Have you ever tried typing a phrase like “best architects of all times” on Google? You sure have, but there is one thing that has been probably skipping your attention all along. What you got are mostly men! “But where did all the women go?”, you might say. “Aren’t there any famous women architects?”
Simple answer: yes, there are plenty. However, in architecture — a highly male-dominated field — women architects make a “little” extra effort in order to stand out.
In this article, we will pay special tribute to women whose work has been exceptional enough to change the game.
Lina Bo Bardi
Italian-born Lina Achillina Bo was one of the prominent faces of 20th-century Brazilian expressive architecture. She approached her career from a pure cultural perspective, studying anthropology and getting her inspirations from Brazilian popular culture. Her work “the Glass House”, from 1951 — which was actually her home in Morumbi, Sao Paulo — is an outstanding display of Brazilian rationalistic art.
“Architecture and architectural freedom are above all a social issue that must be seen from inside a political structure, not from outside it”, Lina Bo Bardi.
The second woman to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2010, co-founder of Toyko-based SANAA and a professor at Polytechnic University of Milan; University of Applied Arts Vienna; Keio University; Yokohama Graduate School of Architecture Y-GSA. The Japanese architect is famous for designs with clean modernist elements such as slick, glass shiny surfaces, marble, and metals. Additionally, her most inspirational works are the New Museum in New York City and the Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio.
“Being an architect. I am just interested in making architecture.”, Kazuyo Sejima.
A RIBA Stirling Prize winner and founder of award-winning AL_A design studio. Being a previous head of London-based Future Systems, she has been credited with turning organic and conceptual designs into reality. Her projects with Future Systems included the Selfridges department store in Birmingham and the Lord’s Media Centre, winner the 1999 Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize.
Still, she delivered one of her most impressive design projects through her AL_A studio, namely the EDP Foundation’s Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology in Lisbon. The project which “explores the convergence of architecture, technology and contemporary art as a field of cultural practice” was finished recently in 2016.
This Bruit-born architect who spent periods of her abroad has finally settled in New York where she made history. She was the first woman ever to become a dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP). In cooperation with her husband Dan Wood, Amale has established WORKac, a firm specializing in modern buildings, contemporary homes and urban planning projects.
Their project, Smart School has a unique concept with a sustainable strategy. Furthermore, it proposes a school setting where learning is intertwined with landscape from which the community generates its food and recycles its waste. Their aim was to create a new kind of relationship between children and learning and children and their surroundings.
A repel-spirited architect with a bold red and black signature that characterizes most of her architectural works. French Odile Decq who co-founds Studio Odile Decq won the 2016 Jane Drew Prize as part of the Architectural Review’s (AR) annual Women in Architecture Awards for being a creative powerhouse, spirited breaker of rules and advocate of equality.
She is most famous for the Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark Museum in Nanjing, China and the Cargo incubator building in Paris with its black cladding, round windows, and bright red blob forms.
The late “Queen of the curve” has earned her place as the most inspirational women architect of the modern era. The Iraqi-British Zaha Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. She received the UK’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in both 2010 and 2011. Moreover, she became the first and only woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Her signature style has severely curved and sharp angles built of extreme materials like concrete and steel. There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?, is a known quote of hers.
This list of women architects and the many more we didn’t mention may not appear on Google’s top pages for top famous architects, but they are definitely top in what they do and their work will continue to inspire us.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in the architecture field today?
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