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!


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