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Working Papers

America’s Favorite Buildings

Working paper #623
Witold Rybczynski

A recent survey of the American public’s favorite buildings casts interesting light of the divergence between public and professional taste. The public unequivocally favors old buildings over new. Only two of the top twenty-five buildings were built after 1980, and only one out of five buildings on the whole list was built since 1980—and two-thirds of these are in the bottom half of the list. The four largest categories of commercial buildings are: high-rise office buildings (20) and hotels (20), followed by transportation facilities (13) and sports stadiums (nine). The list of public favorites is compared to a list compiled in 1991 by an architectural periodical based on its professional readership. Fifteen of the buildings on the architects’ top twenty-five list do not even appear on the public’s long list of 150 favorites. Conversely, fourteen of the buildings on the public’s top twenty-five list do not appear on the architects’ long list. The author concludes that the gap between professional and public taste should be of concern—to architects.

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