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How Famous Architecture Becomes So Iconic

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © ricardodiaz11 | Flickr

Famous architecture can be instantly recognized from anywhere in the world. You can see a photograph of a famous building, and get an instant sense of its larger context like its location’s culture, architect’s style, and timely era. In other words, famous architecture can become iconic. But, why does this happen? Why do some buildings get all the fame, while others sit quietly by, doing their respective “jobs”? And perhaps the more pertinent question becomes — Do you want your architecture to reach iconic heights, putting it in the realm of famous architecture, instantly recognized by people everywhere?

There are certain qualities that seem to follow suit when it comes to famous architecture. These qualities are authenticity, uniqueness and whether or not the building is innovative in any way. You see, authenticity shows that a building sits within its surrounding context well, while contributing toward it in its own right. Uniqueness lends itself toward famous architecture because it helps a building stand out from the rest, becoming memorable and highly sought after. And the innovative qualities of a building are important because if it creates a “first-time” for something, then it is creating history. In fact, famous architecture does just that. It becomes a part of history — standing the test of time and serving the people who visit as it does so.

Yet, we should not forget the power of flight and publication as contributing factors toward what makes a famous architecture so iconic. You see, flight allows people to travel all over the world to visit architecture for themselves. Some architecture becomes more popular than others to visit — and this creates the fame. Another factor that contributes toward architecture becoming famous is publication. With photographs of buildings being printed in books, magazines, and newspapers — this allows people to virtually “visit” buildings, giving them the sense that they know the building for themselves. This becomes even more exaggerated with social media today, where friends share travel photos of architecture with their friends (all over the world) and instantly architecture can achieve fame.

The key to why certain buildings reach the status of becoming famous architecture is perhaps because of the experiential qualities of a particular building. Some experiences are so great, that they must be preserved, shared, and re-visited again and again. So, on your quest to create famous architecture remember to create truly authentic, unique, and innovative experiences for visitors. This will carry your work far on its quest to become known by the many.


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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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