Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia (1788)

The Thomas Jefferson-designed neoclassical building sparked the American tradition of modeling government buildings on ancient Roman and Greek temples.

Trinity Church, Boston (1877)

Trinity was the first example of architect H.H. Richardson’s Romanesque style, later used in churches, city halls, and county courthouses across America. It was designed as “an envelope” for the voice of Rector Phillips Brooks (best known as the writer of "O Little Town of Bethlehem").

Wainwright Building, St. Louis (1891)

Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Building was not the first skyscraper, but it gave the modern, steel-frame skyscraper its form. Historian Tim Samuelson said it “taught the skyscraper to soar.”

Robie House, Chicago (1910)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style masterpiece transformed the American home and inspired ranch houses of the mid-20th century.

Highland Park Ford Plant, Highland Park, Michigan (1910)

The first home of Henry Ford’s revolutionary moving assembly line, Albert Kahn’s “daylight factory” design revolutionized industrial architecture. It was an odd partnership, considering that Ford was an anti-Semite and Kahn was Jewish.

Southdale Center, Edina, Minnesota (1956)

America’s first indoor regional shopping mall set the formula that all indoor malls followed for decades. Its architect, Victor Gruen, was a socialist who ironically thought shopping malls would cure suburban sprawl.

Seagram Building, New York (1958)

Mies van der Rohe’s Park Avenue tower was the model for modernist skyscrapers built across the country in the mid-20th century--a dark glass box, set back on an open plaza.

Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Virginia (1962)

Eero Saarinen designed the first airport in the world created expressly for jets.

Vanna Venturi House, Philadelphia (1964)

Robert Venturi defied an age of austere glass boxes to design this home, regarded as the first “postmodern” building, which looked like a child’s drawing of a house.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (2003)

Frank Gehry’s swooping stainless steel design was a radical departure from the traditional, stuffy concert hall. It inspired other architects to expand their imaginations.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (2003)

Frank Gehry’s swooping stainless steel design was a radical departure from the traditional, stuffy concert hall. It inspired other architects to expand their imaginations.


The 10 Buildings That Changed America—And Architecture

In the PBS special 10 Buildings that Changed America, two architecture aficionados explain the origins of some of the country’s most influential building styles.

To most Americans, buildings are just there—they’re urban wallpaper or they serve a day-to-day function. Most barely notice the emotional or cultural effect that architecture has on them and their cities.

To address that, TV host Geoffrey Baer and producer-writer Dan Protess created the PBS special 10 Buildings That Changed America.

The hour-long program, which premieres May 12, examines the backstories and engineering behind 10 influential American buildings, from as many different parts of the country, that changed the way we live, work, and play, and inspired future architecture and construction. It also explores the imagination of the architects that created the structures.

Host Geoffrey Baer at Dulles Airport

The pair—assisted by 16 architects and historians—chose the buildings for their groundbreaking use of style, function, and architectural language; inspiration of future architects; illustration of an American point of view; and fascinating backstories. They then whittled 100 suggestions down to 10.

"You may not have heard of all of these ten buildings, but their influence is all around you," says Baer in a statement. "There’s a good chance that these revolutionary works of architecture inspired your local city hall or library, the mall where you shop, the office building or factory where you work, and maybe even your own house."

Click on the slideshow for an overview of each building. Photos courtesy of PBS and WTTW National Productions.

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  • bredon

    The other impact of such creative buildings are on environment. steel buildings  are made up with most recycled commodity.

    So it is very useful in keeping environment free from
    garbage and harmful waste material. In fact, the feedstock for steel mini-mills
    is scrapping steel. That means that at the end of the buildings useful life, it
    can be scrapped and recycled again, rather than end up in a landfill somewhere
    in USA. This is one of the biggest advantages of using this material.
    to now more about steel buildings visit

  • Xaos

    The Seagram Building? Really? Who put this list together?
    Let me fill you in: The Seagram Building had the Lever House as it's primary influence. The Lever House was the precursor to ALL modern building design.
    The Lever  House was built before the Seagram building and is right across the street.

    Please do your homework next time.

    A concerned New Yorker.

  • gray16

    The Venturi House should be credited as much to his wife Denise Scott Brown. 

  • John

    Not so! The Venturi house was designed in 1964.  Brown did not join (and marry) Venturi until 1967. Please get your facts straight!