fraught with tension, nourishing, at times, not-so-positive situations and feelings. 

I said that life must be somewhere to be found
Oh, instead: concrete jungle 
Confusion. Eh!

Museu Solomon R. Guggenheim. Imagem © Flickr CC User Richard Anderson

Simon & Garfunkel - So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright 

In an homage to a great architect, Simon & Garfunkel reveal how much they miss the great Frank Lloyd Wright.

Architects may come and
Architects may go and
Never change your point of view.
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you.

The Cinematic Orchestra - To Build a Home

Wright left an invaluable built legacy, and of one of his most iconic houses, Fallingwater, inspired The Cinematic Orchestra.

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don't feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Our House

Such a cozy room,
The windows are illuminated by the evening sunshine through them,
Fiery gems for you, only for you.
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard

Tom Jobim - Arquitetura de Morar

This song is present on the soundtrack of a documentary about the houses designed by Brazilian architect José Zanine Caldas. It is instrumental, but since it's by one of the masters of Brazilian music, it is on the list.

Capela Espiral / NAP Architects © Koji Fujii / Nacasa & Partners Inc

Robert Wyatt - Catholic Architecture 

Of course religious architecture has been honored in song.

A white house with a folly
A tower attached on the side
A hand painted saint
(Lovingly painted)
Peeps over a high wall
Which surrounds the white house

Black Sabbath - Spiral Architect

When Ozzy Osbourne sings about architecture, we turn the music up.

Watching eyes of celluloid
Tell you how to live
Metaphoric motor-replay
Give, give, give!
Laughter kissing love
Is showing me the way
Spiral city architect
I build, you pay

Guster - Architects & Engineers

We could not forget this essential shout-out to the great works of architects and engineers. However Guster warns us, sometimes a building can be a trap.

So the architects and the engineers 
Build their monuments, make their souvenirs 
We are occupants 
It's a trap, this town 
We are burning up 
We are fading out 
We are shooting stars 

Owl City - Designer Skyline

The delightful pop of Owl City harnesses an architectural metaphor to describe falling for someone.

Affection, the gifted architect
Is making a draft and beautiful design
The options and possibilities
Are endless when we connect and re-align
Collections of books and documents
Arise and parade around my cluttered desk
Re-working the math and measurements
Until I'm convinced these plans are picturesque
Like mountains in the Midwest

Vinícius de Moraes - A Casa

As a special bonus, we could not miss "The House" by Vinicius de Moraes. After all, a classic is a classic.

Era uma casa
Muito engraçada
Não tinha teto
Não tinha nada
Ninguém podia
Entrar nela, não
Porque na casa
Não tinha chão

It was a very funny house

There was no roof,
there was nothing
Nobody could get into it, no
Because in the house
there was no floor

Think there's a song missing from the list? Feel free to suggest them in comments! And follow ArchDaily Brasil on Spotify.

About this author
Cite: Delaqua, Victor. "27 Songs With Architectural Shout-Outs" 30 Aug 2016. ArchDaily. (Trans. AD Editorial Team) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/794265/27-songs-with-architectural-shout-outs> 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.