Top 25 quotes about architecture and inspiration

Since my first years in college, I began keeping a list of meaningful quotes. For me, they were architecture-related. Some distantly – theoretical; some straight up like a good cocktail. They all grounded me while at the same time lifted me – inspiring me to greatness.


It’s rare to find a client that allows you to actually produce architecture … Architecture, rather. I think I’ve only had a few since I completed my graduate work in 1996. So, like glancing at the ubiquitous motivational magnets magically clinging to the side of the Sub-Zero fridge, my list of quotes is occasionally dusted off from beneath the stacks of architecture and design journals for a quick read while I await the next exciting client.


The following quotes are from architects, musicians – both of which I can identify with – and others. The order is random. The witty ones are balanced by the clear truth found weaving between each word. The challenging words are stabilized by those that toot my architect’s horn.


Please enjoy my top 25:

1. Good design is not about form following function. It is function with cultural content. By adding "cultural content" to the concept of "form follows function," objects cease to be finite or predictable. Maybe the right way to interpret the dictum is to first acknowledge that the function needs to be clearly understood before the form is considered.   Carl Magnussen

2. It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.   W. Edwards Deming

3. Architecture arises out of our need to shelter the human animal in a spatial environment and to enclose the social animal in a group space. In this sense architecture serves our institutions and expresses the values of our culture.   Robert Geddes, FAIA

4. It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.   Walt Disney

5. The hand expresses what the heart already knows.   Samuel Mockbee

6. To me, modernism is not a style but a lifestyle choice: A choice to be more aware of your surroundings, to be more optimistic about the future, and to be intellectually stimulated by where you live.   Unknown

7. Architecture is the plant fertilizer of our lives; it is the way to be a big, great-tasting tomato.   Robert Sullivan

8. A building is not just a place to be but a way to be.   Frank Lloyd Wright

9. Few people have the imagination for reality.   Goethe


10. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.   Henry David Thoreau


11. Architecture, like dress, is an exercise in good manners, and good manners involve the habit of skillful insincerity – the habit of saying “good morning” to those whose mornings you would rather blight, and of passing the butter to those you would rather starve.   Roger Scruton


12. Good architecture is like a good therapy session, a good marriage, a good poem - gently and almost invisibly allowing you to be you, as flawed and as beautiful as you are.   Robert Sullivan


13. The practice of architecture is the most delightful of all pursuits. Also, next to agriculture, it is the most necessary to man. One must eat, one must have shelter. Next to religious worship itself, it is the spiritual handmaiden of our deepest convictions.   Philip Johnson


14. The meaning resides in one’s own experience, making the everyday the exceptional.   Samuel Mockbee


15. Architecture mirrors eternal harmony….music echoes it.   Otto Van Simpon


16. Architecture never derived its force from stability of culture, but rather from the expression of those moments when that sense of stability slipped.   Mark Wigley


17. Alice went on, “ Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.   Lewis Carroll


18. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.   John Lennon


19. Give them the vision of Oz, show them the direction, convince them you can create the yellow brick road; the rest is civil engineering.   Dirk Susharme


20. In the face of the economic plight, it is our task to become pioneers of simplicity, that is, to find a simple form for all of life’s necessities, which is at the same time respectable and genuine.   Oskar Schlemmer


21. The room is there for the human being – not the human being for the room.   El Lissitzky


22. Architecture is not simply a job. It is a lifestyle. It is a way of looking at the world. It is a verb. It is a constant exploration where one looks for and finds inspiration in the world around them, and then applies that inspiration to create something completely new. And that thing we create is beautiful and makes a difference in the world.   J. Brantley Hightower


23. It is a sophisticated exercise where a sense of fragility and stability are in constant counterpoint.   Unknown


24. Creativity is more about unique perspectives, different arrangements, new combinations, trusting your instincts, being honest about it.   Unknown


25. The first gesture of an architect is to draw a perimeter; in other words, to separate the microclimate from the macro space outside. This in itself is a sacred act. Architecture in itself conveys this idea of limiting space. It’s a limit between the finite and the infinite. From this point of view, all architecture is sacred.   Mario Botta