February 9, 2007
AIA Reveals Public’s Choice America’s Best Architecture

Summary: Six-term Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), longtime champion of the professions that shape the built environment, on February 7 joined AIA President RK Stewart, FAIA, and Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Christine McEntee to announce the 150 winners of “America’s Favorite Architecture” survey at a press conference in Washington, D.C.’s, Rayburn House Office Building. The announcement culminated an AIA150 initiative, for which the Institute hired Harris Interactive to conduct a nationwide survey that identified what the public believes are 150 of America’s favorite architectural wonders. Did your favorite make the list?

The Empire State Building, by William Lamb, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, towered at the top of the list, beating the White House, which placed second in the poll of 1,800 Americans. In fact, Washington’s public buildings and memorials dominated the top 10 list, but overall, buildings in New York City had the greatest number represented, with St. Patrick’s Cathedral (11th), Grand Central Station (13th), and the St. Regis Hotel (16th), and Rockefeller Center (56th). The fallen World Trade Center Towers live on in the poll, ranking 19.

The Top 10 list
The Harris Interactive survey of just over 1,800 randomly selected Americans ranked the buildings and places (the Golden Gate Bridge was 5th) from a list pre-selected by an AIA panel of 248 structures in numerous categories. Following are the top 10 structures and their architects and designers:

  1. Empire State Building, New York City, William Lamb, of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon
  2. The White House, James Hoban
  3. Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., George F. Bodley and Henry Vaughan, FAIA
  4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C., John Russell Pope, FAIA
  5. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Irving F. Morrow and Gertrude C. Morrow
  6. U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., William Thornton, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch, Thomas U. Walter, FAIA, Montgomery C. Meigs
  7. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., Henry Bacon
  8. Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt Mansion), Ashville, N.C., Richard Morris Hunt, FAIA
  9. Chrysler Building, New York City, William Van Alen, FAIA
  10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., Maya Lin with Cooper-Lecky Partnership.

Evoking emotion
“What we found is that Americans chose buildings that evoke powerful feelings and strong emotions,” said AIA President RK Stewart, FAIA, announcing the top 10 winners. “This poll of America’s Favorite Architecture confirms that architecture resonates with people.” Stewart noted. “The choice of the Empire State Building shows that when you ask people to select their favorites, they chose buildings and designs that symbolized innovation and the spirit of their community–but also, more importantly–they chose structures that hold a place in their hearts and minds.”

“I’ve spent most of my political career in dealing with the issues of making government a better partner in promoting livable communities and there is no profession more central to the task than architecture. I personally have found no better ally,” Blumenauer said, as he noted his hometown of Portland has been recognized as a livable community. “What better way to celebrate the profession and its many contributions than recognizing America’s favorite buildings.” To make it official, Blumenauer announced that he had introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives February 5 to celebrate the contributions of the architectural profession during National Architecture Week, beginning with April 8, 2007.

“At a time when we are worried about coping with the demands of modern life, sprawl, running out of open space, crowding, congestion, and energy costs, design and planning of the architectural community is critical,” Blumenauer said. “With the help of architecture we plan and design things that inspire the spirit and when done properly they are functional, they work, and with the help of architects they work better… The favorite 150 American buildings serve as reminders of the treasures we have created for today and as inspiration for our future.”

Wide-ranging favorites
Although almost half the list is composed of places in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago, the compilation represents a broad swath of architectural styles from diverse periods of American history. Buildings and structures represent where we live, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (29th) in Pennsylvania; where we vacation, such as the Hotel Del Coronado (18th) in San Diego; and where we escape to have fun, such as Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards (122nd) and the Ingalls Ice Arena (149th) at Yale University in New Haven.

Transportation hubs and structures are also among America’s Favorite Architecture. The Golden Gate (5th) and Brooklyn (20th) bridges are here, as are many main rail stations, including Cincinnati Union Terminal (45th) and Union Station in St. Louis (40th), among others.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by Maya Lin, and the Golden Gate Bridge designed by Gertrude Morrow along with her husband, Irving, make the top 10. Hearst Castle, designed by Julia Morgan, placed 41st.

America’s Favorite Architecture: by the numbers

  • Architect with most projects in the 150: Frank Lloyd Wright, with eight
  • Architecture with most projects in the top 100: H.H. Richardson, with six
  • Living architect with most projects in the 150: Richard Meier, with five
  • Architects with three or more projects:
    - Daniel Burnham – three
    - Philip Johnson – four
    - Henry J. Hardenbergh – three
    - Cass Gilbert – three
    - Eero Saarinen – three
  • Firms with the most projects in the survey:
    - SOM – five
    - HOK – three
    - Pei Cobb and Freed – three
    - McKim, Mead & White – three

McEntee and Stewart stressed that the program is meant to be a catalyst for dialogue between the profession and the public and encouraged people to review the 150 favorite buildings and post comments and responses at www.aia150.org.

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For more details on the winners, visit www.aia150.org.

View a PDF (88 KB) of the 150 Best American Buildings.

The AIA will celebrate its 150th anniversary by showcasing three major programs, said AIA Chief Executive Officer/CEO Chris McEntee:

• America’s Favorite Architecture poll

• The Blueprint for America, a nationwide platform to unite architects and citizens to collaborate on their communities’ design priorities

• National Architecture Week, April 8-14, which will kick off a traveling exhibit of the projects highlighted in the America’s favorite architecture poll.