For a century and a half, 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 cause of concern.
However, there are female architects who are challenging every day the profession’s boys’ club and have made a profound impact on architecture as we know it today. The list, of course, is short and many important names may be left out, but here are 7 of them you should know.
1. Kazuyo Sejima
Described as the “moonwalker of architecture” by W Magazine, Japan’s Kazuyo Sejima is the co-founder of the award-winning firm SANAA. At the start of her career, Sejima worked for the architect Toyo Ito. After opening her own studio in 1987, she won the Japan Institute of Architects’ Young Architect of the Year award.
By 2010, Sejima was gaining worldwide attention with her design of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. That same year, Sejima and her founding partner, Ryue Nishizawa, won the Pritzker Prize, the architecture world’s most prestigious honor.
Inside a Kazuyo Sejima Project: Sumida Hokusai Museum
Sumida Hokusai Museum is Located in the neighborhood of Sumida in Tokyo, the Sumida Hokusai Museum was completed in 2016 and is one of Japan’s most beautiful places to visit. The four-story structure holds the works of Katsushika Hokusai, the artist who created the famous woodblock print of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.”
Her other notable works include the Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland, the Christian Dior building in Tokyo and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.
2. Zaha Hadid
Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950, Zaha Hadid was the first woman to take home architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004). Even a selected portfolio of her work displays Hadid’s eagerness to experiment with new spatial concepts. Her parametric designs encompass all fields, from architecture and urban planning to product and furniture design.
Inside a Zaha Hadid Project: Heydar Aliyev Center
The Heydar Aliyev Center is one of the most distinct buildings in Baku, Azerbaijan. Hadid was contracted to design the nation’s main cultural building in 2007, which was later completed in 2013. The building’s unique and futuristic design was described by Arch Daily as breaking away “from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that is so prevalent in Baku.”
3. Farshid Moussavi
This Iranian-born British architect is the head of Farshid Moussavi Architecture and is among the world’s most in-demand architects.
Also a Professor in Practice at Harvard, Moussavi’s notable designs included Ōsanbashi Pier in Japan. An epitome of architectural genius, this international passenger terminal feels like a natural creation. No stairs, beams, or posts were employed in its design.
“Buildings have a practical function, but they also contribute to the culture of our urban and rural landscapes,” Moussavi said in an interview with Riposte. “They can, therefore, be examined as ideas too, and how those sit within the history of ideas in architecture and art.”
Inside a Farshid Moussavi Project ; Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio
The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (abbreviated to moCa) is a contemporary art museum located in the state of Ohio, United States. The moCa is the only contemporary art venue of its kind in the Cleveland region.It has six sides and is fully covered in mirrors. it has been designed by London-based architect Farshid Moussavi.
4. Jeanne Gang
Architect Jeanne Gang founded the firm Jeanne Gang in 1997. It has gone on to become one of the most well-known architectural firms in the world. Gang and her firm are responsible for designing many unique buildings, including the Aqua Tower in Chicago, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College and the six-story residential building Solstice on the Park.
Inside a Jeanne Gang Project: Aqua Tower
The Aqua Tower is an 82-story building nestled in Chicago — a combination of a hotel, offices, rental apartments, condominiums and parking.
According to the firm’s website, the design of the Aqua Tower “uses architecture to capture and reinterpret the human and outdoor connections that occur more naturally when living closer to the ground. Its distinctive form is achieved by varying the floor slabs across the height [of] the tower, based on criteria such as views, sunlight, and use.”
5. Amanda Levete
British architect Amanda Levete rose to fame while she was at the architectural firm Future Systems. She spent years working with her late former husband and avant-garde architect Jan Kaplicky before starting her own design studio AL_A in 2009.
In 1999 she won the RIBA Stirling Prize for her design with Kaplicky for the Lord’s Media Centre, the first all-aluminum building in the world. Other notable works include the Selfridges store in Birmingham, England and The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon which was completed in 2016. Levete won the Jane Drew Prize in 2018.
Inside an Amanda Levete Project: Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology
The MAAT overlooks the Tagus River in Lisbon. Completed in 2016, the building is covered in 15,000 white, three-dimensional tiles. Visitors can venture out on the building’s roof and take in the beautiful sights of the river and city skyline.
“Building on Portugal’s rich tradition of craft and ceramics, three-dimensional crackle glazed tiles articulate the façade and produce a complex surface that gives mutable readings of water, light and shadow,” stated Architecture Magazine. “The overhanging roof that creates welcome shade is used to bounce sunlight off the water and into the building.”
6. Carme Pigem
Spanish architect Carme Pigem is one-third of the architect trio RCR Arquitectes. Her work is well-known throughout the region of Catalonia and other parts of Spain. Once she and her fellow partners graduated from the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura del Vallès, they founded RCR Arquitectes in 1988. After designing a lighthouse for a competition sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Public Works and Urbanism, her team’s success started to take off. Some of her famous works include the Tossols Basil Athletics Stadium which was completed in 2000, and the Bell-Lloc winery.
She and her two partners received the Prikzker Prize in 2017.
Carme Pigem’s Project: Musée Soulages
The Soulages Museum is nestled in the city of Rodez, France. Pigem and her partners starting work designing the building in 2011. The building is 65,700 square feet and cost $21.4 million to construct. The project was completed in January 2014.
7. Odile Decq
Known for her goth-like appearance, French architect Odile Decq is known as a creative force and risk-taker in the architecture world. Decq and her late husband architect Benoît Cornette launched the firm ODBC, which was rebranded to Studio Odile Decq after his death. She gained international fame in 1990 with her design of the BPO headquarters in Rennes — the Banque Populaire De L’Ouest — and went on to design the Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark Museum in China, Le Cargo in Paris and the New Cyprus Museum.
In addition to being an architect, Decq has served as a professor at multiple universities, including the Columbia School of Architecture in New York. She won the Architectural Review’s Jane Drew Prize for women in 2016.
Inside an Odile Decq Project: Rome Contemporary Museum of Art
Decq and her firm completed work on the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome in Italy in 2007. As described by Icon magazine, the building is a “series of contrasting spatial systems” that has “a number of walkways” that run throughout the building.
“There are different possibilities of traveling through the museum,” Decq told Icon magazine. “The walkways are where you can travel in the space to discover the art from a different perspective — it’s a discovery of the space and at the same time a discovery of the art show.”