Women have contributed significantly to architecture throughout history. However, their efforts often go unnoticed. Some have argued that Elizabeth Wilbraham was the first professional woman architect, but her Wikipedia page admits that the credit for her work is sometimes given to men. “It takes longer for female architects to be noticed, but this is improving because of the rise of Zaha Hadid and Denise Scott Brown. Women in architecture have accomplished a great deal over the last decade. Women have become more visible as equals to their male colleagues while designing and constructing landmarks and structures. It is an exquisite initiative towards a better gender balance in the architectural field. Women architects’ participation has opened the path for more inventive designs by proving their abilities, creativity, and distinct perspective. Everyone improves if new voices participate in the discussions. Architecture must be adaptable and inclusive for success, which can benefit the entire profession. Women architects must be given the same opportunities as males so that the architectural industry will strive for equality. As a result, the industry will keep reaping the rewards from its innovative designs, perspective, and skill sets.

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Ingeborg Kuhler – Office workers: Ruth Jureczek/ Irene Keil_ ©Marina Auder, 1986

Despite challenges, women architects have made significant progress. New generations of architects follow them. New eras of architecture were born through their work. Additionally, this new era creates more equitable and accessible spaces. By redefining the industry, women architects demonstrate that anyone can make a difference. They inspire a new generation by pushing boundaries and challenging outdated assumptions. The way we think about and design spaces have changed as a result. They are paving the way for a more enduring and equitable future.

Woman in architecture: Spain

Spanish women architects have enriched the country’s architecture. Spanish culture and values have been reflected in their design, form, and materials. Their work inspired generations of architects to push design boundaries. These women have built inspiring and iconic buildings that symbolise Spanish identity. They have also been strong advocates for the rights and recognition of women in architecture. With the support of Women in Architecture’s global editing campaign, they have arranged simultaneous editathons at the University of Cordoba in Argentina, the University of Valencia in Spain, and the University of Montevideo in Uruguay. As a result of this event, the first group of female architects was formed on Spanish Wikipedia. Among the 1,200,000 entries on Spanish Wikipedia, only 60 bios were saved for Spanish female architects.

Spanish women architects began practising architecture during the second and third waves of feminist debates over modernity’s crises and the rise of postmodernism. After the end of the Franco dictatorship and the introduction of a new democracy, all women experienced significant life changes. This article aims to provide an understanding of the work of women architects who became involved in architecture at the end of the 20th century, as well as a reappraisal of their work within the broader framework of Spanish architecture.

Practising Architecture: Spanish women

A total of 565,000 architects are estimated to practice architecture in Europe in 2014, of which 72% are solo practitioners. Counting architects makes it challenging to determine the proportion of women in architecture. It was found that 31% of architects in Spain were women architects, according to a small registration survey conducted in Spain. According to the Architects Union of Spain, most women are salaried architects, while men are primarily independent architects. An apparent gender gap exists in architecture, as women architects are likelier to be waged architects, public servants, or educators than their male counterparts. Finding employment for women as democratic experts is exacerbated by seeking additional support and assurance in their parenting roles.

First woman architect in Spain

In 1936, Matilde Ucelay Maortúa was the first woman to graduate from Spain in the field of Architecture. However, she was refused permission to practice because, in those days, women were not encouraged to work. Ucelay built a four-decade career as a lone woman activist during the Franco dictatorship, which denied women equal rights. Therefore, until 1977, women were not allowed to enter the profession of architecture. The average age of women when they become architects is 45. They are unemployed and earn less than men. 

For this reason, women architects are finding other methods to improve their lives, such as specialising in education or changing their professions. In the sweltering heat of Francoism, many women of the Ucelay generation quit or could not practice their careers in various fields of science and art. The issue is separate from Ucelay. Ucelay, on the other hand, practised a liberal profession before retiring in 1981, even though she was denied full civil rights while practising architecture.

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Image of Matilde Ucelay Maortúa in youth _©EcoDiario.es

Ucelay specialised in residential architecture for the wealthy class of Madrid, emphasising top-notch architecture and attention to detail. Besides single-family homes, she also designed factories, laboratories, warehouses, and shops. Her social circle at the time was one of the most progressive and liberal in Madrid, yet she never dealt with any government officials. Ucelay’s legacy includes over 120 international and national projects. A notable example is the Oswald House in Puerta de Hierro.

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House for the Oswald family, in the Entrepeñas reservoir, designed by Matilde Ucelay_©Mariela Apollonio.
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Casa Auria (1976) in Spain designed by Matilde Ucelay_©Mariela Apollonio.
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Extension of the House of the Deer (Segovia, 1940), designed by Matilde Ucelay_ ©Mariela Apollonio.

Throughout her career, she has gained recognition for her determination, the value of her work, and her commitment to her clients. She created residences of outstanding quality, meeting her clients’ needs meticulously throughout the planning and construction phases. Her design meticulously blended architecture with interior design, considering the activities of future residents and the client’s preferences. Every detail was taken into consideration, no matter how simple. In her perception of her home, which is typically a female domain, the approach may have revealed her feminine nature and personal view of living in the house.

‘Kitchenless City’ revolution: Anna puigjaner

Anna Puigjaner is a Spanish architect who believes in communal kitchens. She underlines the role of the kitchen and the people who run the cooking circle. Her work dismantles gender stereotypes and biases in domestic design. Throughout her career, she identifies that architecture has seriously moved hetero-patriarchal society in forming sociable parts and laws and recalling a highly one-sided justice system concealed under a shield of “normal life.” Puigjaner stands out in a profession where men vastly monopolise women and in a field where the opposite is true. The push for mobility in her firm elevates the architectural idea of ‘form follows function.’ Yet, the firm takes a modern tack. Having a kitchenette is a fiery idea that is only sometimes necessary.

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Anna Puigjaner Co-founder of MAIO, a studio based in Barcelona _©Cati Bestard

In the same way, Puigjaner views the kitchen as a multipurpose space. ‘We can’t picture life without a kitchen because, In the past, it has been used to propagandise for so long,’ she adds. Puigjaner’s ideas have steered people from these “cooking boxes” worldwide. Another issue Puigjaner resumes exploring are kitchenettes in multi-family homes. People who wish to combine cooking for enjoyment and work will find this an intriguing concept. Puigjaner’s firm is reshaping how we live, work, and eat. 

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There is no spatial hierarchy in the 110 Rooms project, so residents are free to rearrange their domestic arrangements according to their needs_ ©Jose Hevia
MAIO designed the interiors of Bar Nou, Barcelona, 2014–15_ ©José Hevia.


Kleiman, A. P., Moisset, I. and Elsharbaty, S. (2017) Community digest: Spanish Wikipedia’s Women in Architecture helps address the gender gap; news in brief, Diff. Available at: https://diff.wikimedia.org/2017/01/04/digest-women-architects/ (Accessed: March 13, 2023).

Sáez, C. (2022) La excepcional vida de Matilde Ucelay, Flat Magazine. Available at: https://flatmagazine.es/reportaje/matilde-ucelay-la-primera-arquitecta-espanola/ (Accessed: March 19, 2023).

Ana María FERNÁNDEZ GARCÍA, Caterina FRANCHINI, Emilia GARDA, Helena SERAŽIN (2016) MoMoWo · 100 WORKS IN 100 YEARS European Women in Architecture and Design . 1918-2018, Culturagalega.gal. Available at: http://culturagalega.gal/album/docs/CCG_ig_album_pascuala_momowo.pdf (Accessed: March 14, 2023).

de Madariaga, I. S. (2021) “Matilde Ucelay: Women and the Architectural Vocation,” Matilde Ucelay: Women and the Architectural Vocation, pp. 175–191. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353503298_Matilde_Ucelay_Women_and_the_Architectural_Vocation (Accessed: March 14, 2023).

urbanNext (2019) Anna Puigjaner | Kitchenless City. Spain: Vimeo. Available at: https://vimeo.com/329750710 (Accessed: March 19, 2023).