Recognition of women designers and urban influencers in the field of urban design and planning is as scarce as the considerations of women for a gender-inclusive city. Despite the prevalent scenarios, there are women who with their persistence and capabilities have been successful in being role models to many young aspirants. 

These women have given the urban design a new perspective, theory, approach, and scale through their work in the field. Their contributions to the field have not only influenced the urban design of their time but have formed a base for many designs, studies, and theories that can change the world.

1. Jane Jacobs

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Jane Jacobs ©New York Times

One of the most important figures when it comes to urban design undoubtedly is Jane Jacobs. Her theories of urban planning and grassroots studies of its implementation is a valuable treasury for the field. Her efforts for the protection of local neighborhoods from large generic urban renewals, slum clearance projects led to conservation theory in urban design. Her lack of any formal training in the field of urban planning was seized upon for criticism but her work brought her the recognition as the mother of urban planning. Her contribution to New York City and Toronto is very well recognized. It is because of her That the lower Manhattan expressway project was abandoned which saved many neighborhoods in New York. Her publications and exhibitions are referred to even today by urbanists across the globe. 

2. Margaret Fellman

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Margaret Fellman ©National trust of Australia

Born and raised in the Australia of 1920s which was highly male-dominated in the field of art and architecture, She became the first female cadet for the public works department of Western Australia. She then went on to study art and architecture on her way to become the first-ever female town planner of Perth. Soon after, she planned the townsite of Kwinana, New town for the industry workers. She engaged in public speaking as a way of communicating the need for better planning. She was the founding member of the Western Australian Town Planning Institute. She played a vital role in bringing urban conservation to Australian by bringing it to Australian universities as well as setting up the heritage conservation registry. 

3. Brinda Somaya

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Brinda Somaya ©Magtzer.com

Brinda Somaya is one of the very celebrated Indian architects for her approach to vernacular architecture and inspiration as an urban conservationist. Somaya is the founding trustee of the HECAR foundation that stands literally for Heritage, Education, Conservation, Architecture & Restoration. Her work as an urbanist extended to the conversation, research, women in architecture, architectural restoration, and many more overlaps of related fields. Her architectural practice won many prizes in design and restoration. Her work reflected her inspiration from the elongated travels to rural India. She is known for representing Indian ethos in her design expression. 

4. Sheila Sri Prakash

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Sheila Sri Prakash ©Shilpa Architects

She is the architect and urban designer who is the founder of the firm Shilpa architects. She Is the first woman in India to have established her own practice that went on to design and execute various renowned projects. Her proficiency with Indian classical performing arts stayed connected with her design and its adaptation. Wrapping it in the concept of reciprocity, she successfully delivered design thinking that uplifted vernacular architecture and sustainability with the representation of art and culture. Her contribution to the studies of human behavior in the built environment is important in the field of urban design and sociology. Being the founding member of the Indian Green Building Council, She constantly engaged in international conversations about environmental and design sustainability in various events, juries and conferences.

5. Revathi Kamath 

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Revathi Kamath ©Bhairrow.com

Kamath was an architect and planner renowned for pioneering mud architecture as well as building the tallest stainless steel structure in India. She was the alumnus of SPA, Delhi and worked with various architects including Doshi and Bhalla before establishing her practice Kamath design studio with Vasanth Kamath. She was an active member of GRUP – Group for Rural and Urban Planning as well as the National Institute of Urban Affairs. She extensively worked on curating exhibitions and displays including traditional architecture in India and Craft as a tool for social change. Her enormous contribution to urban housing is her sensitive study of the need for urban housing for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers at Anandgram. She conceived the concept of Evolving home as a culmination of a study that she carried out for the project that involved consulting 350 families. 

6. Marjora carter

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Majora Cater ©Street roots archive

Marjora Carter is a Bronx, New York-based Urban revitalization Strategist who has worked with different means and platforms for urban renewal and urban revival. She is the founder and leader of the Sustainable South Bronx which is a non-profit organization. She advocated various environmental and urban justice projects like the Hunts Point riverside park, Green for all, etc. She was one of the six public speakers of TED talks when it was launched. She is the curator of many public spaces revival and design for activity projects in New York City. She authored and co-authored multiple papers that strategies the tools for public engagement, urban heat islands, Elemental carbon levels in the built environment, and many more. She is an urban activist vouching for environmentally sustainable urban development of the cities. 

7. Jennifer Keesmaat

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Jennifer Keesmaat ©The Keesmaat Group

She is the Canadian urban planner who served as the city chief planner of Toronto and also established the Keesmaat group that works with advances in urban planning and city-building that provides consultation to cities internationally. She is a professor at the University of Toronto and CEO of a nonprofit group – Creative housing society. She has worked majorly on many housing projects throughout her career as well as during her tenure as the chief planner. Her round table discussions about her plans were broadcasted with live twitter engagement which was her way of community engagement for planning and strategizing. Her other focus of work was transit and road safety for which she launched and led multiple projects some of which turned out to be very successful models to be adopted internationally. Her advocacy for public safety remains at the core of most of her endeavors. 

8. Emily Tallen

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Emily Tallen ©Archives of university of Chicago

Emily Talen is an activist for social equity in urban design. She is an accomplished researcher and urban designer who has been quoted generously on Google Scholar as well as other platforms of scholarly articles. She is a professor of urbanism at the University of Chicago. She is the recipient of the renowned Guggenheim fellowship for her studies of the urban environment. Her studies of American neighborhoods and cultural mix of people has resulted in various books that span the varied strata of topics from the conflicts of culture to the retrofitting urban sprawl. She received her Ph.D. in urban geography from the University of California she worked as a practicing planner before entering the academic field. She has taught different courses in urban design and planning at multiple universities. 

Aditi Pancholi
Author

Aditi is an Architecture graduate from Nirma University, currently pursuing her masters from NYIT - Manhattan. She is an outspoken researcher for women in urbanism. City scapes and their stories fascinate her. Her bandwidth of thoughts oscillates between history and poetry. Strongly believes that travelling is the best way to escape oblivion.

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