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3 Iconic Architects of the World

Posted by
on October 29, 2014 at 05:05 PM

Recounting some of history's most famous architects - some known for their iconic work or lasting influence, others who have shaken the world with their innovative styles!  Sir. Christopher Wren, Louis Henry Sullivan and I. M. Pei - each a master of a different genre of architecture, stylistically and philosophically!

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Master Architects typically don't get the respect and celebrity of other artists like painters. Yet their work arguably has a greater effect on us in the long term. How so?  Architecture is essentially the art we live in. Even if we've never been in any of the buildings designed by master architects, we've probably been in plenty that incorporate their influences, or their design philosophies. And most of us have certainly seen a large number of such iconic edifices in books! Architects make civilization not only possible, but also beautiful, which is why understanding the works and styles of  the masters becomes so important.

In this feature, we explore some of history's most famous architects. Some are known for their iconic work or lasting influence, while others have shaken the world with their innovative styles. This post aims to highlight the works of masters through the ages, covering centuries and continents, spanning time periods and architectural styles and movements. This piece covers three such stalwarts with different design philosophies, different time periods, and approaches towards architecture, united with a single cause: to bring about a change in the way in which the world perceives architecture, and architects.

Sir Christopher Wren - Images 1, 2, 3, 4

The first in the league of extraordinary architects is Sir Christopher Wren. Under normal circumstances, Wren would probably be known as a as an exceptional architect but he might not have gone down in history as among the most famous architects that ever lived. However, Wren was in the right place, and had the right talent.

Wren, a professor at Oxford (his scientific work was highly regarded by Sir Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal),  came to architecture though his interest in Engineering and Physics. In the 1660s, he was commissioned to design the Sheldonian Theater at Oxford and visited Paris to study French and Italian baroque styles. In 1666, Wren had completed a design for the St. Paul's Cathedral dome. One week after it was accepted, however, the Great Fire of London raged through the city, destroying most of it -- including the cathedral.

The Great Fire created an unexpected opportunity for Wren, and he was soon at work on reconstruction. Although plans for a sweeping reconstruction of the city soon proved too difficult, by 1669, he was appointed surveyor of royal works, which put him in charge of government building projects.- completely radicalizing the city of London as we see it today. Ultimately, he had his hand in designing 51 churches, as well as the Libraries at Trinity and Cambridge Universities, and the eternally famous St. Paul's Cathedral - an important tourist attraction, and an architectural marvel.

Louis Henri Sullivan - Images 5,6,7

Known essentially for being the original follower of the principle of "form follows function," Sullivan was anxious to break free from tradition and became influential in forging a distinctly American architecture - the early signs of Modernist Architecture (for which he was called the Father of Modernism).

As his other contemporaries  started implementing steel to allow for taller structures, the Skyscraper, as we know it today, was born. Sullivan was instrumental in creating a new functional design for these new tall buildings rather than sticking with outmoded traditions. Because of this, Sullivan is known as the "Father of the Skyscraper". Also, Sulllivan has inspired several architects of the era, mainly from Chicago, and the style followed by them has come to be known as the Prairie School; incorporating in a modern language, geometric shapes as well as organic elements. Although most of his work was done in Chicago, his most famous work is the 10-story Wainwright building in St. Louis, built in 1890, and the 16-story Guaranty Building in Buffalo, built in 1894. Another major work is the Carson Pirie Scott and Company building, now known as the Sullivan Centre. 

Ieoh Ming Pei - Images 8, 9, 10

Born in 1917 in China, Ieoh Ming Pei came to the United States in the 1930s to study architecture. Now, three quarters of a century later, The name I.M Pei is synonymous with architecture that is quite ahead of its times.

In his work, Pei strove to bring together the modern and traditional what he rightfully considered and quoted as being ‘ The impossible dream.’ His designs are considered a continuation of the International Style popularized by architects like Le Corbusier. However, he's also known for Brutalism, an offshoot of the International Style that uses bold forms and utilitarian principles. For instance, Pei's large, rectangular concrete blocks, like those used for his National Center for Atmospheric Research, completed in 1967, evidenced Brutalism. Traces of this particular design reform can be seen in all his subsequent works. 

In the 1960s, Pei was selected to design the terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and he gained national recognition in 1974 when he designed the National Gallery of Art's East Building. He is perhaps best known for the controversial glass pyramids in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum, in Paris – an iconographic example of the impact that Pei has had on the world of architecture.

Each of these three architects have impacted the history of architecture and their works stand as highlights of the past and as milestones for the future of design!

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