One of the most highly regarded architects of the 20th century, Walter Gropius (18 May 1883 – 5 July 1969) was one of the founding fathers of Modernism, and the founder of the Bauhaus, the German "School of Building" that embraced elements of art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography in its design, development and production.
In the architecture world, few designers can claim to have a more clearly-defined style than Daniel Libeskind (born May 12, 1946). Much of Libeskind's work is instantly recognizable for its angular forms, intersecting planes, and frequent use of diagonally-sliced windows, a style that he has used to great effect in museums and memorials—but which he has equally adapted to conference centers, skyscrapers, and shopping malls.
As lead designer of the Lever House and many of America’s most historically prominent buildings, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Gordon Bunshaft (9 May 1909 – 6 August 1990) is credited with ushering in a new era of Modernist skyscraper design and corporate architecture. A stern figure and a loyal advocate of the International Style, Bunshaft spent the majority of his career as partner and lead designer for SOM, who have referred to him as “a titan of industry, a decisive army general, an architectural John Wayne.”
As the first ever Spanish architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, Rafael Moneo (born 9 May 1937) is known for his highly contextual buildings which nonetheless remain committed to modernist stylings. His designs are regularly credited as achieving the elusive quality of "timelessness"; as critic Robert Campbell wrote in his essay about Moneo for the Pritzker Prize, "a Moneo building creates an awareness of time by remembering its antecedents. It then layers this memory against its mission in the contemporary world."
Led by Jacques Herzog (born 19 April 1950) and Pierre de Meuron (born 8 May 1950), most descriptions of Herzog & de Meuron projects are almost paradoxical: in one paragraph they will be praised for their dedication to tradition and vernacular forms, in the next for their thoroughly modern innovation. However, in the hands of Herzog & de Meuron this is no paradox, as the internationally renowned architectural duo combine tradition and innovation in such a way that the two elements actually enhance each other.
Born on the 5th of May 1944 in what was at the time the French Protectorate of Morocco, French architect Christian de Portzamparc had doubts about continuing with architecture while studying in the 1960s, questioning modernist ideals and the discipline's lack of freedom compared to art. Instead, he spent a decade attempting to understand the role of architecture, before returning triumphantly with a new model of iterative urban design that emphasized open neighborhoods based around landmark "poles of attraction" and a varied series of high-profile commissions that combine a sense of purpose and place.
Throughout her career, social activist and urban writer Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) fought against corporate globalization and urged post-war urban planners and developers to remember the importance of community and the human scale. Despite having no formal training, she radically changed urban planning policy through the power of observation and personal experience. Her theories on how design can affect community and creativity continue to hold relevance today—influencing everything from the design of mega-cities to tiny office spaces.
Ada Louise Huxtable once described him as “a poet who happens to be an architect.” Italian architect Aldo Rossi (3 May 1931 – 4 September 1997) was known for his drawings, urban theory, and for winning the Pritzker Prize in 1990. Rossi also directed the Venice Biennale in 1985 and 1986—one of only two people to have served as director twice.
Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei (born April 26, 1917), is arguably the greatest living member of the modernist generation of architects. When he received his Pritzker Prize in 1983, the jury citation stated that he "has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms."
One of Sweden’s most esteemed living architects, Gert Wingårdh (born 26 April 1951) brought Swedish architecture out of the tradition of the International Style and into contemporary times with his playful design spirit and love of eye-catching materials. With his use of bright colors and geometric motifs, his recent buildings have been described as "Maximalist" or "Modern Baroque."
Known for his sensuous materiality and attention to place, 2009 Pritzker Laureate Peter Zumthor (born April 26, 1943) is one the most revered architects of the 21st century. Shooting to fame on the back of The Therme Vals and Kunsthaus Bregenz, completed just a year apart in 1996 and 1997, his work privileges the experiential qualities of individual buildings over the technological, cultural and theoretical focus often favored by his contemporaries.
Winner of the 1942 Acadamy Award for Best Special Effects, William Pereira (April 25, 1909 – November 13, 1985) also designed some of America's most iconic examples of futurist architecture, with his heavy stripped down functionalism becoming the symbol of many US institutions and cities. Working with his more prolific film-maker brother Hal Pereira, William Pereira's talent as an art director translated into a long and prestigious career creating striking and idiosyncratic buildings across the West Coast of America.
British architect and Pritzker Laureate Sir James Stirling (22 April 1926 – 25 June 1992) grew up in Liverpool, one of the two industrial powerhouses of the British North West, and began his career subverting the compositional and theoretical ideas behind the Modern Movement. Citing a wide-range of influences—from Colin Rowe, a forefather of Contextualism, to Le Corbusier, and from architects of the Italian Renaissance to the Russian Constructivist movement—Stirling forged a unique set of architectural beliefs that manifest themselves in his works. Indeed his architecture, commonly described as "nonconformist," consistently caused annoyance in conventional circles.
If asked to name buildings by German architect and designer Peter Behrens (14 April 1868 – 27 February 1940), few people would be able to answer with anything other than his AEG Turbine Factory in Berlin. His style was not one that lends itself easily to canonization; indeed, even the Turbine Factory itself is difficult to appreciate without an understanding of its historical context. Despite this, Behrens' achievements are not to be underestimated, and his importance to the development of architecture might best be understood by looking at three young architects who worked in his studio around 1910: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius.
Pritzker Prize winning architect Jørn Utzon (9 April 1918 – 29 November 2008) was the relatively unknown Dane who, on the 29th January 1957, was announced as the winner of the "International competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney’." When speaking about this iconic building, Louis Kahn stated that "The sun did not know how beautiful its light was, until it was reflected off this building." Unfortunately, Utzon never saw the Sydney Opera House, his most popular work, completed.
Though Modernism is sometimes criticized for imposing universal rules on different people and areas, it was Richard J. Neutra's (April 8, 1892 – April 16, 1970) intense client focus that won him acclaim. His personalized and flexible version of modernism created a series of private homes that were—and still are—highly sought after, making him one of the United States' most significant mid-century modernists. His architecture of simple geometry and airy steel and glass became the subject of the iconic photographs of Julius Schulman, and came to stand for an entire era of American design.
Kisho Kurokawa (April 8th 1934 – October 12th 2007) was one of Japan's leading architects of the 20th century, perhaps most well-known as one of the founders of the Metabolist movement of the 1960s. Throughout the course of his career, Kurokawa advocated a philosophical approach to understanding architecture that was manifest in his completed projects throughout his life.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (27 March 1886 – 17 August 1969) is one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, known for his role in the development of the most enduring architectural style of the era: modernism. Born in Aachen, Germany, Mies' career began in the influential studio of Peter Behrens, where Mies worked alongside other two other titans of modernism, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. For almost a century, Mies' minimalist style has proved very popular; his famous aphorism "less is more" is still widely used, even by those who are unaware of its origins.