By Linda Rosenkrantz
It’s not unusual to find interesting and creative names among the leading figures in all spheres of the arts, but there’s a really stellar group to be found among notable architects. International in scope, and looked at across time, here are some of the most intriguing first and last name examples–any of which you might want to consider if you’re an architecture aficionado—or if there’s an architect in your family.
Addison Mizner was one of the key developers of Florida resort architecture, Spanish Revival style. Mizner was born in 1872, when Addison was strictly a boys’ name—it didn’t begin to take off for girls until 1994, but still can make a valid patronymic choice for a boy.
Cass Gilbert was an early proponent of the Beaux Arts style skyscraper, designing, among others, the Woolworth Building in New York—the world’s tallest building at the time. He was named for a statesman-relative called Lewis Cass, but the name stands well on its own as a first. Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel about a judge called Cass Timberlane.
Decimus Burton was a prolific nineteenth century English architect and garden designer whose works included buildings at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens and the London Zoo. Decimus is one of the old Latin numeral names that adventurous babynamers are beginning to consider.
Eero Saarinen—This important Finnish-American architect was known for his graceful, organic forms and sweeping curves, as seen in the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the TWA building at JFK. We love the double vowels in many Scandinavian names, and this one has an interesting aerospace feel. Saarinen named his son Eames after his fellow designer, Charles Eames.
Inigo Jones—Living from 1573 to 1652, Inigo Jones is considered the first significant modern British architect, designing such spaces as Covent Garden Square, as well as being an influential theatrical designer. He shared his first name with his father—and it would be a stunning first or middle choice for an architecture-minded family.
Mies van der Rohe– Born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies, but always known by his original surname (he later took on the van der Rohe), the German-American Mies defined a simple, modern, industrial aesthetic and is also known for his sayings, “Less is more” and “God is in the details.” Mies (pronounced mees) could make an unusual middle for either gender–in the Netherlands it’s heard mostly on girls. (Trivia note: He named one of his daughters Waltraut).
Quincy Jones—No, not the musical ‘Q’ Jones—this is Southern California architect A. (for Archibald) Quincy Jones, an innovative modernist and pioneer of green design. Quincy is one of the few usable Q names, now at Number 633, appreciated for its jazzy, quirky but not too quirky, image.
Rem Koolhaus, born Remment Lucas, is a Pritzker Prize-winning Dutch architect and theorist known for such buildings as the boldly designed Seattle Public Library. Rem is a typical Dutch single-syllable nickname name; full-name Remment might be too reminiscent of ‘remnant.’ Another option is the Dutch Remco/Remko.
Renzo Piano—Chosen by Time magazine as the tenth most influential person in the arts in 2006, Italian architect Piano’s designs feature technological shapes and materials in buildings like the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Renzo is a highly appealing diminutive of Lorenzo; Piano would make an interesting middle, linking two art forms.
Thom Mayne is a prize-winning California-based contemporary artist often called a maverick for his fractured forms; he seemed to have been born Thom and not Thomas. Thom makes a more substantial stand-alone name than the standard-issue Tom.
And then there are the surnames that might work as firsts:
Neutra, Richard—pronounced NOY-tra
Any of these inspire you?