Great buildings throughout the world have been designed by talented architects, both male and female. This year, in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) and the theme of ‘break the bias’, we thought we would take a look at the women who forged their way into architecture while faced with immense barriers.
Below we’ve compiled the remarkable stories of seven female architectural trailblazers who forged their way into the industry, created some of the world’s most beautiful buildings, and in doing so, encouraged many other women to follow in their footsteps.
Throughout history, architecture has been an extremely male-dominated field with much discrimination experienced by females trying to forge a career, especially throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s and into today’s times.
While there’s currently no barrier to the acceptance of women in architecture, a sharp decrease is witnessed in the number of women students becoming or staying in the profession. Research by Dr Gill Matthewson at Monash University showed that women still cluster in the junior ranks of the profession, despite having comprised nearly half of all architecture graduates since the mid-1990s.
Shockingly, women only make up only 17% of registered architects worldwide, despite men studying architecture in similar numbers.
During the construction of the building, Sophia suffered constant micro-management and compromises demanded by the construction committee. She was treated so poorly that she suffered from a breakdown and was placed in a sanitarium for a period of enforced rest. Many at the time used this as an example to emphasise that women had no place in the world of architecture. Unfortunately, after the exhibition, Sophia never worked as an architect again.
Their collaboration ended in 1909 when Wright left for Europe, offering to leave the studio’s commissions to Mahony, who declined but received full control of design from the next successor.
In 1911 she married Walter Burley Griffin and the two set up a thriving practice together which took them to Australia where they designed Canberra and the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne.
Lina Bo Bardi (1914 – 1992)
Lina Bo Bardi is a legend of 20th-century Brazilian architecture. Lina was raised in Italy and studied architecture at the University of Rome, moving to Milan after graduation. Bo Bardi was invited to design the São Paulo Museum of Art in 1947. Suspended above a 70-metre-long square, the museum is now one of the most important museums in Latin America and a masterpiece in the eyes of many.
Bo Bardi also had a passion for magazines, leading her to become the editor of the magazine Quiaderni di Domus and in 1950, starting what was post-war Brazil’s most influential architectural publication at the time, Habitat Magazine.
“Architecture is created, 'invented anew,' by each man who attempts her, who roams her space, climbs a stair, rests on a balustrade, lifts his head to look, open, close a door, who sits down or gets up and makes intimate contact with—and at the same time create 'forms' in—the space [...] This intimate, fiery, contact, that which was perceived by man at the beginning, is today forgotten. Routine and communal places made man forget the natural beauty of 'moving in space,' of his conscious movement, of those little gestures… ”
In 1951 she designed Glass House, her own residence in Morumbi, Sao Paulo. Her home’s design is recognised as one of the founding examples of rationalist art in Brazil. Bo Bardi also established the country’s first industrial design course at the Institute of Contemporary Art. She died in 1992 with many projects left unfinished.
In 1990 she secured another first and became the only Black woman elected to the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) College of Fellows. Among many prominent designs, her most renowned projects include the U.S. Embassy building in Tokyo and Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
“In architecture, I had absolutely no role model. I'm happy today to be a role model for others that follow.”
“Architecture is particularly difficult for women; there's no reason for it to be. I don't want to blame men or society, but I think it was for a long time, the clients were men, the building industry is all male. ”
Zaha Hadid studied her art at the American University of Beirut before launching her career at the Architectural Association in London. By 1979, she had established her own practice. Hadid’s striking buildings won her critical acclaim throughout Europe for their organic, flowing forms.
Renowned as a “starchitect”, Time Magazine listed Hadid among the 100 most influential people on the planet in 2010. With Hadid’s practice continuing her work, the trendsetter’s architectural legacy remains alive and kicking six years later.
“As a woman, I'm expected to want everything to be nice and to be nice myself. A very English thing. I don't design nice buildings - I don't like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality.”