A figure whose work blurred the line between the mathematical and the aesthetic, French industrial designer, architect, and engineer Jean Prouvé (8 April 1901 – 23 March 1984) is perhaps best remembered for his solid yet nimble furniture designs, as well as his role in the nascent pre-fabricated housing movement. His prowess in metal fabrication inspired the Structural Expressionist movement and helped to usher in the careers of British High-Tech architects Richard Rogers and Norman Foster.
One of the most boldly dissenting voices of our time, architectural and urban theorist Léon Krier (born 7 April 1946) has throughout his career rejected the commonly accepted practices of Modernist Urbanism, and helped to shape the ideals of the New Urbanism movement. Through his publications and city designs, Krier has changed the discourse of what makes a city successful and returned importance to the concept of community.
Known as “the architect of Detroit,” Albert Kahn (March 21, 1869 – December 8, 1942) was one of the most prolific architects in US history, with over 60 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In a career spanning 50 years, Kahn’s body of work contained building types ranging from housing complexes to office buildings to aquariums and styles encompassing Beaux Arts, Georgian and Art Deco. Kahn’s factories for Ford and Packard Motors helped to establish the industrial aesthetic of Detroit and stood in contrast to the similarly inspired Bauhaus movement taking place in Germany.
Until recently, the architecture world largely viewed plastic polymers as inferior building materials, handy for wipe-clean kitchen surfaces, but not practical in full-scale building applications. But with technological innovations driving material capabilities forward, polymers are now being taken seriously as a legitimate part of the architect’s pallet. One of the most widely-used of these materials is a fluorine-based plastic known as ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). Brought into the public consciousness thanks to its use on the facade of PTW Architects‘ Water Cube for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, architects are now realizing the film’s capabilities to express a new aesthetic and replace costlier transparent and translucent materials. It’s most recent and spectacular public appearance was on the 120-foot telescopic shell of The Sheld, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York City.
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.”
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.”