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14 Great Women Architects

Important Women in Architecture and Related Professions

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In the world of architecture, the role of women is often overlooked. Nevertheless, many women have overcome obstacles, established highly successful architecture careers, and designed landmark buildings. Check out the lives and works of these trailblazers.

1. Denise Scott Brown

Architect Denise Scott Brown in June 2013
Denise Scott Brown in 2013 by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Lilly Awards, ©2013 Getty Images
Over the past century, there have been many husband-wife teams. Typically the husbands have attracted the fame and glory while the women worked quietly (and some would argue, intelligently) in the background. However, Denise Scott Brown had already made important contributions to the field of urban design when she met and married her husband, Robert Venturi. Although he appears to be more frequently in the spotlight, her research and teachings have shaped modern understanding of the relationship between design and society.

2. Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid, Press Photo by Steve Double
Zaha Hadid, Press Photo by Steve Double
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Zaha Hadid is the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize. Her work experiments with new spatial concepts and encompasses all fields of design, ranging from urban spaces to products and furniture.

3. Marion Mahony Griffin

Frank Lloyd Wright's first employee was a woman, and she became the world's first woman to be officially licensed as an architect. Like many other women who design buildings, Wright's employee was lost in the shadow of her male associates. Nevertheless, Marion Mahony Griffin contributed greatly to Wright's career and also to the career of her husband, Walter Burley Griffin.

4. Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan Portrait from her collected papers at Cal Poly
Julia Morgan portrait from her collected papers at Cal Poly © Julia Morgan Papers, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
Julia Morgan was the first woman to study architecture at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman to work as a professional architect in California. During her 45-year career, Julia Morgan designed more than 700 homes, churches, office buildings, hospitals, stores, and educational buildings, including the famous Hearst Castle. In 2014, 57 years after her death, Morgan became the first woman to receive the AIA Gold Medal, the American Institute of Architect's highest honor.

5. Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray circa 1910, black and white side view
Eileen Gray circa 1910, photo in public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Eileen Gray's contributions were overlooked for many years, but she is now considered one of the most influential designers of modern times. Many Art Deco and Bauhaus architects and designers found inspiration in Eileen Gray's furniture and house designs.

6. Norma Merrick Sklarek

Norma Sklarek's long career marked many firsts. In both New York State and California, she was the first Black woman to become a registered architect. She was also the first black woman honored by Fellowship in AIA. Through her life's work and her many important projects, she became a model for rising young architects.

7. Odile Decq

Odile Decq Architect at Milan Design week on April 16, 2012 in Milan, Italy
Odile Decq in 2012 by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images ©2012 Getty Images
Born in 1955 France, Odile Decq grew up believing that all architects were men. After leaving home to study art history, Decq discovered that she had the drive and stamina to go her own way in the male-dominated profession of architecture.

8. Anne Griswold Tyng

Anne Griswold Tyng, scholar of geometric design, began her architectural career collaborating with Louis I. Kahn in mid-twentieth century Philadelphia.

9. Susana Torre

Susana Torre describes herself as a feminist. Through her teaching, writing, and architectural practice, she works to improve the status of women in architecture.

10. Kazuyo Sejima

Japanese Architect Kazuyo Sejima
Photo by Takashi Okamoto, Courtesy of SANAA

Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima launched a Tokyo-based firm that designed award-winning buildings around the world. She and her partner, Ryue Nishizawa, share the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

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