Women in architecture have been documented as professional and amateur practitioners and educators for many centuries. We’ve listed seven7 female architects you should know.
The role women have had in architecture is somehow historically overlooked. For many years architecture was considered men’s profession and the number of women architectures was low.
But at the beginning of the 20th century, schools of architecture in Europe started to admit women too.
In 1980, Italian born M. Rosaria Piomelli became the first woman to hold a deanship of architectural school in America. In particular, she was the dean of the City College of New York School of Architecture.
But it won’t be a surprise if we say that only in recent decades women started achieving more recognition in this field. So, let’s have a closer look at the topic of women in architecture and find some interesting things about some of the most significant female architects.
What is the role of women in architecture?
Early examples of women that played a crucial part in architecture and the designing of buildings are two European women.
- One of them is French Katherine Briçonnet, who was influential in designing the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley.
- The other one is British Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham, who has been put forward as the architect of Wotton House in Buckinghamshire and of some other constructions.
- It is said that she may have designed up to 400 buildings. Other female architects that changed the perception of women in architecture are Mary Townley (who designed architectural gem Townley House) and Sarah Losh (known for her work St Mary’s Church).
Even though until recently the enormous contribution of female architects has been largely unnoticed, women have had a fair amount of influence on architecture over the past century.
According to the studies, women, were instrumental in bringing new innovative approaches to design as housewives and consumers.
Furthermore, for more than a century, women have been constantly proving not only their passion but also the talent for design and architecture.
We can’t deny that even in the 21st-century architecture is still viewed as a male-dominated profession thus, becoming a challenging career path for women.
Nonetheless, there are many women in architecture who are not only challenging every day the inequalities and barriers of this profession but also have made a profound impact in this sphere.
Nowadays, women are more active in the fields of construction as well. Breaking the stereotypes of society, women are involved in fields where men “dominate”. For example, the best milling machines have been tested and reviewed by a young woman, click here to read more.
Down below you can find a list of remarkable female architects who went against stereotypes and made groundbreaking achievements.
Women in Architecture #1: Zaha Hadid
Probably the first person that will come to your mind while speaking about women in architecture is Zaha Hadid. She was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950.
This London-based architect won Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 thus, becoming the first woman ever to receive architecture’s highest honor.
Furthermore, she was the first woman to win a Royal Gold Medal in her own right. She is known to be the ‘Queen of the curve’, who gave a whole new expressive identity to the architectural geometry.
Hadid’s parametric designs involve all fields, ranging from parking garages, products to vast urban landscapes and furniture. Her works are known to be bold, unconventional, and theatrical.
Zaha Hadid studied and worked with Rem Koolhaas, and like her teacher, she used a deconstructive approach to her designs.
In 1979, she opened her own practice, Zaha Hadid Architects and a few years after that Patrik Schumacher joined her and after her death, he is leading the company.
This outstanding woman died of a heart attack in 2016 at the young age of 65.
Zaha Hadid’s Works
- Inaugural Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London, UK
- Terminus Hoenheim-Nord, a “park and ride” and tramway, France
- The Richard and Lois Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio
- MAXXI: National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome, Italy
- Phæno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany
- Guangzhou Opera House, China
- Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Abu Dhabi, UAE
- Aquatics Centre, London, United Kingdom; and post-Olympic reconfiguration in 2014
- Pierres Vives, Montpellier, France
- Galaxy SOHO, Beijing, China
- Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing
- Hadid Residences for CityLife, Milan, Italy
Women in Architecture #2: Denise Scott Brown
Denise Scott Brown was born to Jewish parents in Nkana, Zambia but was raised in South Africa. She is married to famous architect Robert Venturi and they have been regarded as one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century.
She had already made significant contributions to the field of architecture before she met him. Despite the fact that her husband appears more frequently in the spotlight, Denise’s research and teachings have shaped modern understanding of design and architecture.
Scott Brown attended the Architectural Association in London and the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Master of City Planning and a Master of Architecture.
The couple is especially popular for smart urban designs. Robert Venturi is known for exaggerating historical styles and incorporating cultural icons into the building design.
To illustrate, the Children’s Museum of Houston is constructed with columns and pediment but they appear to be cartoonish. He was one of the first architects who embraced this playful, sometimes sarcastic style that became known as postmodernism.
In 2016, the pair was awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the highest honor that is bestowed by the American Institute of Architects.
Women in Architecture #3: Neri Oxman
Israeli-born Neri Oxman invented the term Material Ecology. By the help of this term, she describes her interest in building with biological forms.
She actually uses elements of biology as part of the construction thus making a true living building. As she once told in an interview,
Since the Industrial Revolution, design has been dominated by the rigors of manufacturing and mass-production. We’re now moving from a world of parts, of separate systems, to architecture that combines and integrates between structure and skin.
She is also an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Women in Architecture #4: Julia Morgan
Julia Morgan was the first woman to work as a professional architect in California. Moreover, she was the first woman to study architecture at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France.
Morgan designed over 700 homes, office buildings, churches, hospitals, stores and educational buildings during 45 years of her career. In 2014, Morgan became the first woman to receive the AIA Gold Medal.
She is best known for the lavish Hearst Castle. She also helped rebuild San Francisco after the earthquake and fires of 1906.
Julia Morgan earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and was mentored by architect Bernard Maybeck.
Of the hundreds of homes that Julia Morgan designed, she is perhaps most famous for Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California that is one of the largest and most elaborate homes in America.
It has 127 acres of gardens, 165 rooms, beautiful terraces, indoor and outdoor pools, and an exclusive private zoo.
Julia Morgan’s works
- Livermore House, San Francisco, CA
- Campanile (bell tower), Mills College, Oakland, California
- Asilomar, Pacific Grove, CA
- The Hacienda, William Randolph Hearst’s home at Valley of the Oaks, CA
- Wyntoon, Mount Shasta, CA
- San Simeon (Hearst Castle), San Simeon, CA
- The Berkeley City Club, Berkeley, CA
Women in Architecture #5: Liz Diller
American architect Liz Diller uses black Sharpies, colored pencils and rolls of tracing paper to sketch her ideas. Even though some of Diller’s ideas have never been built, many of her dreams have been created.
One of her most spectacular works is the Blur Building in Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland that she has built in 2002 for the Swiss Expo. It was a six-month installation with a fog-like structure that was realized by jets of water. She described this structure as a cross between “a building and weather front.”
This outstanding female architect is a founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Along with her husband Ricardo Scofidio, she continues to transform architecture into art.
Another iconic building created by Liz Diller is the elevated parkland known as New York City’s High Line. In general, Diller’s ideas range from the theoretical to the practical that combines art and architecture.
Women in Architecture #6: Maya Lin
The remarkable career path for Maya Lin started during the period when she designed a memorial for Vietnam war veterans for a class project at Yale University.
Lin submitted her design poster to the national competition in Washington, DC in 1981. To her great surprise, she won the competition and she was only 21.
From then on, she is forever associated with her design of ‘The Wall’, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that is one of the most famous memorials in the United States.
This prominent artist and architect is best known for her minimalist sculptures and monuments. Maya Lin continued to create powerful and exciting designs using natural materials, simple shapes and Eastern themes throughout her career.
She has a design studio in New York City since 1986 and currently, she continues to realize her own “Lin-chitecture” that is especially focused on environmental themes.
In 2012 Lin created what she calls her final memorial, known as ‘What is missing?’ Among her numerous honors and awards are the National Medal of Arts, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, AIA Twenty-five Year Award and some others.
Women in Architecture #7: Amanda Levete
Amanda Levete is a Welsh-born architect and the founder and principal of AL_A. It is an international award-winning design and architecture studio.
By the help of this studio, this RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect tries to explore permanently the application of new materials and techniques in architecture and design. Not to mention that she is constantly looking for new ways to create significant and positive impact beyond the building.
Some of the projects of AL_A are the EDP Foundation’s Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology in Lisbon, the new courtyard, entrance and gallery for London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the Central Embassy project in Bangkok, the second MPavilion for the Naomi Milgrom Foundation in Melbourne and many other projects.
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