Architecture is for the people and its foremost purpose is to provide a functional, healthful, safe, and pleasing environment. It is the profession where learning processes continue lifelong (Praveen Kumar Gupta,2016). But, what it does as a profession is unforeseen under the underlying gender intricacies. While there is no barrier to the acceptance of women in architecture, a sharp decrease is witnessed in the number of women students becoming or staying in the profession.

Feminism isnt about making women stronger. Women are strong, its about changing the way the world perceives the strength– G.D.Anderson.

20 Women shaping the Architecture of 21st century - Sheet1
Illustration by Simone Noronha; Source: New York Times

In a survey of the world’s 100 biggest architecture practices, only three were headed by women, and just two had as many female managers as male, according to magazine Dezeen in November (Matthew Ponsford, CNN, 2018). Despite just asking the question about the absence of female architects, the call is to infuse equity for women in the real sense in the architectural profession by talking about the visibility of women in architecture. The rationale behind considering architecture to be a man’s profession needs to be omitted. The professional realities have proven that women have learned to be assimilated in the male culture.

20 Women shaping the Architecture of 21st century - Sheet2
The history of women in architecture; Source: The Angry Architect

So, the idea of this article is to list down the most influential “architects” who, by breaking the stereotypes have brought up new opportunities to design field.

  1. Zaha Hadid (1950-2016): Being an Iraqi-born British and entitled as the “queen of curves”, she is renowned all over the world for her parametric design. She became the first women architect to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Award. Blessed with an intended caliber, Hadid’s portfolio of work displays her experiments with the never-before-used-concepts.
  2. Denice Scott Brown (1931): Bron to Jewish parents, Denice Scott Brown is an architect, planner, writer, educator, and principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia (Bostjan,2019). Although it was her ex-husband, Robert Venturi who got all the fame, she was believed worldwide to be the brains and determination behind their practice.
  3. Neri Oxman (1976): Neri Oxman is an American–Israeli designer and she leads Mediated Matter, a research group. She has coined the word “material ecology” and is famous for her interest in building with biological forms, resulting in the building being “alive”.
  4. Julia Morgan (1872-1957): Julia was an American architect and engineer who designed more than 700 buildings in California. In 2014, 57 years after her death, Morgan became the first woman to receive the AIA Gold Medal, the American Institute of Architects‘ highest honor.
  5. Eileen Gray (1878-1976): Eileen Gray was an Irish architect and furniture designer. She is considered to be the most influential designer of all time. Her 1929 house design at E-1027 has given her an elevated stature to be a true role model for women in architecture.
  6. Amanda Levete (1955): CBE is the founder of AL_A, an international award-winning design and architecture studio. “Most fundamentally, architecture is the enclosure of space, the distinction between what is inside and outside,” Levete writes (Jackie Craven,2019). “The threshold is the moment at which that changes; the edge of what is building and what is something else”(Jackie Craven,2019).
  7. Eizabeth Diller (1954): Diller is an American architect who continues to transform architecture into art. Elizabeth Diller‘s ideas for public spaces range from the theoretical to practical, combining art and architecture, and blurring definitive lines that often separate media, medium, and structure (Jackie Craven,2019).
  8. Annabelle Selldorf(1960): German-born architect, Annabelle Selldorf began her career designing and recalibrating galleries and art museums. Today, she is one of the most sought-after residential architects in New York City. Her design for the structure at 10 Bond Street is one of her best-known creations (Jackie Craven,2019).
  9. Maya Lin (1959): Maya Lin is best known for her all the minimalistic ideas and sculptures. At the age of 21, she coined the title of winning the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  10. Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012): Merrick was a pioneering American architect, is the first to become a licensed architect in states of New York. Also, the first to get the fellowship of AIA. Through her work, she became the role model for various young minds out there.
  11. Odile Decq (1955): She broke up the stereotype of masculinity in architecture and is renowned for opening up her own Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture in Lyon, France.
  12. Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-1961): Marion was an American artist and architect who went on to become the world’s first officially licensed female architect. By completing projects such as the Adolph Mueller House in Decatur, Illinois, Griffin contributed greatly to both Wright’s career and his legacy.
  13. Kazuyo Sejima (1956): Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima launched a Tokyo-based firm that designs award-winning buildings around the world.
  14. Sheila Shri Prakash (1955): Sheila Shri Prakash is an Indian architect and urban designer. Being the founder of Shilpa Architects, she deconstructed the status of women as an architect in India.
  15. Florence Knoll (1917-2019): During the period from 1945 to 1960 in which a professional career in interior design was born, Florence Knoll was regarded as its guardian. Her legacy can be seen in corporate boardrooms across the country (Jackie Craven,2019).
  16. Anna Keichline (1889-1943): She was an American architect, known for inventing the hollow, fireproof “K Brick” by being the first registered female architect in Pennsylvania.
  17. Susana Torre (1944): She is an Argentine-born American architect, critic, and educator, based in New York City. Through her teaching, writing, and architectural practice, she strives to improve the status of women in architecture (Jackie Craven,2019).
  18. Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1915): Bethune is thought to be the first woman in the United States to work professionally as an architect. She is credited with designing Buffalo’s landmark Hotel Lafayette (Jackie Craven,2019).
  19. Carme Pigem (1962): Carme is a Spanish architect, a member of the Pritzker Prize-winning architectural firm RCR Arquitectes. She practices a creative approach to a constant intermingling of ideas and continuous dialogue with material juxtaposition.
  20. Jeanne Gang (1964): Jeanne is an American architect and the founder and leader of Studio Gang (established in 1997). MacArthur Foundation Fellow Jeanne Gang may be best known for her 2010 Chicago skyscraper known as “Aqua Tower”.

Misleading of the term to the misogynist culture needs to be eradicated; the term “architect” needs to be comprehensive. The call is thus to infuse feminism, amplify them, write about them, and support them.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform”- Diane Mariechild. The recommendations are to promote stronger cultures, better benefits, equity, and a balanced environment (Lance Hosey,2019).

Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future

NOOREEN AFZA is a student of Bachelors in architecture who aspires to be privileged enough to influence the millions of minds out there, positively. She loves architecture as much as she respects the words winding-up its whole essence together. Her character is defined by being bold and influential through her writings.

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