Googling Architecture

The Top three living architects, according to Google

1. Christopher Alexander

2. Frank O. Gehry

3. I.M.Pei

by Greg Bryant

Look around you, at the built world. It's the work of nameless economic forces, some named architectural movements, and a few named architects.

On the other hand, there's Google's Page Rank, a citation weighing of web page content. It doesn't reflect the built environment. It reflects the Internet. Google is the largest index of documents ever created, but it's also the newest.

You can see this by asking the question about living architects: who's the googliest of them all? The answer is architecture's primary philosopher, who is also anathema inside modern circles.

Google results like this probably reflect current mindshare, a common enough expression on the world wide web. Although not yet in the dictionary, it means a percentage of the Collective Conscience, of the Great Conversation. The Internet certainly reflects the structure of people's thinking in many ways. Well, the structure of those who write down what they think.

So in googling living architects, it seemed only fair to weigh the effect on thought as well as on the news. The three top ranked living architects were, in order, Frank O. Gehry, I.M. Pei and Christopher Alexander. But there are several movements that owe their existence to Alexander: the Patterns movement, in buildings and software design; the New Urbanism movement; the Design Methods movement -- to name just a few. Although Gehry and Pei have probably influenced the practice of architecture, they have certainly not influenced the philosophy of architecture significantly. Since the Google index measures writing, and not buildings, Alexander could be considered the winner, as most influential living architect.

But I'm simply putting their names in alphabetical order. The reader can judge what it all means. And what the "google citation sweepstakes" and the consequent "advocacy through googling" means. It was recently announced that Linux beat Microsoft in google page ranking, and yet Microsoft is far better known to the majority of computer users. Similarly, modernism is better known to the masses than is Alexander's organic approach to making things for people. This could be interpreted very pessimistically: that socially positive and sensitive movements are destined primarily for active discussion among a minority.

Or, it could be that google ranking indicates the vanguard of influence. Google itself has a score of 17,500,000.

Here's the current google ranking of architects, living and dead, and some movements, from all times:

    • Thomas Jefferson: 933,000

    • Michelangelo Buonarroti: 599,000

    • Frank Lloyd Wright: 246,000

    • William Morris: 149,000

    • Andrea Palladio: 110,000

    • Le Corbusier: 87,100

    • Modern architecture: 81,700

    • Hundertwasser: 67,200

    • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: 55,400

    • Buckminster Fuller: 49,200

    • New Urbanism: 35,700

    • Alvar Aalto: 28,400

    • Frank Gehry: 28,100

    • A Pattern Language:

    • 25,100

    • Christopher Wren: 24,500

    • Vitruvius: 24,200

    • Oscar Niemeyer: 23,900

    • Gustave Eiffel: 21,800

    • Walter Gropius: 19,900

    • Louis Sullivan: 19,800

    • Christopher Alexander:

    • 17,900

    • I. M. Pei: 17,400

    • Richard Meier: 17,100

    • Filippo Brunelleschi: 14,800

    • Otto Wagner: 12,600

    • Peter Eisenman: 9,350

    • Louis I. Kahn: 8,010

    • Antonio Gaudi: 9,290

    • Robert Venturi: 8,040

    • Inigo Jones: 7,900

    • Carlo Scarpa: 7,060

    • Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini: 6,890

    • Philip Johnson: 5,710

    • Richard Neutra: 5,380

    • Andres Duany: 4,770

    • Richard Rogers: 4,500

    • Hector Guimard: 4,470

    • Pier Luigi Nervi: 4,390

    • Moshe Safdie: 3,570

    • Pierre Koenig: 2,770

    • Bernard Maybeck: 2,500

    • Pietro Belluschi: 1,900

    • Postmodern architecture: 1,790

    • Sim van der Ryn: 1,530

    • Lawrence Halprin: 1,480

    • Serge Chermayeff: 837

January 14, 2003