Having often been regarded as a profession for a privileged class of people, architecture is also traditionally considered a man’s profession. However, women are very much involved in this field, and they are doing so more and more. In many countries, such as the United States, women make up nearly half of the students in architectural schools. In others, such as France, women outnumber men by far. In schools as well as in the professional field, women face this double challenge of “being an architect” and “being a woman in the field of architecture” daily. Nevertheless, from school to the professional field, the proportion of women falls intriguingly. They represent only a very small percentage of licensed architects (less than 30% in the USA and 29% in France). Among the 100 largest firms worldwide, hardly three are headed by women. Most students take male architects as models and only a few women are often taken as models (Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima, …).
However, many women have demonstrated through their inspiring work that in principle it is not a question of male or female architects, but simply of architects. Discover in this list, beyond men and starchitects, some of these women who, through their visions and their work, make the world of architecture move.
1. Anna Heringer
An outstanding supporter of sustainable architecture, Anna Heringer is a German architect for whom “architecture is a tool to improve life”. After a year of volunteer work in 1997 with the NGO Dipshikha in Bangladesh, she became familiar with sustainable development practice. In 2004, after completing her university thesis “School: Handmade in Bangladesh”, she started working on the project itself which she realized with the help of local community members with funds she raised. Completed in 2006, the project won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2007. Over the years, Anna has completed other projects in Asia, Africa and Europe. Together with Martin Rauch, she developed the “Clay Storming” method, which she teaches at various universities, including ETH Zurich, UP Madrid, TU Munich and GSD/Harvard. She has received many awards including the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the AR Emerging Architecture Awards and an international RIBA Fellowship.
2. Shahira Fahmy
Shahira Fahmy is the principal of Shahira Fahmy Architects based in Cairo, Egypt. She founded the office in 2005 after graduating from Cairo University with a Master of Architecture degree the previous year. In the same year, she received the Young Architect Award from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Today, with recent competitions won in Switzerland and London, the studio is making a name for itself internationally. Shahira also works particularly for her country, which is why she was hailed by Phaidon Press in 2011 as one of the “architects building the Arab future”. Her strong belief in the value of teamwork is illustrated by her multiple collaborations on both projects and exhibitions. These collaborations include the new campus of the American University in Cairo in 2005 and one of the major awards is the Chicago Athenaeum’s Green Good Design Award in 2010.
3. Momoyo Kaijima
Momoyo Kaijima is the director of Atelier Bow-Wow based in Tokyo which she co-founded with Yoshiharu Tsukamoto in 1992. She graduated from the Faculty of Domestic Science at the Women’s University of Japan in 1991. She also holds a master’s degree in engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1994. The office creates domestic and cultural architectures and researches the urban conditions of micro and ad hoc architecture. Behaviorology, Made in Tokyo and Echo of Space/Space of Echo are among their theoretical essays on urban design. In addition to her office work, Momoyo Kaijima is an associate professor at the Momoyo Kaijima Lab at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. She has also taught at several prestigious schools such as the Graduate School of Design, ETH Zurich and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. She was also a member of the jury for the Holcim Awards in 2011 and 2014.
4. Fei Precht
Fei Precht is a young architect who loves working on interior projects, products and VI design. In 2013, While living and working in Beijing with her partner Chris Precht, they won a competition with another colleague Sun Dayong. They founded the studio “Penda” that year. In 2017, Fei and Chris moved to Austria and renamed the studio “Precht”. They work on a wide range of projects that range from green towers to bamboo buildings, interior design, product design or visual identity. In 2018, the office revealed The Farmhouse, a promising concept that combines agriculture with urban living, and illustrates the studio’s forward-thinking approach. With a few awards already under its belt, the studio was chosen as the Emerging Firm of the Year in 2016 by the Architizer A+Awards and took first place for Best Architectural Startup in 2017 by Archipreneur.
5. Emma Miloyo
Emma Miloyo is an associate architect at Design Source, an architecture office based in Nairobi. She co-founded the firm in 2007 after graduating from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology the previous year. She is also a board member of Konza Technology City. Thanks to her dynamism, she was the first female president of the Kenya Architecture Association from 2017 to 2019 and was recognized as one of the “Top 40 Women Under 40” in Kenya in 2011 and 2018 by Nation Media Group’s Business Daily. A real source of inspiration, Emma acts as a supporter of education and encourages young women to see architecture as a viable career option. She co-founded Kiota school and serves as its director. She has participated in the jury of various architectural competitions and has even served as vice-president of the Institute of Architects of East Africa.
6. Kate Otten
Kate Otten is one of South Africa’s most inspiring architects. After graduating in 1987 from the University of the Witwatersrand, she worked for several offices. The young architect established her own office Kate Otten Architects in 1989 in Johannesburg. Through her projects, she seeks to bring a contemporary African sensibility to the architectural landscape in South Africa. Her projects include community libraries, the Tzaneen waterfront development and an art therapy centre in Soweto. She also designed the exhibition space at the former women’s prison museum in Constitution Hill, which received a commendation from the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA). As for awards, she won the SAIA Staude House Merit Award in 1998 and the Mbokodo Architecture and Creative Design Awards in 2013, among others.
7. Stella Betts
Stella Betts holds a Bachelor degree in Art from Connecticut College and a Master of Architecture from Harvard University’s Graduate School for Design. She later taught and participated in numerous juries at several prestigious universities including Yale University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University. She is a member of the Board of the Architectural League of New York. Besides, Stella Betts is a partner in Levenbetts, an award-winning architecture firm based in New York that she co-founded with David Leven in 1997. Their awards include eight New York City AIA awards, two New York State AIA Awards, six Society of American Registered Architects awards, and three International Podium Awards, including for the renovation of the third floor of AAP’s historic Sibley Hall.
8. Revathi Kamath
A real pioneer of earthen architecture, Revathi Kamath is an Indian architect and urban planner based in Delhi. After graduating in 1977 from the Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, she had many experiences with more experienced professionals from different fields. In 1981, she obtained a post-graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Later, she became a visiting professor from 1984 to 1987 and an assistant professor from 1987 to 1991 at the School of Urban Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. In 1981, Revathi Kamath and Vasant Kamath founded the firm “Revathi and Vasant Kamath”, which became “Kamath Design Studio” in 2005. The firm has been at the forefront of sustainable design in India for decades through its pioneering work in the use of sustainable materials and construction techniques. This philosophy has earned them three Aga Khan Award nominations over the years.
9. Leila Araghian
Leila Araghian is an Iranian architect. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, and she also obtained a Master’s degree in Membrane Structures from the University of Anhalt in Germany and a Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia in Canada. Her thesis on “Modesty: Serendipity in Silence” has been published as a book. With Alireza Behzadi, Araghian co-founded Diba Tensile Architecture, a company specializing in the design, fabrication and installation of membrane structures, in 2005. Opened in late 2014, the Tabiat Bridge project, a pedestrian bridge in Tehran for which she was chief architect and designer creates a big impact and later wins several awards, including the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and the People’s Choice Award in the Highways and Bridges category of the Architizer’s 2015 A+ Awards. Unfortunately, Araghian’s Iranian heritage has limited his international exposure due to sanctions against his country.
10. Sharon Davis
After starting a promising career in finance, Sharon Davis redirected her focus to the built environment. Back in university, she began studying architecture. In 2006 she earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University and the following year founded Sharon Davis Design, a collaborative design office dedicated to human-centred environments. The Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda, her first major project, was widely acclaimed. A project that “not only addressed the lack of a safe meeting place for Rwandan women but also created economic opportunities and a strong social infrastructure. The campus includes a farmer’s market, gardens, guest houses and community space, all arranged in a circle. Sharon Davis received the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize from Columbia University in 2006 and the Active Citizen Award from Women for Women in 2010.
11. Marwa al-Sabouni
A Syrian architect, Marwa al-Sabouni holds a doctorate in architectural design and is very interested in Islamic architecture. She has been ranked among the top ten experts on the reconstruction of Syria. Her book “The Battle for Home” on the subject was chosen in 2016 by The Guardian as one of the top five books on architecture. That same year, she produced one of the best TED talks, viewed over 1,000,000 times since its release. In 2014, her Tree units project won first place nationally in the UN-Habitat competition for multi-family housing rehabilitation. She was also a 2018 Prince Claus Fund winner and was listed as a top contender for the 2018 Pritzker Prize. She manages with her partner the Arabic Gate for Architectural News portal www.arch-news.net, the first and only site in the world dedicated to architectural news in Arabic.
12. Patricia Urquiola
Patricia Urquiola is a Spanish architect and designer. After studying architecture at the University of Madrid, she chose to focus on design, which she studied at the Polytechnic of Milan. In 1989 she defended her thesis, became a lecturer from 1990 to 1992 and taught at the ENSCI in Paris during the same period. She has collaborated with several major brands such as Cappellini or Alessi and DePadova. In 2001, Patricia founded her studio in Milan. She works on architectural and interior projects, but also on products for some of the most important Italian and international enterprises. In 2008, she was elected designer of the year at the French trade fair “Now! Design à Vivre”. In 2010 she was awarded the Gold Medal of Merit for Fine Arts by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. She was also elected “Designer of the decade” as well as “Designer of the year” by several prestigious magazines.
13. Gabriela Carrillo
Gabriela Carrillo is a Mexican architect who graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2001. Later, she held academic positions in several prestigious schools in the country and abroad. She has also lectured and conducted workshops at universities in South Africa, the United States and China. In 2011, Gabriela began collaborating with Mauricio Rocha, with whom she founded the firm Taller Rocha + Carrillo. She was awarded the Federico Mariscal Chair by the UNAM Faculty of Architecture in 2012 and the Emerging Voices Award in 2014 by the Architectural League of New York. In 2017, she was honoured with the Architectural Review and Architects Journal International Award as “Woman Architect of the Year.” She also received the Niemeyer and Rogelio Salmona awards in 2018.
14. Amélia Tavella
A rising star in architecture, Amélia Tavella is a Corsican architect. After her studies at the École spéciale d’architecture in Paris, she created her agency Amélia Tavella Architectes in Aix-en-Provence in 2007. With a taste for challenge, she works mainly on tenders and public markets. In her projects, she uses only natural and/or raw materials such as wood, metal and stone which are generally available locally. « L’École A Strega » (witch’s school in Corsica) is one of her best achievements. This school in the middle of the maquis, a few kilometres from Ajaccio has earned her several awards and prizes, including the Young Woman Architect Prize in 2016 and the Pierre Cardin Prize of the Academy of Fine Arts in 2017. Amélia Tavella is currently working in collaboration with architect Rudy Ricciotti on the new Ajaccio music conservatory for which they won the competition in 2018.
15. Sheila O’Donnell
Sheila O’donnell is an architect from Dublin, Ireland. In 1976 she graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in architecture. Shortly thereafter in 1980, she obtained a Master’s degree in Environmental Design from the Royal College of Art and worked for James Stirling and later for Colquhoun + Miller and Spence and Webster before returning to Dublin. In 1988, she and her husband John Tuomey founded O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects in Dublin. The office has won numerous national, and international awards including the 2015 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, one of the world’s most prestigious architecture awards. O’donnell has taught and lectured at architecture schools in Europe, Japan and the United States. In 2010, she was elected an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and in 2013, she was shortlisted for the Architects Journal Architect of the Year Award.
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