Famous Architects and Designers Born in April

Celebrating Inventive Men and Women

Ornate pyramid tower in colorful tiles of red, yellow, green, and blue, a sun dominates the design, the words Shakspere and Goethe are carved in stone
Pyramid Top of the Los Angeles Public Library Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Michael Jiroch via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Were you born in April? Then you may share a birthday with one of these well-known architects and designers. But what about inventors? Are architects and designers also inventors? Some people would say that designers are always inventing something new and that the most famous architects are the ones with new ideas. Other people say that good architecture is a group effort and an iterative process — new ways of doing things spring from what people observe of the present. Some people say the whole question is Biblical — "what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun" says Ecclesiastes 1:9. What do we have in common with inventors and designers and architects? We all have birthdays. Here are some from April.

April 1

gesturing man explaining a skyscraper design in front of a model and projection screen
In 2005 David Childs Presented the Design for 1 World Trade Center. Mario Tama/Getty Images (cropped)

David Childs (1941 - )
If this Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) architect taught us anything about the architecture profession in the 21st century it's that a lot of an architect's time is spent in preparation, presentation, convincing, advocating, and cajoling. The results are often a more beautiful place to live and work. Manhattan is one such place, in part because of architect David Childs and his design for One World Trade Center.

Mario Botta (1943 - )
Known for his designs in brick, Swiss-born architect Mario Botta studied and trained at schools in Italy. Whether an office building in Belgium or a residential building in the Netherlands, the natural, massive  brick structures designed by Botta are both imposing and inviting. In the United States, Botta is best-known as the architect of the 1995 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

April 13

aerial view of landscaped campus headed by a white domed building
The University of Virginia Designed by Thomas Jefferson. Robert Llewellyn/Getty Images

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)
He wrote the Declaration of Independence and became the third President of the United States. His design for the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond influenced the design of many public buildings in Washington, D.C. Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman architect and a Founding Father of  neoclassical architecture in America. Yet "Father of the University of Virginia" is on Jefferson's tombstone at his home called Monticello near Charlottesville. 

Alfred M. Butts (1899 - 1993)
When a young architect in New York's Hudson Valley finds himself out of work during the Great Depression, what does he do? He invents a board game. Architect Alfred Mosher Butts invented the word game Scrabble.

April 15

digital composite collage includes Vitruvian Man, Self Portrait, and the Mona Lisa
Leonardo Da Vinci. Caroline Purser/Getty Images (cropped)

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)
Have you ever wondered why home builders and architects love symmetry? Having two windows on either side of a door just looks right. Perhaps it's because we design in our own image, imitating the symmetry of the human body. Leonardo's notebooks and his famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man refamiliarized us with geometry and architecture. The last years of the Italian Renaissance da Vince were spent designing Romorantin, the ideal planned city, for the King of France. Leonardo spent his final years at Chateau du Clos Lucé near Amboise.

Norma Sklarek (1926 - 2012)
She may not have set out to be a pioneer for women in the architecture profession, but ultimately she broke barriers for all professional women of color. Norma Sklarek didn't receive as many accolades as the design architects at her firm, but being the production architect and department director ensured that projects got done at Gruen Associates. Sklarek is still regarded as a mentor and role model by many women in a male-dominated profession.

April 18

Shiny discs on Selfridges store, blobitecture in Birmingham, England
Exterior of Selfridges Store, Birmingham, England designed by Jan Kaplický's Future Systems. Photo by Andreas Stirnberg/Stone Collection/Getty Images

Jan Kaplický (1937 - 2009)
Most of us know the work of Czech-born Jan Kaplický through Microsoft Windows — one of the most startling images included as a computer desktop background is the shiny-disc façade of Selfridges department store in Birmingham, England. Welsh-born architect Amanda Levete, Kaplický, and their architectural firm, Future Systems, completed the iconic blobitecture structure in 2003. The New York Times reported that "his inspirations for the store included a Paco Rabanne plastic dress, a fly's eye and a 16th-century church."

April 19

bald white man with dark eyebrows and intensive stare toward the camera
Jacques Herzog in 2013. Sergi Alexander/Getty Images (cropped)

Jacques Herzog (1950 - )

Swiss architect Jacques Herzog has long been associated with his boyhood friend and business partner Pierre de Meuron. In fact, together they were awarded the 2001 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Since 1978, Herzon & de Meuron has become an inter-continental architectural firm, with one of their most popular creations being the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

April 22

stocky, white man standing in glass-enclosed corridor
James Stirling at the Olivetti Training Centre in Surrey, 1974. Tony Evans/Getty Images (cropped)

James Stirling (1926 - 1992)
When the Scottish-born architect became only the third Pritzker Laureate, James Frazer Stirling accepted the 1981 prize by saying "...for me, right from the beginning the 'art' of architecture has always been the priority. That's what I trained to do...." Stirling first gained prominence in the 1960s with his airy, glass university buildings, namely the Leicester University Engineering Building (1963) and the History Faculty Building at Cambridge University (1967).

"Neither James Stirling nor his buildings were ever precisely what you expected," said art critic Paul Goldberger, "and that was forever his glory. Stirling....did not look like an architect of international renown: he was overweight, spoke awkwardly, and tended to shuffle about in a uniform of dark suits, blue shirts and Hush Puppies. Yet his buildings dazzle."

April 26

Chinese man in glasses, wearing a suit, laughing and gesturing inside a glass and steel structure
I.M. Pei at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images

Ieoh Ming Pei (1917 - )
Chinese-born I.M. Pei may be best known in Europe for the Louvre Pyramid that shocked all of Paris. In the U.S. the Pritzker Laureate has become part of the fabric of American architecture — and forever loved for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 - 1903)
"Preserving wild places is different from crafting urban spaces," asserts Olmsted biographer Justin Martin in Genius of Place (2011), "and it's a vital Olmsted role that is often overlooked." Frederick Law Olmsted was more than the Father of Landscape Architecture — he was also one of America's first environmentalists, from Central Park to the Capitol grounds.

Peter Zumthor (1943 - )
Like Jacques Herzog, Zumthor is Swiss, born in April, and has won a Pritzker Architecture Prize. The comparisons may end there. Peter Zumthor creates designs without the spotlight.

April 28

White limestone building, rectangular base, square tower, small gold dome atop tower
Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, c. 1920s, Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, [LC-DIG-highsm-04814] (cropped)

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869 - 1924)
Lacking formal architectural training, Goodhue apprenticed under one of the most noted 19th century American architects, James Renwick, Jr. (1818–1895). Goodhue's interest in artistic details combined with Renwick's influence for building solid, public venues gave the United States some of its most interesting turn-of-the-century architecture. Bertram Goodhue might be an unknown name to the typical tourist, but his influence on American architecture is still visible — the original 1926 Los Angeles Public Library building, with its ornately tiled tower pyramid and the Art Deco detailings by Lee Lawrie, is now called the Goodhue Building.

April 30

Gothic detail of four-sided church tower in white stone
Duke University Chapel Designed by Julian Abele. Harvey Meston/Getty Images (cropped)

Julian Abele (1881 - 1950)
Some sources put Abele's birth date as April 29, which, for an African-American born so soon after the American Civil War, would not be the only slight Abele would endure in his lifetime. The highly-educated Julian Abele allowed the Philadelphia office of the less-educated Horace Trumbauer to thrive, even during the Great Depression. The establishment of Duke University had a lot to do with the firm's prosperity, and today Abele is finally receiving the school's recognition he deserves.

Sources

  • "Jan Kaplicky, Audacious Czech Architect, Is Dead at 71" by Douglas Martin, The New York Times, January 26, 2009
  • "James Stirling Made an Art Form of Bold Gestures" by Paul Goldberger, The New York Times, July 19, 1992, http://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/19/arts/architecture-view-james-stirling-made-an-art-form-of-bold-gestures.html [accessed April 8, 214]
  • San Francisco MoMA image by DEA - De Agostini Picture Library Collection/Getty Images (cropped)