Can You Identify the Architectural Styles of These Famous American Buildings?

WORLD

By: Jonnathan Chadwick

7 Min Quiz

Image: GabrielPevide/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The Founding Fathers studied everything about the Greek and Roman empires when they were creating the country. They wanted to make sure the country didn't collapse like Rome or Greece, but aside from the legislation and society, they studied the architecture. 

Ancient Greek and Roman Revival architecture can be seen all over our cities. Domes, arches and columns are featured in some of our most important structures. Some buildings that look like they were designed in Ancient Greece weren't built until the 19th century at the earliest.

Before that, colonists in New England were mastering Colonial architecture with wood and brick, and explorers down south were busy erecting Spanish Colonial structures in places like Florida and New Orleans. Before that, Native Americans were building pueblo homes and cliff palaces in the American southwest. 

By the 1800s, Greek and Roman influence had found its way into almost every government structure across the country, and a distinctly American style of public architecture called Federal style was born. Then came the Gothic Revival, massive plantations, Victorian style, Gilded Age mansions and Art Deco skyscrapers.

By the 20th and 21st centuries, everything was on the table. Even Pueblo, Egyptian and Mayan Revival sprung up. Eventually, postmodern, international, high-tech and neo-futurism styles became commonplace and the country is home to a little bit of everything. How much do you know about America's architecture? Can you identify the architectural style of America's most famous buildings?

The Empire State Building was once the tallest building in the world. What's the architectural style?

Art Deco took off around WWI and can be seen in buildings, vehicles, fashion and more. The Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Plaza in New York City are famous examples of Art Deco architecture. After WWII, Art Deco started to decline and modern architecture styles arose.

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The U.S. Capitol Building has about 540 rooms spread over five floors. Do you know the style?

The Founding Fathers were strongly influenced by the Greek and Roman empires. The influence can be seen in our legislation as well as architecture all over Washington, D.C. Neoclassicism was so prevalent during America's founding it was later grouped into a category called Federal architecture.

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What architectural style is Seattle's Space Needle?

Seattle's Space Needle was completed in 1961, just in time for the 1962 World's Fair. The structure was one of the tallest structures on America's west coast back in the 1960s and was built to withstand 200 mph winds and earthquakes up to 9.1 magnitude.

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More than 25,000 people work in the world's largest office building known as The Pentagon. Do you know the architectural style?

The Pentagon was completed in 1943. It has five sides, five above-ground floors and five corridors per level. The building can be described as modern and neoclassical, but stripped classical is the best description, which is classicism without all the adornments.

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Chicago's Willis Tower surpassed NYC's World Trade Center to be the tallest building in the world until the new World Trade Center reclaimed the title. What's the style?

The Willis Tower was known as the Sears Tower from 1973 (day of completion) to 2009. The naming rights were packaged along with three floors of leased space. The naming rights last until 2024 and then the building could be renamed again.

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LA's Philharmonic calls this Frank Gehry-designed concert hall home. Do you know the architectural style?

This concert hall in Los Angeles opened in 2003 and seats more than 2,260 people. It can also be described as "blobitecture." Other examples of blobitecture are the Flintstones House in California and the London City Hall.

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In what style is this Crystal Cathedral built?

This building in California is officially known as Christ Cathedral and looks nothing like the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. It was completed in 1981 and was called one of the world's largest glass buildings at the time. It houses the Hazel Wright Organ, which consists of more than 17,000 pipes and is one of the largest in the world.

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Fontainebleu Hotel is a prime spot for Miami nightlife. Do you know the architecture?

Fontainebleau Hotel is located in downtown Miami Beach and was built in 1954. It's been ranked as one of America's nicest hotels for several years and a national historic landmark since 2010. Miami's LIV nightclub is located on the grounds.

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The Luxor Hotel & Casino is an iconic symbol of Las Vegas. What's the architecture?

The Luxor is one of the most famous Vegas structures and is influenced by the Egyptian pyramids. Egyptian Revival took off in the 19th century. This building is more contemporary or postmodern Egyptian Revival opposed to the Washington Monument, for example, which is more of a traditional Egyptian Revival.

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What do you call these red/brown adobe homes in New Mexico?

Taos Pueblo in New Mexico is one of the oldest communities in the United States. The area was settled around the 11th century and the structures are still standing today. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

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Public libraries feature some of the most fascinating architecture in the world. What style is featured in Seattle Central Library?

This glass and steel library is one of the most striking libraries in the country and was opened in 2004. The building has been voted as one of the most appealing in the entire state. The building's interior has many modern features that make the library inviting to visitors.

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Bus stations, train stations and airports are some of the most visited places on the planet. What's the architectural style of Grand Central Terminal?

Grand Central Terminal is one of the world's most famous travel terminals and one of the most visited. More than 20 million people visit Grand Central each year, and that's excluding passengers. Its interior and exterior are equally recognizable.

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The Freedom Tower stands 1,776 feet tall. Do you know the style?

Contemporary architecture is new architecture of the 21st century and can encompass many different styles. Almost all the newest and tallest buildings in the world like China's Shanghai Tower and Dubai's Burj Khalifa are contemporary designs.

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Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned residence in the United States. What architectural style is it?

This 250-room castle that George Washington Vanderbilt called his "little mountain escape" was clearly influenced by the chateaux of France. It's the best example of Chateauesque architecture in the United States and one of the largest private residences in the world.

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Fallingwater is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous designs. Can you name this architectural style?

Fallingwater is considered modern architecture, but it's also considered organic architecture, which is a term created by Frank Lloyd Wright. The architect was known for designing homes that incorporated nature into his work.

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San Francisco's Transamerica Pyramid is one of the most distinct buildings in California. What style is this?

The Transamerica Pyramid was San Francisco's tallest building for more than 45 years until 2018. It was actually the eighth tallest building in the world when it was finished. The building features a virtual observation deck.

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Visitors can enjoy beautiful LA views at Griffith Observatory. What style is this building?

Griffith Observatory opened in 1935 and offers great views of Los Angeles. The building features three domes that are influenced by Greek architecture, and the rest of the exterior features Art Deco touches.

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NYC's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is another Frank Lloyd Wright classic. Do you know the architectural style?

The Guggenheim is one of the most popular museums in a city full of museums and one of the most distinct buildings in a city full of distinct buildings. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Spain's Guggenheim was designed by Frank Gehry. Both designs are greatly admired around the world.

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The Washington National Cathedral is the second largest church in America. Do you know the architecture?

Construction on Washington National Cathedral began in 1906 and wasn't finished until 1988. Its pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, flying buttresses and stone carvings are influenced by the grand Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.

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Citizen Kane's Xanadu was inspired by William Randolph Hearst's Castle. What architectural style is it?

William Randolph Hearst was one of America's most successful media tycoons. When his media empire was thriving, he hosted notable people like Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Winston Churchill and Calvin Coolidge at this estate.

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This glass cube in NYC has a striking resemblance to the Louvre's glass pyramid. What's the architecture of Apple Fifth Avenue?

Apple's cube entrance in NYC opened in 2006, closed in 2017 for renovation and re-opened in 2019. Apple's glass entrances are used around the world and can be seen in places like Shanghai and Singapore.

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Apple's Fifth Avenue glass cube is cool, but Apple Park is ultramodern. Do you know the architectural style?

Apple Park in Cupertino opened in 2017 and is home to thousands of Apple employees. The park itself has enough parking for more than 14,000 people. The structure is one mile in circumference and features a bunch of futuristic touches like one of the largest solar roofs in the world.

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The vaulted ceilings of Washington, D.C.'s Metro are unmistakable. Do you know the architectural style?

Washington, D.C.'s metro system is notable because it features some stops that are incredibly deep underground. The next most notable feature is the Brutalist architecture and vaulted ceilings featured across the city.

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The atrium of the George Peabody Library is one of the country's most elegant. Do you know this architectural style?

Baltimore's "Cathedral of Books" houses rare books like early editions of "Moby Dick" and "Don Quixote," but its main feature is its 60-foot atrium. The library was designed by Edmund G. Lind, who wanted it to feel as European as possible.

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George Washington didn't live in the White House because it wasn't finished in time. What architectural style is the White House?

As much as the Founding Fathers wanted to create a government based on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, it only makes sense the White House was inspired the same way. John Adams was the first president to take up residence in 1800.

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The main terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport is one of the sleekest in the country. Can you name the style?

The main terminal at Dulles International was designed by the same architect who designed the TWA terminal at JFK Airport and both feature Googie architecture. Googie architecture is most recognized by curving or up-swept roofs, bold geometry and large-scale glass and steel features.

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The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for about 11 months. What's this architectural style?

New York City's Woolworth Building and 40 Wall Street were both the tallest buildings in the world before the Chrysler Building wore the crown for less than a year. It was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931.

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The Salk Institute might be the most stylish research institution in the country. Do you know this architecture?

Brutalist architecture greatly differs from the soft and graceful lines of modern architecture of the early 20th century like Art Deco and revival styles. The style is usually recognized by large swaths of exposed concrete and bold geometry and symmetry.

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Arizona's Chapel of the Holy Cross rises out of the state's natural red rocks. What architectural style is this?

The Chapel of the Holy Cross rises out of the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona and was built in 1957. It's one of Arizona's most beloved landmarks. It took about a year and a half to build the chapel, and millions visit it every year.

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Newport, Rhode Island is overflowing with Gilded Age mansions like The Breakers. Do you know the architectural style?

You'll find chateauesque, gothic revival and many other types of classic architecture when riding around the beach town of Newport, Rhode Island. The Breakers is one of about 50 mega mansions built by the Vanderbilt family.

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Connecticut's Glass House has been a National Historic Landmark since 1997. What architectural style is this?

Connecticut's Glass House is more of a work of art than an actual house and was completed in 1949. Its architect, Philip Johnson, did live at the house for close to 60 years. The guest house on the grounds is a brick structure known as The Brick House.

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Denver International Airport is the largest airport in all of North America. Do you know the architectural style of its "Rocky Mountain" roof?

Denver International is the second largest airport in the entire world. Its most notable feature is the peaked roof that resembles the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. A steel cable system is used to prop up the fiberglass roof that's coated in Teflon.

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Thomas Jefferson created his own architectural style when he began designing Monticello. What's that style called?

There was no such thing as an architecture school in colonial America, but Thomas Jefferson taught himself the skill. He designed Monticello and the University of Virginia in his own style. Almost all structures built in America during that time period are labeled as Georgian architecture, which defines the time period and not the specific style.

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The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University is one of the country's most unique. In what style is this building built?

This rare book and manuscript library is one of the largest in the world and even served as inspiration for the British Library's King's Library section. Its most striking features are its windowless steel, granite and marble facade and the glass tower used to showcase rare books.

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The dancing fountains at Sin City's Bellagio are some of the most famous in town. What style is this building?

Architecture on the Las Vegas strip ranges from Egyptian Revival to modern architecture to everything in between. The Bellagio is inspired by 16th century Italian Renaissance architecture. Its name comes from a small town in northern Italy.

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NYC's Flatiron Building was built in 1902 and is one of the city's most iconic. Do you know the architectural style?

NYC's Flatiron Building can also be described as Beaux-Arts and was built in 1902. Five years earlier in Atlanta, an architect who studied Chicago School style built the country's first Flatiron Building.

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The wavy design of Chicago's Aqua Tower is impossible to miss. Can you name the architectural style?

This building was completed in 2009. Its most striking feature is its irregularly-sized balconies that create an undulating, wave-like structure that soars more than 850 feet upward. It's been voted as one of the most attractive buildings in the state.

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It's no secret Washington, D.C., was heavily influenced by Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. What style is the U.S. Supreme Court Building?

Washington, D.C. is full of Neoclassical architecture, and the U.S. Supreme Court Building is one of the best examples. It was built more than 100 years after the White House and Capitol but features the same architectural touches.

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St. Patrick's Cathedral is one of the most famous in the world. What style is this church?

Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, Cologne Cathedral and Duomo di Milano were all built during the Middle Ages and feature some of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the world. Modern students strive to duplicate those buildings, and many cathedrals today feature Gothic Revival architecture.

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The main reading room at the Library of Congress is one of the nicest in the country. What architectural style is this?

The Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries in the world, with close to 170 million cataloged items. The library suffered from two burnings that devastated its catalog, but it started growing rapidly after the American Civil War.

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