Famous Architects

Architects are people who design buildings. There are many famous architects throughout history designing iconic structures and changing the face of modern architecture like Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century and Le Corbusier in the 20th century.

Sir Christopher Wren is arguably the most famous British architect of all time. His work can be seen represented in the skylines of the city of London. Much of London's current skyline can be attributed to his work, including the famous St Paul's Cathedral. Wren was born in 1632. His father was a reverend, but his grandfather and great-grandfather were well connected within the royal court and were councilors for Kings Henry VII and Henry VIII. These connections meant that Wren was able to gain a relatively good education for the time at Westminster School and then Oxford University. At an early age Wren showed ability at math and Latin. He showed his ability by solving one of Pascal's proofs and then sending back to him a puzzle of equal complexity.

Wren gained prominence by corresponding with King Charles II on scientific matters and sent him, among other things, a globe accurately resembling the figures of the moon. Because of Wren's considerable intellect he decided to turn his attention to other fields and the influence of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo caused him to turn to architectural design. Wren's first completed designs were the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford and the memorial chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Wren also undertook a study of St Paul's Cathedral between 1662 and 1665 which was prescient bearing in mind that it needed to be rebuilt after the Great Fire of London damaged it in 1666. In 1665, due to the plague sweeping London, Wren traveled to France where he gained a great deal of inspiration from the magnificent buildings there, including the Louvre and also the Palace of Versailles.

After returning to England, Wren continued with his quest to refurbish St Paul's Cathedral. His request was denied, but in September 1666 the cathedral was damaged in the Great Fire of London. However, it was not until 1673 that royal consent was given for Wren to begin work reconstructing the cathedral. After the design of the cathedral, Wren was known best for his work designing churches, both their exterior and their interior. His most famous works in these aspects included Mary-le-Bow, built in the 1670s, and St. Mary Somerset, Thames Street, erected in 1695. During over two decades, more than 50 churches were designed by him. He was best known for his steeple designs and the variety and beauty of his work.

In the 20th Century, Le Corbusier is generally regarded as the most important, influential and famous architect. Born as Charles Edouard Jeanneret in Switzerland he was, like Wren, a very talented pupil. He gained a lot of experience traveling in the Near and Middle East where many of his ideas were formulated. However, it was his time in Paris in the early 1900s that had a great impact on him and inspired a love of art and architecture. He began his career as an architect in his home town designing a reinforced concrete construction and also showed an early prototype for mass production of buildings with free-standing pillars and rigid over-sailing floors. In the early 1920s he adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier. He also published a book, Vers une architecture, which was to become the most discussed architectural text of the age.

His early projects in the 1920s included Vaucresson Villa, the Maison La Roche, Maison Cook at Boulogne-sur-Seine, Villa Stein at Garches and the internationally renowned house and apartment block at the 1927 Stuttgart Werkbund Exhibition. He also planned towns making sure that the transport routes and the functional zones of these towns were always emphasized. These principles were eventually written into Charte d'Athenes in 1942. After World War II he began working on the Unite d'Habitation in Marseille which was completed in 1952. The Unite d'Habitation had more than 300 flats, internal streets, duplex maisonettes and internal shopping malls. This design was so influential it was replicated in Berlin, Nantes and Meaux, among other places. Other poorer copies were also produced around the world due to their functionality, even though the originals were criticized. Le Corbusier is likely to be remembered for his legacy of large blocks of apartments which were a revolution for the time.

Famous Architects: Selected full-text books and articles

Masters of Modern Architecture By John Peter G. Braziller, 1958
FREE! Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors & Architects By Giorgio Vasari; E. H. Blashfield; E. W. Blashfield; A. A. Hopkins Charles Scribner's Sons, vol.4, 1902
His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren By Adrian Tinniswood Oxford University Press, 2001
Frank Lloyd Wright: The Masterworks By Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer; David Larkin Rizzoli, 1993
Louis Sullivan By Albert David Bush-Brown; Donald D. Walker George Braziller, 1960
Rowand Anderson: The Premier Architect of Scotland By Sam McKinstry Edinburgh University Press, 1991
Richard Meier, Architect By Kenneth Frampton; Joseph Rykwert Rizzoli, 1998
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