Updated: Mar 9
Did you know that architect Julia Morgan was the first woman architect licensed in California? Or that Denice Scott Brown’s ex–husband took all the recognition for her work? Or that it was Zaha Hadid who designed the Michigan State University's iconic “frozen in motion” Art Museum?
Women architects have been relatively difficult to find in the annals of architecture history. They have not put their names on as many large and spectacular projects as their male colleagues. Nonetheless, the architectural achievements and breakthroughs of women architects have greatly shaped society and the world we live in today.
Let’s commemorate some of them here:
Julia Morgan (1872–1957) was an American architect and engineer. She designed more than 700 buildings in California during a long and prolific career. She is best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.
Morgan was the first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at l'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman architect licensed in California. She was the first woman to receive American Institute of Architects’ highest award, the AIA Gold Medal, posthumously though, in 2014.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California
Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), being an Iraqi-born British and entitled as the “queen of curves”, she is renowned all over the world for her parametric design. She became the first women architect to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Award. Blessed with an intended caliber, Hadid’s portfolio of work displays her experiments with the never-before-used-concepts.
Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects, Glasgow, UK - Architectural Review
Denise Scott Brown
Next renowned talent is Denise Scott Brown (1931). Born to Jewish parents, Denise Scott Brown is an architect, planner, writer, educator, and principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia. Although it was her ex-husband, Robert Venturi who got all the fame, she was believed worldwide to be the brains and determination behind their practice.
Downtown Denise Scott Brown. Courtesy of Architekturzentrum Wien
Lina Bo Bardi
Lina Bo Bardi (5 December 1914 – 20 March 1992), was an Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect. A prolific architect and designer, she devoted her working life, most of it spent in Brazil, to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. While she studied under radical Italian architects, she quickly became intrigued with Brazilian vernacular design and how it could influence a modern Brazilian architecture. During her lifetime it was difficult to be accepted among the local Brazilian architects, because she was both a “foreigner" and a woman.
Lina Bo Bardi’s social and cultural centre in São Paulo
She is recognizable for the unique style of the many architectural illustrations she created over her lifetime, along with her tendency to leave poignant notes to herself. She is also known for her furniture and jewelry designs.
And, last but least, Kelly Wearstler (1967) is an American designer. She founded her own design firm Kelly Wearstler Interior Design (KWID) in the mid-1990s, serving mainly the hotel industry, and now designs across high-end residential, commercial, retail and hospitality spaces. Her designs for the Viceroy hotel chain in the early 2000s have been noted for their influence on the design industry. She has designed properties for clients such as Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz and Stacey Snider.
Kelly has won numerous awards including AD 100 Hall of Fame, Time Magazine the Design 100, Elle Decor A-List Designers and Vogue Best Dressed.
With increasing prominence, and a greater sense of belonging, women are transforming the profession now and will continue to do so for future generations.
Happy Women’s International Day!