one hit wonders


I'm looking for examples of "one hit wonders" among architects. Architects who won an important competition, maybe even got to build it, and then disappeared into oblivion for whatever reason. Any ideas?



Nov 27, 07 6:08 am

thomas leesser - He made a bid splash in 2000 - openned a couple cool restaurants in New York and was a finalist for the Eyebeam and then not much has happened since.

Nov 27, 07 6:14 am

I always wonder what happened to Josh Schweitzer... he designed The Monument adjacent to Joshua Tree, and then vanished. He apparently did a lot of restaurant work in LA back in the day (90s). I believe at one time he was married to one of the Two Hot Tamales.

Nov 27, 07 8:51 am

this thread is going to cause some trouble...

Nov 27, 07 9:17 am

Why should it?

Nov 27, 07 9:19 am

Oh I think it is great idea...don't get me wrong. It may be chance to diss a washed up professor or two though.

Nov 27, 07 9:26 am

I don't mean to diss anyone, especially not architects. I'd just like to know under which circumstances these things happen. There is, for example, an incredibly beautiful church in the Dominican Republic, built between 1948 and 1978 by French architect Dunoyer de Segonzac. The building process took so long and was so frustrating that he hardly built anything else in his whole life. See

Nov 27, 07 9:46 am

Maya Lin................'nuff said.

Nov 27, 07 10:14 am
le bossman

maya lin is not a one-hit wonder

Nov 27, 07 10:23 am

Maya has two hits: her wave field at the University of Michigan just didn't get much play.

Nov 27, 07 10:23 am
work for idle hands

I often thought of Jorn Utzon as the ultimate architectural one hit wonder if you consider it within the broadest of mass public scale. indeed his most iconic building to everyone and the one he will forever be remembered for i don't at all consider his most interesting or architecturally significant. The opera house is of course a beautiful building in a 'take on me/tainted love' sort of way but if you study his work he did markedly more interesting work that few outside of the architectural community (though maybe that's not the case in scandinavia.. 'take on me', anyone?)

also if i recall the construction process of the building kind of 'killed' some of his passion and optimism for the profession, though i've never studied it in depth, i think he walked off the job?..that might be worth looking into). he didn't disappear, but hasn't done anything to match that in many decades (i think he may be still alive?)

yeah, i just compared the sydney opera house to tainted love.. so?

Nov 27, 07 10:37 am

rick joy? (3+/-...)

Nov 27, 07 10:44 am

Id say the Opera House is more "Come on Eileen" but thats just me

Nov 27, 07 10:54 am

Come on - the Sydney Opera House is Stairway to Heaven, Hey Jude, Satisfaction and Bohemian Rhapsody all wrapped together. It's a MONSTER hit.

Nov 27, 07 11:01 am
work for idle hands

you're both wrong

Nov 27, 07 11:02 am

more interesting question ... who are the Velvet Underground/ Sonic Youth types of architecture? Creative and massively influencial, but not very commercially successfull in their time.

Nov 27, 07 11:03 am

Lautner is one for sure...

Nov 27, 07 11:20 am

We studied Utzon in one of our classes. He's done a lot of great work...

Can Lis - His house on Mallorca

Kuwaiti Parliment

Church at Bagsvaerd

Fredensborg Housing

Nov 27, 07 11:21 am
le bossman

lautner isn't a one-hit wonder either. both lin and lautner have done other interesting projects. i don't think the wave field is that good

Nov 27, 07 11:26 am
le bossman

i mean, mark morrison is a one-hit wonder. john lautner and maya lin are no mark morrisons

Nov 27, 07 11:26 am
won and done williams

Nov 27, 07 11:27 am

Okay, let me tell you a few of my finds: Carlos Ott (Opéra de la Bastille in Paris), Johann Otto von Spreckelsen (Grande Arche, also in Paris), Francis Pym (Ulster Museum, Belfast).

Nov 27, 07 11:35 am

The wave field may not be that good, but it's the best place on UM's campus to get busy in a semi-public place. The stacks are overrated.

Nov 27, 07 11:36 am

Yeah... Lautner is no one hit wonder. He's of the Sonic Youth category that j-turn referenced above my post.

Nov 27, 07 11:38 am
work for idle hands

THEaquino did you know any of those buildings before "one of [y]our classes?"

did you know the opera house?

but i appreciate you reiterating what i said in my response (his church is by the way one of my favorite late twentieth century buildings)

Nov 27, 07 11:45 am


Nov 27, 07 11:48 am

the celebrity classification is already accepted as a given, thus, one hit wonders for architecture...
maybe students should be awarded with certificates of 15 minutes of fame, instead of diplomas and be done with lifetime fame chasing and get to real work of architecture.

but the thread is fun!

bruno taut, glass pavillion 1913
he had more buildings but nothing as nearly as influential as this.

Nov 27, 07 11:48 am

Touche Idle...I will say that the class was one of the very first classes we had to take at oregon as undergrads, so it pretty much served as our introduction/indoctrination into the profession...I think the prof had not-so-secret architect crush on Utzon.

I would say he's like Arrested Development..a solid TWO hit wonder.

Nov 27, 07 11:54 am
work for idle hands

the problem is there is an objective way to measure 'hit' in the entertainment industry because we have sales numbers and figures.. which is why people like devo, patti smith, lou reed, etc. in spite of their massive influence and credibility can be called 'one hit wonders' because of a single song that happened to sell well.

the lines are a little blurrier in terms of how you measure a building a hit or not. i basically say if i showed a photo of a building to a person on the street anywhere in the US (where i live) and there's i think a 70-80 percent chance they'll be able to name it its a 'hit'.

faye jones? ralph erskine?

Nov 27, 07 11:55 am

journal search of bulding and architect name mentions?


Joe smith: 17 articles 16 of which discuss a single project + no articles in the last 8 years = one hit wonder?

Nov 27, 07 12:01 pm

whos that Louisana monument to Italians guy? Postmodern Fountain thing? That seemed one hit wonderish.

Nov 27, 07 12:02 pm

Charles Moore did that pomo fountain thing - definitely not a one hit wonder...

Nov 27, 07 12:08 pm

okay, okay I got one. Greg Lynn, Animate form.

Nov 27, 07 12:50 pm
wurdan freo

Bill massie

Eladio Dieste

Underground - not one hit wonders.

Nov 27, 07 1:02 pm

Architecture as music:

corb - the beatles
mies - the stones
gropius - phil spector (?)
buckminster fuller - velvet underground
the smithsons - suicide
saarinen - the zombies
weil arets - sonic youth
koolhaas - bowie
H&deM - radiohead
zaha - guns'n'roses
robert smithson - joy division
judd - new order
gehry - U2

Nov 27, 07 1:28 pm

i'd change bucky fuller to match frank zappa.

Nov 27, 07 2:02 pm

Janosh, I hear The Monument is shared now by Shweitzer and his ex.

Nov 27, 07 2:04 pm
Chase Dammtor

i think libeskind may have gone the way of the spice girls... a couple of hits, retreat from public eye, then a half-hearted attempt at a comeback

Nov 27, 07 2:09 pm

Chase, if you chose to live in LA we could have gone to see the 'Girls. Oh well...

Nov 27, 07 2:18 pm
work for idle hands

funny cause i'd always have classified a and p smithson as 'the captain and tenille'. both from the quality of their work and cause i pretty much always assumed that's what they looked like.

Nov 27, 07 2:20 pm

Rick Joy is def. not a one-hit wonder, he's an up and comer.

Nov 27, 07 2:25 pm

Adalberto Libera and his Casa Malaparte come to mind
as does Eileen Grey and her E-1027 house

(Eileen Grey as Nena and her 99 Luftballoons?)

rabbits is now my new fav archinector for his inclusion of jd+no on that list -- though I think I may have some better pairings there -- more on that later

Nov 27, 07 2:37 pm

I stand by my "Gropius = phil spector", tho


Nov 27, 07 2:43 pm

OK -- it only took a few minutes for me to think about this --
(some of you know I'm a HUGE Joy Division and New Order fan)

Reima Pietila or Sigurd Lewerentz as JD
(influential, experimental, overlooked, and short-lived)

Steven Holl as NO
(popular without being POP, good range while still having a style)

Nov 27, 07 2:46 pm

Good Call, db


Nov 27, 07 2:49 pm

and Koolhaas is more Talking Heads than Bowie
(god, I can even imagine him doing karaoke to Psycho Killer...)

Nov 27, 07 2:50 pm
brian buchalski

the spice girls are not one-hit wonders. they're beautiful and paradigm shifting...i hope they get their own tv show soon

Nov 27, 07 3:05 pm

Frank Lloyd Wright= Elvis

One of the heavyweights now and then. Also the fact that he's still wildly popular among the masses long after being gone.

Nov 27, 07 3:13 pm

i concur with the koolhaas-byrne analysis

i can imagine koolhaas doing a karaoke to big country...

I see the shapes,
I remember from maps.
I see the shoreline.
I see the whitecaps.
A baseball diamond, nice weather down there.
I see the school and the houses where the kids are.
Places to park by the factories and buildings.
Restaurants and bar for later in the evening.
Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how these things work together.
I see the parkway that passes through them all.
And I have learned how to look at these things and I say,

I wouldnt live there if you paid me.
I couldnt live like that, no siree!
I couldnt do the things the way those people do.
I couldnt live there if you paid me to.

Nov 27, 07 3:19 pm
work for idle hands

hmm..i can also imagine him doing karaoke to in a big country

"in big country... dream stay with you.. like lover voice.."

Nov 27, 07 3:26 pm

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Nov 27, 07 3:26 pm

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