17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century

Know about the most creative architects and their innovative works that have provided identity to the cities we all admire.

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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1. Zaha Hadid: Designer of an Era

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid (10/31/1950-03/31/2016) was an Iraqi-British architect born in Baghdad, Iraq. She closed her eyes in 2016 in Miami aged 65, while opening our eyes to a new world of architecture with her jaw-dropping designs.

She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize aka Nobel Prize of Architecture, in 2004. The Queen of England Elizabeth II made her a Dame in 2012 for her contributions to architecture.

The Guardian described her as the ‘Queen of the curve’ who “Liberated architectural geometry” and giving architecture a new life and an identity.

She has won the Order of the British Empire (2002) and Fellow of American Institute of Architects. She has also won the Stirling Prize for her Evelyn Grace Academy, London in 2011.

Some of Hadid’s career-best architectures include:

Vitra Fire Station

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Its construction began in 1991 and was completed by 1993. This building was her pass to her rockstar career. Originally intended to become a Fire Station, it became an exhibit space instead.

Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg, Germany

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The building for which she won an international competition in 2000, the Phaeno Science Center is an engineering marvel designed by Hadid. Situated in Wolfsburg, Germany, its construction began in 2002 and was completed by 2005.

With more than 9000 sq. m. of space, it’s one of the significant landmarks of Wolfsburg.

BMW Administration Building

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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A bid won in 2002 by Hadid to build a new admin building for the auto giant BMW instantaneously became the favorite building for the employees of BMW. She once even wrote that she designed the building in a way to avoid “the traditional segregation of work groups”.

2. Balkrishna Doshi: Eco-friendly Architect of the Millenium

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Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi is a Pune based Indian architect, an important figure in South Asian architecture. Born on 26th of August 1927, he is currently 90-years-old and his views on architecture are the epitome of cost-effectiveness and style.

He is an alumnus of J.J School of Architecture, Mumbai. In 2018, he became the first Indian to win the Pritzker Prize. Since the beginning, Doshi is known to always create an architecture which is serious and simple.

With a deep sense of responsibility and an eager desire to contribute to his country and its people through high quality, authentic architecture, he has created many projects for public administrations and utilities, educational and cultural institutions, and residences for private clients, among others.

B.V Doshi’s award-winning architectural designs include:

IIM, Bangalore

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
Source: Sanyam Bahga/Wikimedia Commons

Library

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Academic Block, IIMB

One of the premier business schools in the world, partly due to its architecture and a lot due to its faculty. IIM, Bangalore was fully designed by Doshi. Sprawling over 100 acres in the heart of the Silicon Valley of India complete with a library, the main academic block and many other buildings including hotels, SAC’s, Auditorium, the institute is a world of its own.

The construction was completed in 1983.

Aranya Low-Cost Housing development, Indore

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
Source: AKDN
“Low-cost housing needs dignity” - B.V Doshi

The innovative solution to eradicate slums in India, Doshi’s masterplan the Aranya Low-cost Housing Development is a pilot project of the Government of India. One can see Doshi’s vision of social empowerment and preserving cultural heritage.

He incorporated a lot traditional building styles which resonate with modern aesthetics. 

CEPT University, Ahmedabad

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The public school designed by Doshi is one of his best works. An educational Institution with a good architecture reflects its core values and acceptance towards change. 

3. Ole Scheeren: The Man Who Tells Story with His Designs

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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“Good architecture should be able to narrate stories.” – Ole Scheeren

Ole Scheeren, born on January 6th, 1971 is a German architect, urbanist, and principal of Buro Ole Scheeren Group. You can see his contemporary architectural style in various buildings such as The Interlace, Singapore, which won the World Building of the year award in 2015.

He always has a very modernist style in all of his works which has the 3 F's present, the 3 F's are Form Follows Functionality.

He successfully materialized his notion of good architecture with the following designs:

The Interlace, Singapore

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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“Out of the box thinking while confronted with constraints” – Ole Schereen

Ole Scheeren was tasked with creating a 1000 apartment project with limited land and height restrictions. He took the 24 straight individual buildings and stacked them on top of another like a Jenga block and created a structure which provided more green space than it took.

This building reflects his storytelling architectural style and tells the story of Singapore which always had a unique solution to problems and a collaborative spirit.

CCTV Headquarters, Beijing

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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dà kùchǎ (大裤衩)  or the Big Boxer Shorts

A loop of six horizontal and vertical sections signifying the cycle of mass media and change in Beijing. Ole Scheeren created a landmark without which Beijing feels incomplete now.

DUO, Singapore

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DUO is a contemporary twin-tower integrated mixed-use complex which is located in Singapore.

Winner of the “Best Futura Project” at MIPIM Asia Awards 2012. This building is Ole Scheeren’s image of architecture which narrates a story.

4. Rem Koolhaas: the Deconstructivist Who Challenged the Norms

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Remment Lucas “Rem” Koolhaas, a Dutch architect is known for his deconstructive architecture. His definition of de-constructivism is to eliminate stereotypes and prejudices which occupy the landscape and transforming identity on any entity.

Rem was born on 17 November 1944. He completed his studies at Architectural Association School of Architecture, Cornell University. He won the Pritzker Prize in 2000.

A key aspect of architecture that he interrogates is the “Program”: with the rise of modernism in the late 20th century the “Program” became his key theme of designs.

Koolhaas’ modernist ideas are well represented by his work with no parallels anywhere on the planet.

Seattle Central Library

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Questioning his design practice “Program” the Seattle Central Library is one of the most iconic public building. He conceived the new Central Library building to celebrate books and people responding to printed books in the “digital age”.

The later can also be seen as an example of his idea of de-constructivism by destroying stereotypes of native internet citizens embracing books and print media.

Seoul National University Museum of Art

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The building at heart of the Seoul National University screams "Program". It houses some of the priced collection of Seoul National University.

De Rotterdam, Rotterdam

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The oddly placed glass facade is visible from a distance. De Rotterdam is a commercial, residential and office building. Koolhaas conceived it as a functional vertical city.

5. Peter Eisenman: Architect of the Hard

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Peter Eisenman is an American Architect born in 1932. He is considered one of the New York Five, a group of world-renowned architects of New York City.

His style of architecture mainly focuses on high modernism or de-constructivism. He completed his studies at Cornell University (B.A), Columbia University (M.A) and University of Cambridge (Ph.D.).

Eisenman has got enough successful ventures to decorate his career and establish him as one of the most important architects of our time. Some of his most notable ventures are:

House VI

House VI is a significant building designed by Peter Eisenman, completed in 1975. This building kick-started the de-constructivism movement.

Located in Cornwall, Connecticut the building has become famous for both its revolutionary design and definition of a house. Before this project became a reality, Peter was known as a theorist and a “Paper Architect”, promulgating a highly formalist approach which he calls “post-functionalism”.

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Holocaust Memorial, Europe

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A tribute to lost lives, this Memorial was for the suffered human beings and for Peter’s heritage.

City of Culture of Galicia

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The City of Culture of Galicia is a complex of cultural buildings in Santiago, Spain. Construction of this complex was challenging and expensive with every window requiring a unique facade due to the design of the building with asymmetrical curves which gives it a look of rolling hill.

6. Eduardo Souto de Moura: Enigmatic, Yet not Flashy

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Eduardo Souto de Moura, born 25 July 1952, is best known for his Estádio Municipal de Braga. The Portuguese architect is an alumnus of Porto School of Architecture.

Souto de Moura was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2011 for his Estádio Municipal de Braga and the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2013. His major works include a style of conservatism and modernism.

Moura’s marvelous pieces of architecture comprise of the following and more.

Paula Rego Museum, Cascais

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A tribute to the artist Paula Rego, this museum was inspired by his artwork to host his artwork.

Municipal Stadium of Braga

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The home ground of Sporting Clube de Braga. This museum itself is an attraction to the city of Braga. It is one of the largest stadiums in Portugal.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London

The renowned Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London is a very old art house with a modern twist. The modern buildings were inceptions of Moura as he progressed with the renovation.

7. Daniel Libeskind: Deploying Deconstructs

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Daniel Libeskind is a Polish-American architect born on May 12, 1946. He completed his undergraduate studies at The Cooper Union and further completed his Master's degree at the University of Essex.

His style of architecture can be defined as de-constructivism and he himself considers him as a de-constructivist.

Most of his designs convey an authoritative message and some of these examples are:

Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto

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Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has an appeal to it which expresses a bold statement.

Imperial War Museum North – Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom

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The War Museum is the perfect architectural project for Libeskind to showcase his styles. As it is a building that recapitulates the history of an authority, in this case, the Imperial Army, it was a good decision to choose him as the lead architect.

Jewish Museum, Berlin

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The Museum was opened six days before Nazi’s came to power in 1933 and later reopened in 2001. Libeskind's proposal was chosen because it was a building with a design to honor the social, economic and cultural contribution of the German Jews and it was also a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust.

8. Frank Owen Gehry: Architect of the Future

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Frank Owen Gehry, born in February 1929, is a Canadian-American architect, residing in Los Angeles, California. He completed his studies at the University of Southern California.

A number of his design are world renowned buildings including his residence and famous attractions around the world. His works are cited as being the most important in the area of contemporary architecture by World Architecture Survey in 2010.

So much so that the Vanity Fair named him “the most important architect of our age”. 

Gehry has won many prizes for his designs and notable among those are Pritzker Prize for Walt Disney Concert Hall in 1989, National Medal of Arts in 1998, Inductee of the California Hall of Fame in 2006 and Companion of the Order of Canada in 2002.

Gehry’s best-known works around the world which celebrate their architect’s design style are:

The titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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This museum is an art piece more intricate than some of the antiquities that the museum has for the exhibition. The museum in Bilbao, Spain has since been the Empire State Building of the city.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The building which is situated in the heart of Hollywood is not less than a superstar. The building is so iconic that if you want to imagine Los Angeles you can’t forget this building while envisioning the city.

Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, France

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New York at 8 Spruce Street, New York City, USA

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The corkscrew-shaped building in 8 Spruce Street is named after the street, and a gem of the New York skyline.

Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The apartment complex situated in Prague is a marvel of the city which has a cool nickname to it: Fred and Ginger.

Fun Fact: Gehry’s Bilbao Museum adds a total of $3.5 billion to the local economy and economists created a theory called Bilbao effect, which is being experimented with many cities around the world by creating iconic public buildings with successful and mediocre results.

9. Jean Nouvel: Experimenting with Creativity

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Jean Nouvel born on 12 August 1945, is a French Architect known for contemporary designs. He completed his studies from École Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

Biography

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In its citation, the jury of the Pritzker prize noted:

“Of the many phrases that might be used to describe the career of architect Jean Nouvel, foremost are those that emphasize his courageous pursuit of new ideas and his challenge of accepted norms in order to stretch the boundaries of the field.The jury acknowledged the 'persistence, imagination, exuberance, and, above all, an insatiable urge for creative experimentation' as qualities abundant in Nouvel's work.”

Nouvel bagged the 1989 Aga Khan Award for architecture, 2005 Wolf Prize in Arts and the 2008 Pritzker Prize; hence affirming his mastery of the craft.

His most fruitful and experimental architecture cover:

Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre, Switzerland

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The Swiss Center for Culture is a multi-functional building mostly used for concerts because of the best acoustics available.

Museum Two, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The Korean Heritage Museum, Museum 2 of Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul is a building which encompasses the South Korean history and its direction towards future.

One New Change, London

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This shopping mall in central London was commissioned to Nouvel and offers some of the finest shopping experience you can find in London.

10. Bernard Tschumi: Architectural Theorist

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Bernard Tschumi is an architect and educator from Switzerland born on 25 January 1944. His father was Jean Tschumi, a well-known Swiss architect who designed the WHO Headquarters in Geneva.

One can view the contemporary style of architecture in Bernard’s buildings which he follows and studies as a theory of architecture.

He completed his architectural studies at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich.

A few of the Tschumi’s finest designs are:

Parc de la Villette, Paris

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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This park is one of the largest parks in the city of Paris housing a lot of center of attraction and theaters.

Acropolis Museum, Athens

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A truly modern building for the exhibit of a rich culture which is over a millennia old. This museum is Tschumi’s challenging concept which has attained a balance between heritage and progress.

Alfred Lerner Hall, Columbia University, New York

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The modern center of learning is a new addition to Columbia University's collection of buildings with state-of-the-art facilities.

11. Kazuyo Sejima: Clear and Calm

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Kazuyo Sejima is a Japanese architect born on 29 October 1956. She is known for her clear modernist elements in her designs, with slick, clean and shiny surfaces including large windows which let natural light enter a space and create a fluid transition between interior and exterior.

It’s this connection of the two spaces from which she draws her inspiration. She graduated from Japan Women’s University with a master’s degree in Architecture.

Sejima is judiciously honored with Pritzker Prize 2010, Rolf Schock Prize 2005, Schelling Architecture Prize 2000 for her accomplishments.

All her works are critically acclaimed and a commercial success. Yet, there are some designs which are considered closest to her idealized style. They are:

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan.

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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This building has one of the largest collection of Japanese contemporary art. Apart from the art, the building itself is an inspiration for many young artists.

Rolex Learning Center, EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland

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The main multimedia library of EPFL is situated in Learning Center as well as many other departments of the institute.

Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, USA

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Founded by Toledo glassmaker Edward Drummond Libbey in 1901, the renovation of Toledo Museum of Art by Sejima proudly emphasizes the benefactors' history with a modernist style of architecture.

12. Moshe Safdie: Finding Meaning in Architecture

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Moshe Safdie CC, FIFA is a Canadian architect, urban designer theorist and an educator. Safdie was born in Israel on July 14, 1938, and moved to Canada with family. He graduated from McGill University, Montreal.

Safdie is famous for architecture which bends lines and curves to create geometry that has never been defined before. His designs emphasize the need to create meaningful, vital and inclusive spaces that enhance the community, with attention to the building’s particular locale, culture, and geography.

He describes himself as a modernist.

He has a multitude of Honors and awards to his name and some of which are AIA Gold Medal, Order of Canada, Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

Safdie's heritage masterpieces include:

Habitat 67

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A model community housing complex conceived by Safdie. Habitat 67 was built as the pavilion for Expo 67 (World Fair held in 1967).

It has now become an architectural landmark and one of the most recognizable buildings in Montreal.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and Habitat 67, Canada Post released a commemorative stamp featuring the complex.

Marina Bay, Singapore

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The new icon of Singapore, the Marina Bay is a series of hotels, casinos, and halls mainly built for the tourism industry of Singapore.

Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, Anandpur Sahib, India

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The Memorial situated in Punjab required extensive research for the commemoration of the Khalsa movement by Guru Gobind Singh.

National Gallery of Canada

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The ultra-modern building nicknamed “Blue Crystal” is adjacent to the Capitol Hill Ottawa is an art gallery perfect for philanthropic events and art gala.

13. Norman Robert Foster: High-Tech British

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Norman Robert Foster is a British architect who is known for international design practices and high-tech architecture. Born on 1 June 1935, he is one of Britain’s most prolific architects of the generation.

Foster was offered a seat at University of Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning with many hardships he graduated in 1961.

He is a modernist who isn’t shy to use glass to cover abstract structures.

Foster has managed to leave a strong mark in the industry which will be indelible for a long time. The sheer number of honors and prizes he bagged, affirm this. Some exceptional mentions are Stirling Prize, Pritzker Architecture Prize, Minerva Medal, Prince of Asturias Award, HonFREng, Mérite européen Gold Medal and AIA Gold Medal.

The high-tech architecture of Foster is well represented by:

30 St. Mary Axe “The Gherkin”, London

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If you’ve seen the skyline of London in any movie you can’t miss this building in the frame. This architectural marvel is equivalent to London Bridge which is used to give London an identity.

HSBC Building, Hong Kong

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Some buildings define the wealth of the city they are situated in, and the HSBC Building in Hong Kong doesn’t leave a chance to leave an impression of being rich.

Apple Park, California, USA

Apple Park was Steve Jobs' last vision with Foster which is been brought to life now. The Park firmly reverberates with Jobs' idea of an office, all thanks to Foster.

14. Renzo Piano: Contemporary, Abstract and Functional

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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Renzo Piano OMRI, OMCA is an Italian architect and engineer, born on 14 September 1937. One can argue that he is a contemporary architect or a high tech architect, but you can’t define his style as a single entity.

His style includes various features of modernism (he also worked under Louis Kahn), constructivism, high tech and contemporary architecture.

Renzo graduated from Politecnico di Milano, Milan.

Piano’s accolades other than his designs are the 1994 Italian order of Merit, 1995 Premium Imperiale, 1998 Pritzker Architecture Prize, 2008 AIA Gold Medal and 2017 Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X.

Piano’s finest ziggurats are:

The Shard, London

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Like the Gherkin (30 St. Mary Ave) the Shard is a unique icon of London skyline. Since its completion in 2012, the Shard has given the modern London, its characteristics of entering into the 21st century with a bold statement.

Parliament House of Malta

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Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

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A Public Library, an Art Museum and Paris Loch Ness monster as described by Le Figaro, this building changed the definition of high tech architecture upside down.

Even the Pritzker Jury quoted “revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city.”

The Centre can be found from miles away with all its functional elements visible and not hidden from eyesight.

15. Shigeru Ban: Master of minimalist designs

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Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect born on 5 August 1957 and is known for disaster relief homes made out of cardboard tubes. His design style includes the “Invisible Structures”.

Invisible Structure is a theme of design where Ban doesn’t choose to overly express his structural elements, but rather incorporates them into the design. His designs are minimalist and require only the necessary building material. Ban doesn't include design elements which do not have any functionality.

He is an alumnus of Cooper Union, New York. 

A list of his bestowals: National Order of Merit France, 2011, Pritzker Prize, 2014 and World Economic Forum Crystal Award,  2015.

Some of his minimalism works girdles:

Paper Dome, Taiwan

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
Source: Mk2010/Wikimedia Commons

A voluntary design for the community, this church was a temporary design until there was a permanent structure to replace it. It was built readily after the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado

17 Most Inventive Architects of the 21st Century
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The Aspen Art Museum hosts a contemporary art collection. Designed by Ban this building has an aura of modern art.

Nomadic Museum

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This purposely built temporary structure is a masterpiece of Shigeru Ban. It is a demountable structure which can be moved place to place. It was first debuted in New York City in the opening of Ashes and Snow in March 2005.

It has been showcased ever since in various global cities each year.

16. David Chipperfield: Dignity and Gravitas

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Sir David Chipperfield, born on 18 December 1953, is an English Architect who is known for his contemporary architectural style which has a sense of robustness and artistic rejuvenation in it.

He is an alumnus of Kingston School of Art, London and was elected as Jury for the World Architecture Festival once in 2016.

David has won the RIBA Stirling Prize, Royal Gold Medal, Andrea Palladio Prize and Tessenow Gold Medal.

His artistic designs which rejuvenated the architectural space includes:

Museum of Modern Literature, Germany

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The museum won the Stirling Prize for Chipperfield and is truly a dignitary and modern building for the Museum of Modern Literature.

The Hepworth Wakefield, England

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The art gallery is a tribute to artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth and the gallery bears her name. The beautiful riverside was taken advantage by Chipperfield to create a stunning area to showcase art.

Colección Jumex

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The building is house to a large collection of private art and is an experimental design scheme by Chipperfield.

17. Fumihiko Maki: Pioneering the impossible

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Fumihiko Maki, born September 6, 1928, is a Japanese architect whose contemporary design style can be seen in major public spaces, university campuses, and office spaces worldwide. He is an alumnus of the University of Tokyo from where he studied architecture.

He won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1993 for his design of Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Most of his works often explore pioneering uses of new materials and any design practice which fuses the cultures of east and west into an architectural marvel which is always a feast to gaze on.

The architectural marvels created by Maki are awe-inspiring. Here are some designs to attest this fact:

Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium

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Build for the public, this Gymnasium looks like as if it was itself doing some sort gymnastics.

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada

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The Aga Khan Museum of Islamic and Persian art is a truly intuitive design which reflects the glorious past of the art.

MIT Media Lab Extension at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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The interdisciplinary department of one of the world leading research institutes, MIT Media Lab's new extension building was designed by Maki.