Female Role in Architecture Education

Women have been under-represented as nothing more than a side asset in the profession, and sometimes not even an asset but a liability. Too headstrong, too bossy, not up for the task, …etc. all are stereotypical judgments of women. The world is moving ahead in teaching young girls not to stay on the sidelines. The difference might not be welcomed, and the misconception might be persistent and not so easy to get rid of, but young girls are starting to strive for the architectural leadership of brilliant and pioneering female architects before them. 

Female architects have expanded their roles to academia, research, and design, becoming a key factor in the evolution of architecture. They have struggled when their work was passed over or considered not significant, not as good, or not as impactful. DuBois et al. (1985), defined discrimination against women as (1) the disregard of women’s efforts in the narrative, (2) the differentiation between the value of the accomplishments of women as a result of the microscopic focus on males as a dominant species and (3) the persistence of gender stereotypes, and (4) the description of women in a demeaning stereotypical. Architecture education is the foundational base that needs to be restructured first in order for women in architecture to get more recognition. 

Representation of Women in Architecture Education 

According to a study carried out by (Fulani, O. et al) in universities across west Nigeria on the impact of female architects on their study and motivation. The study concluded that the visibility of female architects is scarce. Their presence in the architecture education curriculum is not sufficient to show their contributions to the field of architecture. The inclusion of female architects in architectural programs, workplaces, and academia is crucial for the inclusivity and diversity of the evolution of architecture. Their inclusion will generate a wide range of perspectives, ideas, and designs, due to their constant struggle to prove themselves in a male-dominated profession. Involving female architects ensures that talented individuals, regardless of their gender, have equal access to educational opportunities and career advancement within the field.

Women in Architecture 

Women in architecture are often overshadowed by their male counterparts, even though their contributions have been more than transformative and revolutionary in the architecture profession. This list puts ten pioneering female architects in the spotlight, as a guide for young who should pose as role models for young architects who need to believe that it is possible to achieve more than mediocre recognition in the architecture profession. 

Zaha Hadid:

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Zaha Hadid_Zaha Hadid Architects

Approach: Pioneering parametric design and fluid architectural forms.

Contributions: Known for her groundbreaking, futuristic designs, including the Guangzhou Opera House and the Heydar Aliyev Center, which pushed the boundaries of architectural innovation.

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Heydar Aliyev Center_Zaha Hadid Architects_ Photo by Iwan Baan

Jeanne Gang:

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Jeanne Gang_Photo by Jean Marc Giboux

Approach: Sustainability, community engagement, and biophilic design.

Contributions: Designed the environmentally innovative Aqua Tower in Chicago and focused on creating architecture that connects people with nature and promotes sustainable living.

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Aqua Tower_Photo by Steve Hall

Maya Lin:

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Maya Lin_Photo courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures

Approach: Environmental sensitivity and minimalist design.

Contributions: Best known for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Lin’s work often merges art and architecture, highlighting the importance of environmental and social issues.

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Vietnam Veterans Memorial_Dsdugan

Anna Heringer:

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Anna Heringer_Photo Courtesy of UIA World Congress of Architects

Approach: Sustainable, earth-friendly architecture with a focus on community and craftsmanship.

Contributions: Her work includes the METI Handmade School in Bangladesh, which demonstrates the potential of local materials and vernacular building techniques in sustainable design.

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METI School_Photo by Kurt Hoerbst

Elizabeth Diller (of Diller Scofidio + Renfro):

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Elizabeth Diller_Photo by Landon Speers

Approach: Interdisciplinary design, adaptive reuse, and public space activation.

Contributions: Designed the High Line in New York City, a groundbreaking elevated park created from an abandoned railway track, transforming urban space.

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The High Line in New York_on The High Line Website

Tatiana Bilbao:

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Tatiana Bilbao_Photo by Luis Garvan

Approach: Contextual architecture rooted in local culture and sustainable design.

Contributions: Notable projects include the Sustainable Housing Prototype in Mexico, exploring affordable and sustainable housing solutions.

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Sustainable Housing Prototype in Mexico_Tatiana Bilbao Estudio

Carme Pigem (of RCR Arquitectes):

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Carme Pigem_Photo by RCR Arquitectes

Approach: Integration of architecture with the natural landscape and use of materials.

Contributions: Awarded the Pritzker Prize, her work reflects a deep connection to nature and a commitment to creating harmonious spaces.

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La Lira Theater Public open space_pritzkerprize.com

Kazuyo Sejima (of SANAA):

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Kazuyo Sejima_ Photo by Kohei Omachi

Approach: Minimalist and transparent architectural designs.

Contributions: Known for the Serpentine Pavilion in London and the New Museum in New York, her work emphasizes simplicity and spatial purity.

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2009 Serpentine Pavilion in London_Photo by Nick Guttridge

Odile Decq:

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Odile Decq_Photo by Piero Martinello

Approach: Experimental and avant-garde design, often incorporating bold geometries.

Contributions: Her work includes the MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rome, which challenges conventional architectural norms.

Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rome_Piero Martinello

Women in architecture have made significant strides in overcoming historical challenges and biases. While progress has been made in increasing their representation and recognition in the field, even though gender disparities and obstacles persist. Their work, their success, and their exposure is the key factor in female representation in the architectural profession. Their input, career background, and history, is a crucial addition to the architectural education curriculum, to relate to young female architects who strive for the recognition presented in those who came before them. In a profession constantly celebrating the works of male architects, it is equally influential and necessary to celebrate their female counterparts. 

References

Schioppa, C., 2022. Stories of Women Architects Who Made Their Mark. The Plan Journal. https://doi.org/10.15274/tpj.2022.07.01.13.

Kingsley, K., & Glynn, A., 1992. Women in the Architectural Workplace. Journal of Architectural Education, 46, pp. 14-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/10464883.1992.10734529.

Turpin, J., 2001. Omitted, Devalued, Ignored: Reevaluating the Historical Interpretation of Women in the Interior Design Profession. Journal of Interior Design, 27, pp. 1 – 11. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-1668.2001.tb00361.x.

Sang, K., Dainty, A., & Ison, S., 2007. Gender: a risk factor for occupational stress in the architectural profession?. Construction Management and Economics, 25, pp. 1305 – 1317. https://doi.org/10.1080/01446190701546177.

Sun, E., & Yasar, D., 2022. A Study on the Female Architects’ Approaches to Design in the 21st Century. 5th International Conference of Contemporary Affairs in Architecture and Urbanism. https://doi.org/10.38027/iccaua2022en0044.

Fulani, O., Amole, D., Aderonmu, P., Adewale, B., Babalola, D., & Jegede, F., 2019. Besides Zaha or Adenowo: Investigating the Visibility Status of Female Architects as Role Models for Students of Architecture. International Journal of Innovative Technology and Exploring Engineering. https://doi.org/10.35940/ijitee.i7493.078919.

Author

Noha is a passionate architectural engineer and dedicated master's student with a unique blend of technical expertise and creative insight. Noha eloquently relates academia to the public, translating complex designs and concepts into engaging narratives. Her work showcases a profound love for the art and science of architecture.