Who’s who in today’s architecture?

By Sergio González | 11:48

Cathedral of Brasilia by Oscar Niemeyer

Everybody knows the Mona Lisa is da Vinci’s and can tell Van Gogh’s or Picasso’s unique painting styles, but when it comes to architecture, names easily slip away. Architects shape our lives as few other artists can yet they are often regarded as engineers and the most famous modern architects may be not be so famous for all of us; something our general knowledge deserves to know.

Oscar Niemeyer, the most famous Brazilian architect, gifted us with some unique buildings around the world. If we were to define his creations, we must make a crossed reference between the 60’s James Bond movies like Dr No and some sort of future home idea.

Niemeyer’s works are true pieces of art -he’s called ‘sculptor of monuments’– that run away from ‘the straight line, hard and inflexible’ because ‘curves make up the entire Universe, the curved universe of Einstein’ (Curves of Time: The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer).

Niterói Museum in Rio de Janerio, Niemeyer’s

Niemeyer acquired international attention when he became the main architect of Brasilia, the new capital of Brazil, officially inaugurated in 1960. Built in 41 months, this Herculean project raised a whole new metropolis in the middle of the Brazilian jungle where Niemeyer’s white curvy buildings –National Congress of Brasil, Cathedral of Brasilia and many others– stand as homages to ‘the curves I find in the mountains of my country’; he seems to be talking about the Sugar Loaf.

His passion for making concrete look so beautiful stick in and Niemeyer was hired to build up many iconic buildings, such as UN Headquarters in NY, Edificio Copan in Sao Paulo or Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio. He kept on designed until his passing away in 2012, at the age of 105.

However, as he himself admitted, Niemeyer was highly influenced by Le Corbusier’s work, famous for his crush on the straight line and predilection for cubes and the master of 20th century architecture. Le Corbusier is the big name for famous architects and designers; along with Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright, the modern da Vincis they all look up to. He designed most of the furniture we love nowadays and gave birth to trends such as minimalism -he misregarded ornate to create a cleaner brighter future- or architecture principles such as the Five Points.

part of Calatrava’s ‘City of Sicence and Art in Valencia’, Spain

One of Spain’s most prominent architects is Santiago Calatrava, who clearly likes Niemeyer. Calatrava’s buildings employ steel and modern fiber plastics instead of concrete but the both share passion for curved white building that softly blend into the environment, adding sensuality to our city’s skylines.

Calatrava’s most important contribution to architecture is the use of anatomy in his building. He seeks inspiration in the intricate design of a spine or a skeleton to produce smooth buildings that never go unnoticed. From the Turning Torso in Sweden, a residential skyscraper which floors turn around the sun, to World Trade Center new station hub PATH, that resembles a bird in a child’s hand, his buildings tend to be breathtaking, able to tell a story by themselves.

Der Neue Zollhof in Düsseldorf, Germany, by Frank Gehry

Materials advanced and with them the techniques to blend them giving the chance to Frank Gehry, the most prolific Canadian architect or blacksmith if you may, the chance to hammer titanium into sexy buildings able to shape a city’s destiny. From the Dancing House in Prague to Guggenheim Musem in Bilbao or Marques de Riscal Vineyard in Rioja, both in Spain, his buildings attract tourists from all over the world. Even his private residence in California, a deconstructed symbol, is usually visited by visitors and fans.

Don’t think we have forgotten about Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid or Ming Pei but with Gehry we already entered into a different dimension of fame because you already know who is shaping our present and future landscape.

Who is your favorite architect? 

Photo credit: babasteve

Photo credit: Rodrigo_Soldon

Photo credit: alessandro silipo

Photo credit: John & Mel Kots



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