The Most Over-Rated Architects + Architects who deserve more credit


I recently conducted a survey to find out the answer to these questions – Who is the most over-rated Architect? and Which Architect deserves more credit? Here are my results

I was interested to find out the opinion from many professionals in the industry as to who they thought was the most over-rated Architect. It was fairly obvious to me that the winner would have to be someone well-known in the industry, but who? Also of interest to me, was to find out from the people I follow, who they thought deserved more credit and recognition. There are so many Architects that do amazing work, but the spotlight rarely ever shines on those that deserve it most. I felt by running a survey we could ask who people really feel deserves more credit, instead of hearing and reading about the same Architect’s over and over.

I began the survey on July 12th and ran it for a little under 2 months to ensure I got a good data set – 300 were surveys completed – thanks to the help of my awesome Archi-Ninja readers and twitter followers : )

Here were the survey questions asked:

  1. Who is the most over-rated Architect?
  2. Which Architect deserves more credit/recognition?

Here are the results of the survey:

Top 10 Most Over-rated Architects:

10. FJMT

FJMT is one of Australia’s most awarded firms. One criticised project is their “monster” security building for ASIO, as described by Romaldo Giurgola. The building is said to ruin sight lines to Australia’s Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin.

9. Le Corbusier

A Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier is a pioneer of Modern Architecture. Since his death, some of his urban design works have been criticised for being destructive and wasteful. Le Corbusier is one of the most studied Architects by Architectural students – Being top of mind isn’t always a good thing (it can get you stuck on lists like this!)

8. Santiago Calatrava

A Spanish architect with his primary office in Switzerland, Calatrava is now considered to be among the Architectural “elite”. Caltrava’s work in Bilbao was criticised for being impractical, with a lack of facilities, including a bridge with glass tiles which are prone to break and get slippery under local weather. His bridge in Venice had it’s opening ceremony cancelled with many considering the project unsuitable and a waste of money.

7. BIG Bjarke Ingels Group

A Danish Architect, Bjarke Ingels takes a playful and practical approach to architecture with his works. Perhaps this approach in itself is why B.I.G. is most criticised – using a comic to explain the behind-the-scenes of Architecture may not have been appreciated by the “old school”. Bjarke Ingels is a strange inclusion in the Top 10 most over-rated architects as he also features in the list of architect’s who deserve more recognition. Perhaps as his firm gains more traction and more attention, so will the group of critics and starchitect-haters in criticising his works. Bjarke Ingels also worked for OMA for a short while, and perhaps many can see elements of his works that could give him an unfortunate starchitect resemblance.

6. Peter Eisenman

Eisenman, an American architect, is part of an eclectic group of Architects known as deconstructivists, with his work often criticised for self-promotion. Eisenmen’s Cidade da Cultura de Galicia is one of his more criticised works, described as being “Too expensive, too big, and too short on content.” by Die Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s Merten Worthmann.

5. Norman Foster

An English architect, Foster is the UK’s most prolific builder of landmark buildings. The “Gherkin” (formally known as Swiss Re) one of Foster’s most controversial projects, was erected (pardon the pun) in London, discarding the possibility of restoring a historic building damaged by the I.R.A. which was previously on the site.

4. Rem Koolhaas

REM Koolhaas, another starchitect, . His CCTV Building in Beijing has been heavily criticised, slammed by William Drenttell from Design Observer, really hitting home with this line “Building a project of this scale with so much extra steel to support an aesthetic expression seems like a missed opportunity, if not something completely bordering on civic negligence”.  Zaha Hadid had a stint working under Koolhaas in the 70’s, becoming a partner of OMA in 1977.

3. Daniel Liebskind

Daniel Libeskind is an American architect of Polish-Jewish descent. Some of Libeskind’s most well-known works include the Jewish Museum in Berlin, The Denver Art Museum in the US, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Libeskind has received mounds of media attention, winning the design competition for the the reconstruction project being built on the World Trade Center site.

Many professionals in the industry are critics of Libeskind’s work, with a strong opinion that his buildings don’t take in to account sustainability or the concept of place, and that he is more focused on his brand than the buildings he designs.

3 of Libeskind’s criticised works include:

Super Colossal noted a funny on their blog – Libeskind is often described as a “world renowned architect” and they noticed that the search function on Libeskind’s site finds the words “world renowned architect” over 6,800 times throughout his site. Perhaps its not a coincidence that he is described that way.

daniel-libeskind-projectsLeft: Jewish Museum Berlin, Top Right: Studio Series Villas , Bottom Right: zlota 44

2. Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry is a Canadian Architect based in L.A. Gehry’s works include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Wiestman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and his private residence in Santa Monica, California.
Gehry’s work is criticised by many to be the work of a “starchitect”, with the badge of distinction that it’s a Gehry building gaining attention for the project, more-so than the form and function of the building. The real question is whether Gehry is actually a great architect, or just a popular one.

3 of Gehry’s criticised works include:

  • Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao – the structure may be “pretty and shiny” but it is a poor public space, serving as an “interruption” to the city, failing to take in to account human activity and the city’s culture.
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall – a “carbon copy” of the Guggenheim, and considered another “one note” design by Gehry
  • Experience Music Project – another building wrapped in sheet metal, described by New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp as “something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over, and died.

Gehry’s work is often criticised with claims that they’re a waste of resources, and have functionless designs, often with very little consideration for place and lacking core sustainability and affordability principles.

frank-gehry-projectsLeft: Guggenheim Museum, Top Right: Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bottom-Right: Experience Music Project

300 have spoken… the most over-rated Architect is…



1. Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 in Bagdhah, Iraq. Hadid won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, instantly shooting her to fame. Some of Zaha’s most well-known projects include Vitra Fire Station, the Lfone Pavilion in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and the Mind Zone at the Millenium Dome in London.

The Oxford College Extension Proposal was denied from being built as there were heat concerns; a prime example of a project that doesn’t respond to site and context. Zaha is criticised for the banality of her works, repeating the same design methods with each project, and completely disregarding community and place. In a recent debate, she was even likened to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe – ouch!

3 of Hadid’s criticised works include:

  • 2012 London Olympics Aquatic Centre – criticised for it’s lack of practicality, already 3 times over budget and with a timber ceiling in the pool hall, maintenance has not been catered for.
  • Capital Hill Residence – one comment was that she used the “Clone Stamp Tool” (referencing Photoshop) with a project that is typical of her previous designs, and barely a livable space.
  • Port House Antwerp – many believe that this design doesn’t give respect to the existing building on the site.

zaha-hadid-projectsLeft: Capital Hill Residence, Top-Right: 2012 London Olympics Aquatic Centre, Bottom-Right: Port House Antwerp

Top 10 Architects who deserve more credit

10. Andrew Maynard

One of my favourite architects, Andrew and AMA produce fun and well-designed projects, that deserve to be noticed on a broader scale. One of Andrew’s most favourite projects, CV08 – the “Suburb-eating Robot” gained a lot of traction across popular blogs including ArchDaily and Inhabitat. Read my Interview with Andrew Maynard.

9. Alvaro Siza Viera

A contemporary Portuguese Architect, Viera was awarded the Pritzker prize in 1992 for a commercial renovation project he completed in Chiado, Lisbon, an area completely destroyed by fire in August, 1998. He recently completed the Ibere Camargo Museum.

8. Alejandro Aravena

Selected as one of the 20 essential young architects by Icon, Alejandro Aravena is a promising upcoming Architect.  Pirihueico House by Aravena is a popular recent project.

7. UNStudio

A dutch architectural practice specialising in infrastructural projects. “UN” stands for “United Network” which is reflective of the collaborative nature of UNStudio, a firm made up of individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences from around the world. One of their most recognised projects is the Theatre Agora, in the Netherlands.

6. Shigeru Ban

Based in Japan, Shigeru Ban is quickly getting noticed for his work, most notably his work with recycled paper and cardboard used to house disaster victims. One of Ban’s most famous works is the Nomadic Museum, a temporary structure composed of 156 shipping containers.

5. Renzo Piano

Italian Architect Renzo Piano has already been acknowledged as a recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. One of his most famous early projects was the joint project he did with Richard Rogers, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1977. Piano also gained a lot of attention for his extension at the Art Institute of Chicago the United States second largest museum.

4. David Chipperfield

The work by Architect David Chipperfield is characterised by careful structural simplicity, working on projects from furniture commissions to urban planning projects. Some of Chipperfield’s more recent works include the Anchorage Museum of History & Art, Alaska and the Ansalado City of Cultures in Milan.

3. Bjarke Ingels

Born 1974 in Copenhagen, Denmark, his firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) was founded just 3 years ago in 2006. His projects playful and practical in their approach. In 1998 he won his first competition as a 3rd year student, later going on to work for Rem Koolhaas for the next 3 years.

3 of Ingel’s popular works include:

  • The VM Mountain Dwellings project completed in 2008 received a number of awards and is one of BIG’s most famous and well-known projects.
  • Maritime Youth House also received recognition receiving the Copenhagen Award for Architecture in 2004.
  • Scala Tower, Copenhagen – a rational tower that melds together with the surrounding city

As a young Architect, Bjarke Ingels has achieved great success, notably due to the fact he is able to combine experimentation, social responsibility and hard-headed intelligence to his works.

Watch the very inspiring Bjarke Ingels talk at TED.

bjarke-ingels-projectsLeft: VM Mountain Dwellings, Top-Right: Maritime Youth House, Bottom-Right: Scala Tower

2. Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor is a Swiss architect and is definitely “hot stuff” right now in the Architecture world, winning the 2009 Pritzker Prize. Zumthor has a motivation to design buildings that express emotion and possess presence and personality.

3 of Zumthor’s popular works include:

  • Kunsthaus Bregenz in Bregenz, Austria – a structure made of glass and steel and case concrete endowing the interior of the building.
  • The Thermal Baths in Switzerland – in the remote alpine village Vals, with it’s geometric rigor making it look like a massive rock lodged in the hillside.
  • The recent Brother Clause Field Chappel – where Zumthor used a very unique technique, building a structure around tree trunks, and then burning the timber leaving a charred look (and smell) inside.

Interestingly, a majority of Zumthor’s works aren’t published because he feels that Architecture should be experienced first-hand.

peter-zumthor-projectsLeft: Kunsthaus Bregenz, Top-Right: Thermal Baths in Switzerland , Bottom-Right: Brother Clause Field Chappel

and the voted Architect who deserves more credit is…

1. Toyo Ito

Born in 1941, Toyo Ito is a Japanese Architect who is largely known for his extremely creative and conceptual Architectural works. His works express and manage to represent both the physical and virtual worlds.

Early in his career, two projects which gained significant attention for Ito include White U completed in 1976, and Silver Hut in 1984. Ito’s Yatsushiro Municipal Museum won the 33rd Mainichi Art Award in 1992. The recent Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has received considerable attention.

3 of Ito’s popular works include:

toyo-ito-projectsLeft: Sendai Mediathique, Top-Right: Toyo Ito World Games Stadium , Bottom-Right: Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre

Now over to you…

  • Were you happy with the results of the survey?
  • Who do you think deserved more credit?
  • Do you agree with the most overrated Architects?
  • What are some of your favourite projects / or projects you hate most from the Architects listed?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


48 comments for “The Most Over-Rated Architects + Architects who deserve more credit”

  • http://www.millenniumppl.blogspot.com Jack Self

    Yes! So right!

  • chris moller

    agree with your list of over rated architects – i can think of many more who fit that category… but that is the nature of design media and city marketing these days. I guess there is anyway a much more interesting shift going on which moves us on beyond the stararch phenomena such the huge pool of up and coming talent from the younger generation – in europe the invention of europan has helped this enormously, but also the economic growth in many other places now, such as the rapidly emerging new economies from the Baltic states, South America, or Asia where new things are emerging very quickly.

    As for the ones that deserve more credit Maynard is probably the only one in your list (but again many others i can think of could be added) Neither Zumthor nor Ito need more attention… they are doing just fine – I admire both immensely.

    Perhaps the most underrated architect of the 20th Century is Utzon given what he contributed is so incredibly extra-ordinary. His work is incredibly brave, extremely new, and embraces all the deep lessons and the findings of Aalto, Wright, Gaudi, Nervi, Candela, Saarinen and of course Kahn, yet he brought forth a new language of organic architecture which is evolutionary and mimetic, preceding todays tools and technologies. Of course he was lucky to get this opportunity (largely thanks to Saarinen), but I believe it is his work which in hundreds of years time will be remembered and loved, and perhaps like Gaudi, will be considered a great pioneer of the birth of the 21st century architecture.


    good to see architectural discussion going tabloid – love Who’s top 100 celeb’s.

    suprised icy pole man didn’t submit more survey responses – only no. 10!

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  • J

    Lets see.

    Fjmt – I don’t think they’ve ever been rated.
    Corb – at least the author realises the stupidity of him being on the list
    Calatrava – I would have thought the thing he is “rated” for is the engineering technically stuff
    BIG- He will probably be remembered (along with JDS) as the architects who epitomises this generation of simple ideas diagrammed well and sold to people really well
    Eisenmann – better known as an academic. Not a “deconstructivist”.
    Foster – maybe….very important in british architecture though.
    Rem – THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS. Probably the most important architect and theorist of the last 40 years.
    Leibskind – academic turned architect….people always forget this. Any suggestion that the Jewish Museum is “not of its place” is absurd.
    Gehry – maybe fair enough.
    Zaha – I must say I think the attacking of her is weird and not really clear to me of why. She’s had such a large influence of architecture over the last 20 years and most attacks on her seem like thinly veiled attacks on her character and not her work itself. No one points out that any male architects are arseholes do they?

    And the other way…..

    Maynard – he should be on the other list (if anywhere). A very astute business person who positioned himself in the market well….I don’t see much in his work that is at all exciting architecturally though.

    And all the others receive more than enough “rating”.

    Except Aravena…I don’t know him.

    But who cares…that’s only my opinion.

  • B

    Shigeru Ban should be on the most over-rated list!!! Cardboard structures with steel reinforcing does not constitute architecture 😉

  • http://www.bemakeshift.co.uk Jay

    I find it amusing that BIG is in the overrated and underrated category. You should have a separate category called ‘Just rated right’ and stick them in there.

    For the record, I think REX NYC should have definitely made it into the underrated category.

  • NYC archie student

    IMO, Gehry should be the #1 over-rated architect. His designs across the board are complete failures. The complex at MIT is a nightmare, aesthetically and functionally. I just visited his IAC building on the West Side Highway in NYC. One of the major ideas of that design – the fritted glass – was intended to mediate light through the windows, but it completely misses the mark so that they had to install these ugly shades across the facade.

    SHoP Architects should be on the under-rated list. After Gehry’s design for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn was scrapped, SHoP was able to pick it up and redesign the project. Their proposal is amazing and blows Gehry’s Seuss-land nightmare out of the water.

  • http://walloflight.wordpress.com james

    Ha — hilarious post … yeah, drentell was right about CCTV, it does have some problems

    continuing with the arch and movie theme, here is a post about architecture of rap videos — enjoy:


  • Randy Kaversen

    Libeskind, in particular, is a joke. He’s been churning out the same one-line crud since the over-rated Jewish Museum over 10 years ago. And his work has gone downhill since then. Plus the moron’s wife, Nina, paid Alex Gorlin to design their apartment because she knew what a shitty architect her husband really is!!!

  • Vandji Narabbidi

    Libeskind’s low-grade work is offensive to the mind as well as to the eye. Plus he’s a hypocrite. He deserves the number one through ten spots INCLUSIVE for being such an offensive jackass.

  • J

    @randy – how or why do you think the jewish museum extension was over-rated?

    @vandji – how is libeskind’s work low-grade? and how is he a hypocrite? and how is he an offensive jackass?


    there’s a massive gulf between the jewish museum and everthing else he’s done – he needs more holocaust projects


    ^J – agree on maynard – should be on the young wankitects enamoured by their own competence list. when you get down to the work its just the neat and tidy dullness that most architects hack out all the time.

  • http://ecoastarchreview.com Bradley Swarts

    Glenn Murcutt
    Frank Harmon
    Wiel Arets

  • aa

    More credit;

    From O/S-

    Suppose Design Office- great diverse solutions
    Isay Weinfeld- beautiful spaces and forms

    In Oz-

    John Wardle- beautifully crafted spaces and mostly very tactile
    Nick Tridente- about the only architect in sleepy Adelaide who thinks about design in a pure sense

  • Linda

    I was recently sent this link by a friend which is an interview with Ben van Berkel’s dutch UN studio. I thought you might all be interested. http://www.baunetz.de/talk/crystal/index.php?lang=en&cat=Profil&nr=19

    Thankyou to all the people who have supported the survey and for your continuing support 🙂

  • Dan

    Zaha receives plenty of credit, but her studio is not overrated.

    I like to see Alejandro Aravena on the list.

    As to the comment attacking Shigeru Ban: no. just no. Shigeru Ban are lovely for a combination of talent and social concern.

  • Corey

    Josh Prince-Ramus deserves more credit.

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  • http://estudiantesdearquitectura.cl diego

    totally agree with the overrated list
    totally disagree with the deserve-credit list

  • ryan

    very good!

  • Linda

    Thanks Diego, id have to agree with you in alot of ways with the exception of BIG. Who would be on your deserve-credit list?



  • Linda

    @Chris – thank you for mentioning Utzon. He has absolutely left an extraordinary legacy here in Sydney.


  • http://designtavern.com Henry

    Excellent post, well researched and very informative.

    Definitely agree with the top 3 for each list, though it’s a close one between Hadid and Gehry.

  • Linda

    Thanks Henry!

    The race for 1st place between Hadid and Gehry was very very close.

  • joey

    dont hate zaha… coz you aint zaha

  • John David Carling

    Zumthor = #1
    WTC on the Capital Hill Res. Zaha

  • Harry Lime

    I disagree with the comments about Gehry’s Bilbao not being good public space. I went there last year during a festival, and it was absolutely the place to be; swarming with people on all sides, really the focus point of the city. Of course, it’s kind of the default destination for Bilbanians (Bilbaoites?), but still, it worked very well as a urban activator.

  • Harry Lime

    P.S. @J: Anyone who claims Eisenmann isn’t a deconstructivist clearly doesn’t know his work. He (virtually) founded deconstructivism, long before Wigley and Johnson got there.

  • BEN H

    Siza, so deserves more credit, love his work.

    • Gavin Smitsdorp

      Absolutely ..the Portuguese architects are understated and strong designers.. Koolhouses’ hegemony cannot be ignored..

  • Martin Eide

    Weird list. Bjarke is on both lists :p And also I gotto say that most people on the should have more credit list are getting tons of credit. Not like anyone chose any particular unknown architects. Most of them are as much starchitects as the overrated ones :p

  • http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?id=100000180091792#!/profile.php?id=746513285 vin tiglao

    I agree with that survey, Zaha (who ranked 1 in the most overrated) was recently One of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People. The most stupid people on earth was also listed.

  • Javeria

    absolutely fantastic rating..i agree to a great extent…but in my view,the most deserving should top Peter Zumthor..he has done great sensuous work so far…..

  • http://www.arcilook.com arcilook

    definitely Bjarke Ingels

  • Rafael Vallejo Hagstotz

    What a bout Richard Meier? I think architects tend not to consider him because of his lack of interest upon over describing his work with words. He has one of the most ordered,functional and plastically enhance architecture. I think people just don’t look at him because he’s not really interest on creating not understandable concepts or poetic concepts, bringing words before forms.

  • Tom CHapman

    siza won the pritzker-how much more credit do you need.

  • stan allen

    and anyone who does know Eisenman, knows that he is NOT deconstructivist, that fad died in the 90’s, what he really does is move from one idea to another, but such is life.

  • Jennie

    I am a little late on the responses, but have only just found your site – shock horror! I was talking to my boss yesterday about our favourite architects; his was Gehry, but I’m not keen on him- instead I was advocating Shigeru Ban, Renzo Piano and Toyo Ito (amongst others)

  • Wilson

    Haters gonna hate…

  • http://materupic.tumblr.com Mate Rupić

    I couldn’t agree more about Zaha and Gehry. I even agree on the part that Corbi is sometimes over-idolized because his alienation from nature is rather a sociopathical issue, but CALATRAVA? C’mon now, you can’t be serious. If some one is underrated – it’s Santiago. The man is a modern architecture GOD.

    • Joaquín Márquez Ruesta

      Hahahahahahaha You must be a troll…

      • Jake Grazes

        I mean… he designs some pretty cool bus stations.

    • Gavin Smitsdorp

      You need to take your medicine according to the prescription.

  • Peter Yes

    Peter Grunder is definitely one of the underrated architects. Probably because of his down to earth approach.

  • aardman

    Actually, Frank Gehry built only one building but it gets moved around all over the world constantly so people think they see it everywhere.

  • N E M E S I S

    Ants are excellent architects….and so are bees. Wasps? Spiders ! They beat Hadid and all of the overrated architects and their egotistical designs.