The White House, the Empire State Building and the Washington National Cathedral are unlikely candidates for a top ten of American architecture, but there they are heading up a just-released public survey of America's top 150 buildings conducted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
1800 Americans were surveyed, and the results suggest that Americans value their buildings more for their 'standing' of for how often they see them on their news than for any architectural value they might possess.
Of the top twenty, only five could really be said to be great or even good architecture -- and the pseudo-classical layer cakes of the Capitol and the White House would not be among them -- but that doesn't trouble the respondents even a little bit. The public may not know much about architecture, but they do know what they like.
For mine, for great architecture, I'd take the Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges from the top twenty; Fallingwater, Taliesin and the Rose Center from the 21-40 group; Sears Tower, the Milwaukee Art Museum (above) and Thorncroft Chapel from 41-60; 333 Wacker Drive, the Gamble House and the New York Guggenheim Museum from 61-80; the Dana Hose, the TWA Terminal, John Portmans' Hyatt Regency, Atlanta and Mario Botta's SF Museum of Modern Art from 101-120; Taliesin West and the Robie, Hollyhock and Stahl Houses from 121 to 40; and finally, bringing up the rear in the public's list (but not mine) the John Hancock Tower, Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott Store and Auditorium Building, and Saarinen's Ingall's Arena.
The discussion has already started in the AIA's comment section.