Here’s How to Pronounce the Names of 28 Famous Designers and Architects

The “Rohe” in Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is trickier than you might think.

Reading the names of well-known architects and designers is one thing—saying them aloud is another. If you’re shy about pronouncing Eero Saarinen or Smiljan Radic at a party—or overcompensating by speaking a little too loudly—arm yourself with this guide to saying the names of design’s all-time greats.

Jens Risom

Sounds like: Yens Ree-sum

More straightforward than some, the labor here is in the "Ree," which rhymes with "three." It gets trickier from here. 

Zaha Hadid 

Sounds like: Zuh-huhr Ha-deed 

Put her first name in the front of your mouth with your lips close together, and barely, just barely say that "r." For her last name, pronounce the "a" like "mattress." A little extra oomph into "huhr" and "deed" and you’ve got it. 

László Moholy-Nagy

Sounds like: Laz-lo Mo-HO-lee-Nahj

Whatever you do, don’t say the "Y." His first name should be an even ramp, and the last name is a free fall to the end.  

Alleé Charlotte Perriand

Charlotte Perriand. Copyright Archives Charlotte Perriand.

Sounds like: Ally Shar-LOAT Pearee-uh

With this one, give that "T" in "Charlotte" a nice pop, and land the end of "Perriand" with a sound somewhere between "uh" and "ah." If you say "and," you’re gonna be asked to leave the party.

Bjarke Ingels 

Sounds like: Be-YA-kah Een-gills

Most of the Danish architect’s name will rest just slightly in your throat. His first name kinda sounds like "Bianca." Just remember to say that "j" as a "y," and you’ve got it. 

Eero Saarinen

Sounds like: Ay-roh SAHH-rinin

Make those consonants snappy and the vowels long (especially in "Sahh"). This one juts. As you round the corner of "Ayee," make the "roh" click your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Same for the "r" in the last name. 

Isamu Noguchi

Sounds like: Ee-sah-mu Nuh-GOO-chee

When said correctly, Isamu Noguchi is satisfyingly rhythmic. It’s syllabic symmetry gives it a sing-song quality you’ll want to repeat over and over. Give each vowel its due.

Le Corbusier

Sounds like: Loo Cahr-boos-yeh

Like Isamu Noguchi, this one is even and metered. Keep that "r" very soft and in the back of the throat, say "boos" like "loose," and don’t belabor "yeh."

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Sounds like: Lood-vieg Mees vahn deh ROH-uh

Though broken into many words, each zips to the next, gaining momentum until it balls up on a throaty "Roh" and then falls to the final "uh." Give "vahn" just a little extra oomph, too. This one’s meant to go fast.

Jeanne Gang

Sounds like:  Jee-knee Gang

Her first name is just like a genie from a lamp, and her last name is exactly as you’d expect. Had to get your confidence back up after Mies van der Rohe.

Harry Bertoia

Sounds like: Harry Brr-TOY-uh

His first name is a familiar one, but his last is a bit of a jumble. Say "Brr" like you’ve caught a chill, then say "toy" like a child’s toy, then simply "uh." Done and done.

Smiljan Radic

Sounds like: Smee-lahn RRA-ditch 

With Croatian heritage and a Chilean upbringing, those "R"s in his last name are gonna roll a bit. Don’t get carried away, but make it heard. Emphasize the "a" in "Rra" when it comes, and be sure to end with the word "ditch." If you say the "j" they’re gonna call you a cab.

Antoni Gaudí

Sounds like: AN-toh-nee Gow-dee

To the say the Spanish architect’s name, keep each vowel’s shape throughout, except for when you get to "Gow"—say it like "cow."

Shigeru Ban

Sounds like: She-GEH-roo Bahn

Say it all like one word, with an emphasis on "geh." "Bahn" should start like "barn." Just don’t let the vowels change shape, at all!

Juhani Pallasmaa

Sounds like: Yoo-haw-nee Pall-ahs-mah

The vowels do all the work, so just follow them. Like Shigeru Ban, they don’t change shape. Every syllable is pretty much created equal. Let your voice rise and then fall, splitting first and last name like a perfectly symmetrical peak.

Jean Prouvé

Sounds like: Shjawn Proo-veh 

In French, the "J" at the top of "Jean" does something no English word really does. Just think of the "zh" sound in "zhuzh," or "jus" in "Beef Au Jus."

Ilse Crawford 

Sounds like: Ill-suh Craw-ford

Nothing to overthink here. Give the "e" an "uh" sound and we’re on to the next.

Patricia Urquiola

Sounds like: Pah-TREE-see-ah Oork-ee-OH-lah 

Get out your best Spanish accent, and away you go. Plant every vowel firmly and give a bump to those bolded moments. Both "Tree" and "Oork" have a little tongue trill in the "r."

Gaetano Pesce

Sounds like: Guy-TAHN-oh PEH-sheh

Hailing from Italy, that "sce" does what an "sh" does in English. "Tahn" should sound like "on" with a "t" at the front.

Hella Jongerius

Sounds like: Hell-uh Yong-GEAR-eeus

The Dutch industrial designer’s first name sounds just like it looks, easy. The "j" at the top of her last name makes a "y" sound and. Say "gear" as in the kind you shift.

Konstantin Grcic

Sounds like: Kahn-stan-teen GEAR-tchich 

Say it "Kahn" as in Genghis Kahn. Where there’s a shortage of vowels in his last name, just add a couple to say "gear," like a bicycle gear.

Moshe Safdie

Sounds like: Mo-shee Soft-ee

It’s as straight forward as it looks! Don’t overthink it and it’ll come out just right.

David Adjaye

Sounds like: David A-jay

Say the "A" in "Adjay" like you would in "apple." That’s it.

Alvar Aalto

Sounds like: ALL-var ALL-toe

Say every "a" like the word "all," and snap your tongue on the "r" and "t" just a little bit.

Tadao Ando

Sounds like: Tuh-dow AN-doh

The "uh" sound is somewhere between the "o" in "money" and the "a" in "many." The vowels in "Ando" are like "mandolin."

Finn Juhl

Sounds like: Fin Yewl

The Danish designer’s name is two syllables that sound like one. Say "Juhl" like "jewel" or "mule," but with a "y" in front.

Antonio Citterio

Sounds like: An-TOH-nee-oh Chee-TEAR-ee-oh

Get out your best Italian accent, it’s a must to get this one right. Most importantly, pronounce the "Ci" like you’re saying "cheetah," and roll the "r" in the last name just a bit.

Dieter Rams 

Sounds like: DEE-teh Hahms

Though there is indeed an "R" in the last name of the German designer, the sound is in the back of the throat, and barely—just barely—touches the sound of an "r." His first and last name should flow together as one. 

Related Reading:

Design Icons: 24 Modern Architects and Designers That Have Shaped Our World


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