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Which Architectural Style is Most Emblematic of the U.S.?

By Peter Kray posted 07-09-2019 17:11


Post a question on the CSI Connect Community asking CSI members which ‘Architectural Style is most emblematic of the U.S.?’ over the 4th of July, and don’t be surprised if you get a funny photo of a vacant strip mall, and more than a few comments about the current state of politics. 

You also get some very insightful feedback on which longstanding styles of architecture—and which iconic innovators—continue to influence the way we build in the U.S.

Here are a few highlights from nearly two-dozen replies. Join the conversation and add your thoughts.

“The Manhattan Skyline.”

Theodore Smith RA NCARB CCS


“I believe the most iconic American style is the Georgia Plantation or Plantation Style. It represents power, wealth, and beauty. Moreover, it is part of America history whether bad or good. I have written many architectural pattern books and this is the style in all its classical order that prevails as the most liked and used.”

Mirelys Calise

“Coming from an area where the vernacular architectural style is recognizably unique (New Mexico), I hope there will never be a single answer to this question. The diversity of architectural style is climate driven, and a country of our size should never consolidate to a single expression.”
Jori Smith CSI, CDT, LEED AP


“Being from New England, I've always been interested in the historic forms of the vernacular New England Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn, that are ubiquitous from Connecticut through upstate New York and across into Maine. The book by Thomas C. Hubka, on that exact subject talks about this form.

Many of these buildings survived and now house 3 and 4 small families in renovated apartments, whereas 150 years ago they would have housed one giant multi-generational family.”

Cam Featherstonhaugh CSI, CDT, AIA

“Let’s not forget Frank Lloyd Wright, who tried to create a new architecture for America. Although Mr. Wright's style was uniquely his, several concepts that he pioneered in architectural design have become ingrained in many of today's vast architectural creations, from the lowly tract home to the high-rise commercial building.”

Ronald Geren, FCSI Lifetime Member, CCS, CCCA, AIA, CSC, SCIP


“Prairie style. Love it.”
Gene Fosheim MS, MA, FCSI, CD


​“I once believed it was the classical white-columned architecture of the Capitol and the White House.  But times have changed, and for present day it would be a glitzy polished brass or gold trimmed reflective glass tower.”
Donald Koppy RA, CSI, CCS, CDT, AIA, NCARB


“No, the glitzy polished brass or gold trimmed reflective glass tower is emblematic of ‘modern' architecture and of what our great nation once was - and I hope - will be again. I regret that many architectural designers have been persuaded by architectural publications that twisted and non rectilinear shapes that give the appearance of having serious structural defects are worthy of praise.”



“I see the rapid increase in technology, construction and design systems being at the forefront of the reason for the unusual forms. Many of these, as you noted, indicate a questionable design sense.”

Ron Culpepper CSI, CDT

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