For several years now, women have been proving their passion and talent for design and architecture in a male-dominated profession. It is a paradox that even in the 21st century, architecture can still be a challenging career path for women, and gender inequality continues to be a major cause of concern. However, some female architects are challenging the pre-existing notions about the field every day and have made a profound impact on architecture as we know it today.
The list is short and many important names may be left out, but here are 20 iconic structures designed by women that you should know.
1. The Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid
Architecture enthusiasts will undoubtedly recognize the Heydar Aliyev Centre as the work of the late Zaha Hadid. Hadid’s fluid, undulating design for this cultural center that opened in 2012, won the London Design Museum’s Design of the Year in 2014. She was indeed a trailblazer for the women in the industry and was finally recognized for her talents when she became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize in 2004. Hadid also won the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011and received a RIBA International Award for the Galaxy Soho in 2013.
2. Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Lin
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC is among the most recognizable designs in the world, and heralded a revolutionary change for memorial design, breaking away from classical conventions and dramatically changing the discourse of typology. At the age of just 21 and while she was still finishing her undergraduate degree at Yale, Maya Lin won the design competition for the memorial. Always seeking to make structures that reflect the mood and dialogue of her time, Lin perceives herself not as a memorialist, an artist, or an architect, but a hybrid that defies explicit categories.
3. Women’s Opportunity Center by Sharon Davis
Sharon Davis’s project, Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda is an award-winning design with the main idea to use the form of a vernacular Rwandan village as the organizing principle with a series of round pavilions clustered to create security and community for up to 300 women. Sharon’s work is driven by her belief in the transformative power of design. She believes that the success of the designs are measured by the degree to which they expand access to the fundamental human right to social justice, economic empowerment, and a healthy, sustainable environment. Her vision of architecture in buildings can alter the future of communities.
4. SESC Pompeia Leisure Center by Dona Lina
One of Dona Lina’s most emblematic buildings is the SESC Pompeia, realized in 1982, in São Paulo, Brazil. It is a project of a converted factory, with huge concrete towers, featuring aerial walkways and asymmetrical portholes in the place of windows. With the radical design and the almost brutal approach of the industrial cell, Bo Bardi brought to life her vision for the world, what she called a “socialist experiment”.
5. The Silk Pavilion by Neri Oxman
The Silk Pavilion by Israeli-born visionary Neri Oxman explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales. Neri invented the term “material ecology” to describe her interest in building with biological forms. She does not simply mimic these elements in her design, but actually incorporates biological components as part of the construction. The resulting buildings are “truly alive.”
6. Hearst Castle by Julia Morgan
Julia Morgan was the first woman to study architecture at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, and the first woman to work as a professional architect in California. During her 45-year long career, Morgan designed more than 700 homes, and other structures, including the famous Hearst Castle.
7. E-1027 Villa by Eileen Gray
A modernist villa on the south coast of France was designed by Eileen Gray and lived in by Le Corbusier. Completed in 1929, E-1027 was the first major architecture project by Gray, an Irish architect who was one of the pioneers of the modernist movement.
8. The EDP Foundation’s Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology by Amanda Levete
Amanda Levete’s EDP Foundation’s Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology in Lisbon, explores the convergence of architecture, technology and contemporary art as a field of cultural practice. Amanda is a RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect, founder of AL_A, an international award-winning architecture studio.
9. The New Museum of Contemporary Art by Sejima
Sejima is known for designs with clean modernist elements such as slick, clean, and shiny surfaces made of glass, marble, and metals. In her design for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, she uses a minimal scheme: a series of stacked cubes in an offset arrangement that gives to the building dynamicity and attractive shape, being different but similar to the near constructions.
10. Split Machiya by Momoyo Kaijima
Split Machiya designed by Momoyo Kaijima is a private house they created in Tokyo which is composed of two mirrored structures connected with a central courtyard and was influenced by the aesthetics of the Machiya, a traditional Japanese building type from the Edo period. Momoyo Kaijima is the co-found of the Tokyo-based architecture office Atelier Bow-Wow, one of Japan’s leading firms.