Architecture was not an easy profession for women, but from the beginning a talented and courageous cadre of women architects pushed the boundaries and fought for recognition. Some worked in the shadow of a mentor or spouse, making amazing accomplishments, only to get no credit. For decades, these courageous professionals have laid the groundwork for today’s talent, allowing their work to be in the spotlight. Moreover, many of these women fought the battle not to be recognized as women in architecture, but simply as talented and innovative architects. Period. Here’s a list of some of the pioneers you should know about.
Dame Zaha Muhammad Hadid (1950-2016) was a great lady of architecture. Called the “Queen of the Curve,” Hadid was the first woman to win the famous Pritzker Prize. Her distinctive designs were futuristic and geometric – impressive on a visual level as well as architectural. Her work has literally changed the face of cities around the world. Hadid’s awards are too great to list, and her distinctive features have become icons in cities around the world. When the Iraqi-British architect died unexpectedly, many of her designs were still in the pipeline.
It’s almost impossible to pick one design that stands out most among Hadid’s work, but a favorite is the port house in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The old abandoned fire station has been restored and topped with a dramatic glass extension that cantilevers over the water. It is a magnificent counterpoint to the massive structures that make up the surrounding port.
American architect Jeanne Gang, project manager of Studio Gang in Chicago, has a keen eye for environmental sustainability and an expert creative approach to using sustainable design techniques. Known for her projects to reduce urban sprawl and increase biodiversity, Gang has had a world-renowned career that is marked by projects that push the boundaries of architecture. The MacArthur collaborator has a diverse body of work that includes a range of interests from developing stronger materials to tracking the design process that also builds relationships with communities and environments. Her distinguished career has already earned her many major awards, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Cavalier of the Legion.
While Gan has undertaken acclaimed projects around the world, she is perhaps best known for the Chicago Aqua Tower, an 82-story building with unique curved concrete balcony overhangs. The feature is not only forward design, but also a functional element that mitigates high winds and allows balconies to be placed on each floor and on all four sides of the building. Upon completion in 2010, the Aqua Tower became one of the tallest buildings in the world designed by a female architect. It also had the city’s largest green roof at the time.
Perhaps the youngest architect to achieve significant success on this list, American Maya Lynn won the design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., while still a student at Yale University. Although it was a groundbreaking style for the memorial, it was also quite controversial at the time. Lynn is the daughter of Chinese intellectuals who emigrated in 1948, shortly before the Communists took over in 1949. Using her early fame as a launching pad, Lynn went on to create other innovative landmarks as well as architectural projects such as the Langston Hughes Library (1999). and the Museum of the Chinese in America in New York. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
As noted, Lynn is best known for her first project, the Vietnam War Memorial. Her vision for the monument is a testament to the power of simplicity, which immediately became a hot spot for controversy. Veterans call it a “black gust of shame,” but the design prevailed, though a secondary monument with three realistic soldiers was placed nearby to appease opponents. Since then, the granite wall with the names of the 58,000 soldiers killed or missing has become a major attraction for visitors, its sleek, abstract profile evoking strong emotions. Finally, in 2005, the monument was recognized by the American Institute of Architects with a 25-year award recognizing structures of proven value.
As one of the founders of the Miami firm Arquitectonica in the late seventies, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is a leader in the field of New Urbanism. Plater-Zyberk and her firm earned an international reputation for a style that was dramatic, high-tech and contemporary, while working to design cities and communities that are livable and sustainable. In 1979, she moved into academia, teaching at the University of Miami, where she also served as dean, and developing groundbreaking programs such as Suburb and Town Design. Now she and her husband, Andres Duany, run DPZ, a firm that creates urban spaces that “encourage walkability, diversity and complexity.” Plater-Zyberk and DPZ have won numerous awards, including the Richard H. Driehaus Award for Classical Architecture and the APA National Organization. Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice in Miami 21.
The architectural project that Plater-Zyberk is best known for is the Atlantis Condominium, a luxury building in Miami. Designed by Arquitectonica and built in the early 1980s, the impressive glass facade with a carved center, a five-story palm yard, became a Miami icon featured in the credits of Miami Vice, a television series. The 21-story building is in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.
As the first female recipient of the European Architecture Prize, French architect Manuelle Gautran is recognized for her “boldness and nonconformity.” She runs her own firm, Manuelle Gautrand Architecture, in Paris and designs projects ranging from houses to cultural buildings. and other sites such as the auto show in Egypt. All of her work seeks to emphasize the connection between a building and its location.
While Gautrand’s numerous works are well known, her design for the Citroën showroom on the Champs-Élysées has really pushed her popularity internationally. The modern design, made of large glass panels that form the Citroen logo on the facade, caused a stir because not everyone was a fan. It has since grown in popularity and is not one of the iconic buildings on the famous street.
German architect Anna Heringer is best known for her interest and expertise in sustainable architecture, which she has developed since she dedicated herself to volunteer work in Bangladesh in 1997. This experience has provided a spark that has fueled her career path as she seeks to focus on what is already there. exists instead of relying on outside systems, using the best resources that are already available. Heringer, who is involved in a number of projects in Bangladesh, has received numerous awards for her work, including the Aga Khan Award and the Global Sustainable Architecture Award. In addition to her design projects, she teaches at various institutions such as Harvard Graduate School of Design, ETH Zurich and the Technical University in Vienna.
The project that has shaped Goehringer’s work is the METI Handmade School at Rudrapur in Rudrapur in the Dinajpur district of Bangladesh. She made the school a reality by using traditional building materials such as mud and bamboo, typical materials used in construction in the area. The school was completed in 2006. Her other projects include DESI (Dipshikha Electrical Skillance), a vocational school for electricians, near the school.
Denise Scott Brown
American architect Denise Scott Brown, head of the Philadelphia firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, worked with her husband Robert Venturi for decades, but is herself one of the 20th Century’s most influential architects. She fought gender discrimination in the industry, fought for recognition of her individual work in urban design, and published a famous essay titled “A Room Upstairs? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture “in 1989. Scott Brown was the driving force behind the studio class and the book “Studies from Las Vegas. “The work was a “collaborative creation” that used concepts that eschewed modernism, reconnecting architecture with old traditions. Her husband’s receipt of the Pritzker Award in 1991 was controversial in that the prize committee would not award the pair, only Venturi, who eventually accepted it with a speech extolling Scott Brown’s work. She received the 2018 Soane Medal, which recognizes “architects who have made great contributions to their field through their built work, through education, history and theory.” Scott Brown also received the Jane Drew Award for raising the profile of women in architecture.
It’s hard to identify just one project to highlight Scott Brown’s work, but the Vanna Venturi House is definitely on the list of major groundbreaking endeavors. Built in 1964 for her mother-in-law, the house is considered one of the prime examples of postmodern architecture. Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania home, incorporates classical forms but also plays a role in aspects of scale and symmetry. The house also embodies a number of concepts and ideas that were included in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture published by Venturi.
Neri Oxman, often called a visionary, is an architect perhaps unlike any other. Instead of designing buildings with building materials, Oxman, of Israeli descent, builds with biological forms, using them as part of construction to create a living building. Her work “shifts from consuming nature as a geological resource to editing it as biological. In her Mediated Matter research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she creates art and architecture that is an innovative combination of biology, mathematics, engineering, computer science and, of course, design. She is known for the phrase “material ecology” to define her work. The trademarks of her style are brightly colored and textured surfaces, structure on many scales, and composites whose hardness, color, and shape vary from object to object.
Because of the innovative nature of her work, it is impossible to walk down the street and point to the building she has created-at least not yet. One of the most dramatic projects Oxman has created is the Silk Pavilion, which is made of an unconventional material using an equally unconventional manufacturing process for design and construction. She and her team programmed a robotic arm to weave a structure of silk threads that mimic the movements that silkworms use to create their cocoons. They then released 6,500 live caterpillars onto the structure to complete the construction process with their own silk.
American architect Julia Morgan (1872 – 1957) was ahead of her time as an innovator in women’s architecture and as a prolific and successful professional in her own right. Among her many “firsts”: she was the first woman licensed as an architect in California to be admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and received the AIA Gold Medal posthumously in 2014. In California, Morgan designed more than 700+ buildings spanning the Arts and Crafts Movement, but working in different styles with meticulous craftsmanship. Beginning his own practice in San Francisco in 1904, the tragedy of the 1906 earthquake brought Morgan a lot of work that designed countless homes, educational and office buildings, and churches.
One of California’s greatest architectural landmarks is Morgan’s most famous architectural work: the famous Hearst Castle. Hired by William Randolph Hearst in 1919, she spent the next 28 years overseeing construction at Hearst Castle and personally designed most of the structures, down to the smallest detail. While Morgan also worked on other Hearst sites, Hearst Castle in San Simeon was a collaboration like no other.
Eileen Gray (1878-1976) may have been most famous for architecture, but she was equally pioneering in furniture design as she was in the role of women in industry. Born in Ireland, Gray was a pioneer in the modern movement in architecture, and her development was supported by her love interest, the Romanian architect Jean Badovich. Her work on a shared house with Badovich in Monaco led to a dispute with Le Corbusier, on whose principles the house was built, who was known to paint murals on the walls of the house without Gray’s permission. In furniture, Gray worked with different geometries, creating furniture in steel and leather, which in turn inspired designers and architects in the Art Deco and Bauhaus styles.
The Monaco house she built for Badowicz may be her masterpiece. Named E-1027, the name is code for the couple’s names: E for Eileen, 10 for J in Jean, 2 for B in Badovici and 7 for G in Gray. The cube-shaped house was built on columns on a rocky site and was said to have been designed along Le Corbusier’s “five points of new architecture” due to its open floor plan, horizontal windows, open façade and stairs leading to the roof. Gray also designed a variety of furnishings to complement the space. Le Corbusier reportedly admired the house and often stayed there. In 1938/1939, however, he painted cubist murals on the walls without her permission, causing a scandal.
Award-winning architect Amanda Levete is the founder and director of AL_A, an international design and architecture studio that seeks to “balance intuitive management with strategic, restless research, innovation, collaboration and attention to detail.” The Welsh-based Leviticus practice is recognized as one of the most innovative in the United Kingdom. In 2011, the firm won an international competition to design a new entrance, courtyard and gallery for London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Before starting her own firm, Levete ran Future Systems with her husband, Czech-born architect Jan Kaplický, and together they created the iconic BLOB object structure recognizable from the old Microsoft Windows edition in 2003. In 2018, Levete won the Jane Drew Award from Architects Magazine and her firm was one of four teams shortlisted to compete in a competition to reimagine the experience of visitors to the Eiffel Tower.
While a number of buildings around the world can be cited as landmark projects for Levete, her design for the courtyard and entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London probably tops the list. It was also named one of Architectural Digest’s most influential buildings in 2017. It adds 6,400 square feet of space and is the largest in the museum in a century. The main feature of the project is a courtyard paved with porcelain – 11,000 handmade tiles covering a 1,200-square-foot courtyard.
Liz Diller is known for her wealth of ideas-some outrageous and some not so much. But she’s also known and celebrated for her visionary work that made her the only architect on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2018 – her second time on the list. Diller founded the firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York City with partner and husband Ricardo Scofidio. Proudly self-defeating, Diller’s firm has transformed buildings of all kinds and recently worked on a long list of public buildings that combine architecture and art and blur the lines between environment, environment and structure. One of their new projects is the Music Center, London’s new £250 million concert hall.
Although Diller’s list of construction projects is quite long, the company is best known for something a little different: their transformation of an abandoned rail line in Manhattan into the High Line, a park that now attracts more than 8 million visitors each year. The transformation was seen as a model of a potential revitalization concept for cities around the world and has raised the desirability and value of real estate in the area around the High Line in New York City.
German architect Annabelle Seldorf has been called by many: a modernist of “interesting simplicity,” “a kind of anti-Daniel Libeskind,” and “the queen of hidden architecture.” Regardless, one thing is for sure: Selldorf is one of the most sought-after residential architects in New York City. She has nothing special and prefers designs that “exude quiet confidence.” That’s probably why she’s become a designer darling in the art world, creating museums around the world. Seldorf won a competition to expand the San Diego Museum of Modern Art and was commissioned by a billionaire pharmaceutical heiress to turn dilapidated warehouses in Arles, France, into exhibition space. She is a member of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and a 2016 AIANY Medal of Honor recipient.
Among the many beautiful buildings created by the Seldorf firm, one of the favorites is the John Hay Library at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The amazing space has lost its luster through many decades and numerous renovations. She developed a design that restored many of the room’s features, such as the oak shelving, and included exact replicas of the fixtures that were originally used. It was finished with comfortable furniture. it blended well with the historic space.
Norma Merrick Sklarek
A true pioneer, Norma Sklarek (1926-2012) was one of the first African American women to be licensed as an architect in the United States. She was called the “Rose of Parks Architecture” because of her intelligence, talent and tenacity. These qualities allowed her to overcome racism and sexism and become a role model in architecture. Sklarek was the first woman of color to be awarded a scholarship to the AIA. Her career included a stint at Welton Becket Associates, where she oversaw the construction of Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport, which was ready before the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 1985, she co-founded Siegel, Sklarek and Diamond with Margot Siegel and Katherine Diamond, which at the time was a major women’s firm.
Among the projects Sklarek designed was The Pacific Design Center, a mixed-use collection of buildings for the design community in West Hollywood. Sometimes Blue Whale one of the buildings is oversized compared to the surrounding buildings and has bright blue glass cladding. The PDC is home to the West Coast’s premier furniture market, a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and two restaurants. It also hosts the annual Oscar Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards.
Another Jane Drew Award winner, Odile Deck has been hailed as “a creative force, an energetic rule-breaker and an advocate of equality.” From the earliest days of teaming up with her husband Benoit Cornette, this duo brought rather modest architecture to France. The couple’s first major project, the Banque Populaire de l’Ouest in Rennes, earned them eight awards. After Cornette’s tragic death in a car accident, her work was still attributed to him, prompting her to change the firm’s name to Studio Odile. From there, Deck opened her own school, the Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, in Lyon, France.
Among her most recent projects is the Fanshan Tangshan National Geopark Museum, one of the best global geoparks. “The shape of the museum originates from the slope of the site, which becomes the shape of the building. The continuity between the landscape and the museum creates a consistent museological space that runs through the many layers of the project,” the architects wrote.
Marion Mahoney Griffin
Innovator Marion Mahoney Griffin (1871-1961) was the world’s first licensed female architect and Frank Lloyd Wright’s first collaborator. One would have thought this would enhance her career, but, as was common with women of that era, her accomplishments were minimized. When Wright’s personal life became more complicated, Mahoney Griffin took over many of his projects. She is considered an original member of the Prairie School, and she produced what was considered one of the finest architectural drawings in America. She later married Walter Burley Griffin’s collaborator and then spent much of her professional family life in Australia. Her watercolor images of his designs for Australia’s new capital, Canberra, helped win a design competition for the city, and once in Australia she ran their firm’s Sydney office.
Among the countless designs Mahoney Griffin has created, the one she made in collaboration with her husband is considered one of the most dramatic. Rock Crest-Rock Glen, located in Mason City, Iowa, is a collection of Prairie School homes, in fact, the largest collection of such style homes in a natural setting. These buildings typically have horizontal lines, wide eaves that overhang the sides, wide groups of windows, and limited use of decorations.
Ann Griswold Ting
Ann Griswold Ting (1920-2011) was known for her mathematical skills and pioneering use of interlocking geometric patterns to create spaces that are full of light. Early in her career, Ting collaborated with the great Louis E. Kahn in Philadelphia and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Ting was very interested in hierarchical symmetry and organic form, which earned her a grant from the Graham Foundation, the first woman to do so. She was also the first architect to use triangulated three-dimensional trusses to frame a house with a traditional pointed roof.
Much of Ting’s work was overshadowed by Kahn and his reputation. The only surviving project she did on her own was the Trenton Bathhouse, though it was attributed to Kahn during his design. It is generally referred to as the birthplace of the aesthetic approach for which Kahn was known. It was posthumously recognized for its unique roof design, which consists of “four symmetrically arranged squares with hipped roofs.” Ting explained that the inspiration was the bathhouses of China, which she remembered from spending her childhood there.
Florence Noll, architect and furniture designer for the famous furniture company, established herself in the mid-century modern era. Having studied Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen, Knoll was well prepared when she met her husband Hans Knoll. Together they built Knoll Furniture, where she was director of the planning department. The furniture designs she created became as famous as her former teachers. After her husband Hans died in 1955, she ran the company until 1960, when she retired to focus on design and development, continuing to fuel the popularity of modernism.
Knoll is better known for her furniture designs than for the construction of any buildings. While she designed countless pieces for the company, the most iconic is the Florence Knoll sofa. Created in 1956, it is minimalist, durable and a perfect complement to her pioneering open-plan living space concept. It also addresses the question Noll asked before she designed it: “How can a piece of furniture support luxurious upholstery, yet take up as little space as possible?”
Definitely ahead of her time, Pennsylvania architect Anne Wagner Keichline (1889-1943) was also a suffragette and special agent during the World War. Defined as “the first woman to actually practice architecture professionally,” her designs led to seven different kitchen and interior patents. She was well known for her efforts to create interiors that saved time and traffic, including the combination sink and basin and the precursor to the Murphy bed. Keichline also designed many homes, but unfortunately they have been renovated or demolished.
Although none of Keichline’s buildings have survived intact, her most famous invention makes the hollow, fire-resistant “K Brick,” an early relative of today’s ubiquitous concrete block. This design won her awards in 1931 from the American Ceramic Society. The brick was popular not only because of its fire-resistant qualities, but also because it was lightweight, inexpensive and insulating, useful for creating walls that weighed half as much as solid brick walls.
Little known outside of Spain, architect Carme Pigem gained worldwide notoriety when she and her partners were awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2017. RCR Arquitectes was honored for a collaboration “in which no part of the project or the entire project can be attributed to a single partner.” Their design work is distinguished by its ability to highlight the local, yet be universal and globally significant. The creations are beautiful, functional and very thoughtful.
Among their creations, one of their early works was the result of a prize sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Public Works and Urbanism. They responded to the call to create a lighthouse in Punta Aldea, which is the “essence of typology”. The project is considered groundbreaking because it contradicts many basic principles of architecture today. It also uses materials and ideas that match the natural topography of the area.
Lina Bo Bardi
The Brazilian architect of Italian descent Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) was a prolific architect known as an advocate of the social and cultural potential of architecture. Throughout her career, she worked to promote a new collective way of life and believed that architecture should be seen as “a possible way of being and facing different situations. Bardi was also an early proponent of sustainable architecture. She was also a prolific designer and founded the studio de Arte e Arquitetura Palma in 1948. These collaborative efforts with Giancarlo Palanti (1906-77) focused on designing affordable furniture in plastic or pressed wood.
One of Bardi’s most famous buildings is the SESC Pompeia (Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia), built in 1982 in São Paulo. The building was originally a drum factory with three huge concrete towers, air passages and portholes instead of windows. The design combines these unconventional elements into what was, at the time, controversial construction. Bardi called it a “socialist experiment.”
As the founder of one of Japan’s leading architectural firms, Momoyo Kaijima experiments with new design theories that generate new concepts for public spaces and urbanism. Having developed ideas such as architectural behaviorology as well as micro-public space, Kajima and her team at Atelier Bow Wow coined the term “Pet Architecture” to describe buildings squeezed into the remaining urban spaces. These microspaces are the focus of the firm’s work in Japan, as well as in the U.S. and Europe.
One of their most remarkable works is the Atelier Bow-Wow House. The flag-shaped site is surrounded by buildings that are connected to the street by a narrow portion of the building. It is located in the Shinjuki-ku district of Tokyo. A building that was once a home and atelier, yet had the ability to use its vast experience in turning challenging conditions into positive features of homes.
London-based Alison Brooks is known for designing smart, stylish homes as well as cultural buildings. Her belief that disposable buildings are obsolete has prompted her to tackle issues such as the quality of housing and public spaces. She worked with designer Ron Arad and then started her own firm. Her work has been described as “the late blossom of the most elegant and sensual modernism. Brooks is the only architect to have won all three of Britain’s most prestigious architecture awards.
Among her projects, “Smile” is still the most popular and award-winning.She was commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council to create an interactive installation for London Design Week. Her design is a rectangular tube 3.5 meters high and 4.5 meters wide that curves upward like a smile. Located in the center of the Chelsea Platz (UAL), it emphasizes the versatility of wooden construction and is a fusion of art and architecture.