As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8th, we thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to take a look at some of the most influential and innovative women who have shaped the world stage in terms of architecture and design. Whilst great architecture knows no bounds in terms of gender or nationality, the evolution of structures around the world has undoubtably been transformed by the abilities of women in every country who have brought a unique sense of possibility and divine imagination to the arena of conceptual revelation. We salute the achievements and ground-breaking dreams of these women and the legacy they have blessed us with.
We couldn’t possibly do a list of phenomenal female architects without talking about Zaha Hadid. Born in Iraq in 1950, Hadid has been a trailblazer for women for decades. Not only was she the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004, but she pioneered unique styles of architecture and a role for women in the Middle East who wanted to play a part in shaping landscapes and skylines. When she was awarded the prestigious Pritzker prize, jury chairman Lord Rothschild commented: “At the same time as her theoretical and academic work, as a practicing architect, Zaha Hadid has been unswerving in her commitment to modernism. Always inventive, she’s moved away from existing typology, from high tech, and has shifted the geometry of buildings”. Whilst she sadly passed away in 2016, she has left us with lasting memories in the form of structures such as the Guangzhou Opera House in China, the aquatic centre for the London 2012 Olympics and, of course, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi.
Norma Merrick Sklarek
Having been born in 1928, Norma Merrick Sklarek graduated from Columbia University and was the first African American woman to be a member of the American Institute of Architecture ‘AIA’. She co-founded Sklarek, Siegel and Diamond, the biggest female-only firm in the country and held a unique reputation for completing huge construction projects on time and within budget. Her vision led to the creation of famous buildings such as LAX Terminal one, the US embassy in Tokyo and the Fox Plaza in San Francisco.
A unique understanding of the power of light and clarity in modern works is just one of the aspects that underpins the talent of Kazuyo Sejima. The common themes of cubes, large windows and glass can be found across some of her most famous works. This includes the Zollverein School of Management and Design in Essen, Germany and the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland. She embodies the evolution of sleek, contemporary designs that have dominated the building world in recent decades. Her award-winning architectural firm was a long-held aspiration from her days as a graduate of Japan Women’s University Sejima.
Tatiana most likely didn’t have much of a choice when it came to her career path, she was actually born and raised in a family of architects! Luckily she wasn’t just inspired by the family’s career, she discovered a unique talent that would propel her into the history books. She actually began her career giving advice to Mexico City’s Department of Urban Housing and Development, which accentuated her desire to use architecture and design to improve lives and communities. Her international projects include a pavilion at China’s Jinhua Architecture Park and the Botanical Garden in Culiacán, Mexico. As a vanguard of contemporary Mexican architects, Bilbao has a modular, build-as-you-go schema for affordable housing designed for as little as $7,000, which has become a critical and empowering case study for architects worldwide.
These are just some of the amazingly talented women who have channelled their imagination into designing some of the most useful, creative and stunning buildings that surround us today. Each of them has brought a unique sense of possibility to the field and they have challenged every concept regarding the potential of architecture. Beauty in design is fundamental to a higher understanding of life, and we are all better off for having creative dreamers take us to new heights of wonder.
Happy International Women’s Day to any young ladies who are already sketching their vision for a new home, we can’t wait to see what you will accomplish.