Sometimes you hear the perfect set of insightful words from a creative master and you feel reinspired to create something new. When it comes to architecture, there are some legendary architects that have some really beautiful thoughts about the role of design in the world.
Whether you are looking for some inspiration to get you through your latest project or if you just need a cute caption for your latest Instagram post, we think these quotes will brighten up your week. Plus, if you love one of those quotes but you do not know very much about the architect who said it, we also have a couple quick notes to give you some context.
If you are looking for even more inspiration, be sure to check out our articles on 20 Documentaries About Famous Architects and Great Architecture and 25 Books That Every Architect and Architecture Lover Should Read.
Here are 20 thoughtful architecture quotes from master architects.
“Architecture is about trying to make the world a little more like our dreams.” – Bjarke Ingels
A lot of projects by Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG, certainly feel like dreams come true. The firm is never afraid to think out of the box and come up with projects that reimagine form, program, or urban life.
If you want to learn more about Bjarke Ingels, be sure to read our article on 10 Amazing Buildings Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group.
“Architecture is not based on concrete and steel, and the elements of the soil. It’s based on wonder.” – Daniel Libeskind
Daniel Libeskind has created some fascinating forms like the Royal Ontario Museum, but what often makes his work so special is the thoughtful stories it tells. It makes sense that this architect considers the wonder architecture can inspire.
“Buildings are deeply emotive structures which form our psyche. People think they’re just things they maneuver through, but the makeup of a person is influenced by the nature of spaces.” – David Adjaye
David Adjaye has certainly designed some emotive structures. His architecture is often understood to be incredibly sensitive to local context and easily appreciated by many. Adjaye’s work, like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, has influenced countless people by celebrating culture and vernacular architecture.
“Architects can’t force people to connect, it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive.” – Denise Scott Brown
Denise Scott Brown is an influential architect and planner who also worked closely with Robert Venturi. With her partners, she wrote Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form and documented and spoke in criticism about modernism. Her quote on public spaces demonstrates her appreciation for good design that does not seek to meet impossible goals, but just open space for people to use.
“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” – Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry’s work certainly feels timeless. His iconic style is considered deconstructivism and features a collection of crumpled building materials that comes together in a functional sculpture. This quote is some great insight into the intentions of this master architect.
If you want to learn more about Frank Gehry, be sure to check out our infographic on 10 Influential Buildings by Postmodern Architect Frank Gehry.
“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the best-known architects to have ever lived. He developed the first American style of architecture, the Prairie style and has created many treasured works. Wright treasured art and considered it the mother of architecture. This may be part of the reason why Wright designed every detail of his buildings, including the window panes, furniture, and lighting features—art and architecture were closely connected.
If you want to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright, be sure to read our article on The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: 10 Historic Buildings by the Legendary American Architect.
“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.” – I. M. Pei
It is difficult not to connect this beautiful quote from I.M. Pei to one of his most famous projects—the Louvre Pyramid, or Pyramide du Louvre. Though completely different from the original museum, it embodied the elegance of the original work and acted as the height of artistic achievement. Pei created many works that act as the reflection of society.
“Good ideas come from everywhere. It’s more important to recognize a good idea than to author it.” – Jeanne Gang
Though architects often have the reputation of being egotistical, this quote by American architect Jeanne Gang proves that this is not always the case. Studio Gang’s work often features impressive responses to local conditions including questions of sustainability.
“Architecture muse have something that appeals to the human heart. Creative work is expressed in our time as a union of technology and humanity.” – Kenzo Tange
Kenzo Tange was an influential architect and urbanist who greatly influenced the Metabolist movement. One of his greatest works is the Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park, which represents the beliefs Kenzo Tange expressed in his quote.
“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.” – Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier is one of the most famous architects who has ever lived. He was a modernist and believer in the International style, which featured simple and clean forms, designs based on function, and a lack of ornamentation. He believed that rational thought could provide good design to everyone, hence his quote on the necessity of order.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci needs no lengthy introduction. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, craftsman, and engineer whose work represents the Renaissance. Though his work precedes all of the other architects on his list, his quote demonstrates that many beliefs on good architecture remain the same.
“The Sun never knew how great it was until it hit the side of a building.” – Louis Kahn
Louis Kahn was an influential modernist architect who created incredibly monumental and beautiful buildings. Aside from his architecture, he was also known as an inspiring person whose description of architecture often felt poetic. His quote about sunlight in architecture is a perfect example of this.
“Less is more” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s quote is probably the most famous on this list. It represents much of what modernists like Mies van der Rohe sought to express in their architecture. He and other modernists believed that architecture was best when stripped of all ornament and with moves purely made to serve a function, in other words, “less is more.”
“As an architect, you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown.” – Norman Foster
Sir Norman Foster, and his firm Foster + Partners, has designed countless buildings that have influenced the past and will influence the future. Since Foster is known for his futuristic design, it makes sense that he is so conscious of the effect time will have on his work.
“The architect’s role is to fight for a better world, where he can produce an architecture that serves everyone and not just a group of privileged people.” – Oscar Niemeyer
Oscar Neimeyer was a Brazilian modernist best known for his work in Brasilia including the Cathedral of Brasilia and the National Congress Building. It is inspiring to know that an architect responsible for designing the capitol of a large country was focused on producing designs that spoke for everyone.
“When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. But when I’ve finished, if the solution is not beautiful I know it’s wrong.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
Richard Buckminster Fuller was an architect and futurist who pursued incredible feats of structure. His geodesic dome is the perfect example of how one might pursue the solution to a problem and find the answer to be beautiful by its being.
“A building has at least two lives—the one imagined by its maker and the life it lives afterward—and they are never the same.” – Rem Koolhaas
Rem Koolhaas’ quote is particularly good advice for designers. Koolhaas is a master architect and his firm, OMA, has created countless iconic designs. He certainly would know that the architect’s intention does not match the way people will use it.
“One of the great beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like life starting all over again.” – Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano was an Italian architect best known for the Centre Georges Pompidou which he designed with Richard Rogers. His quote recognizes that each new work is an opportunity to reinvent new solutions.
“I don’t believe architecture has to speak too much. It should remain silent and let nature in the guise sunlight and wind” – Tadao Ando
Ando is known for his masterfully designed projects. He uses natural forces—like sunlight and wind—as the main actors in his design. His architecture takes a back seat with lots of bare concrete, cool and minimal palettes, and carefully considered processions that take on an almost spiritual quality.
If you want to learn more about Tadao Ando, be sure to read our article on 10 Dramatic Buildings by Architect Tadao Ando, The Master of Light and Concrete.
“There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” – Zaha Hadid
It makes sense that Hadid is inspiring us to use all degrees when her incredible works seem to defy gravity with effortlessly dynamic forms. Her words of advice might help you to test out bold, new ideas.
If you want to learn more about Zaha Hadid, be sure to read our article on The Architecture of Zaha Hadid: 10 Great Buildings by the Queen of the Curve.