16 Women Architects - Who's Your Favorite?

Important Women in Architecture and Related Professions

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.

01
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Dame Zaha Hadid in 2014
Dame Zaha Hadid in 2014. Photo by Jessica Hromas/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images for Stuart Weitzman

Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Zaha Hadid was the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize. Her work experimented with new spatial concepts and encompassed all fields of design, ranging from urban spaces to products and furniture. She died suddenly in 2016 at the young age of 65.

02
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Architect Denise Scott Brown in June 2013
Architect Denise Scott Brown in June 2013. Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Lilly Awards/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

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 before she met and married Robert Venturi. Although Venturi won the Pritzker Prize and appears more frequently in the spotlight, Scott Brown's research and teachings have shaped modern understanding of the relationship between design and society.

03
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Image of Marion Mahony from the book Marion Mahony Reconsidered by David Van Zanten, University Of Chicago Press
Image of Marion Mahony from the book Marion Mahony Reconsidered by David Van Zanten, University Of Chicago Press. Book cover image courtesy Amazon.com (cropped)

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.

04
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Julia Morgan Portrait from her collected papers at Cal Poly
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.

05
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Eileen Gray circa 1910, black and white side view
Eileen Gray circa 1910, Public domain, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, via Wikimedia Commons. 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.

06
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Annabelle Selldorf

Annabelle Selldorf in Paris, 2015
Annabelle Selldorf in Paris, 2015. Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images Wall Street Journal/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images

She's been called a Modernist of "interesting plainness" and "a kind of anti–Daniel Libeskind." German-born New York architect Annabelle Selldorf began her architecture career designing and recalibrating galleries and art museums. Today she is one of the most sought after residential architects in New York City. I've watched her design at 10 Bond Street take shape, and all I can say is that it's a shame I can't afford to live there.

Source: “The Form Mistress” by David Netto, The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2011

07
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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.

08
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Odile Decq Architect at Milan Design week on April 16, 2012 in Milan, Italy
Architect Odile Decq 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.

09
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Anne Griswold Tyng, scholar of geometric design, began her architectural career collaborating with Louis I. Kahn in mid-twentieth century Philadelphia.

10
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Japanese Pritzker Laureate Kazuyo Sejima in 2010
Japanese Pritzker Laureate Kazuyo Sejima in 2010. Sejima in 2010. Photo by Barbara Zanon/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images (cropped)

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.

11
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Black and white photo of architect designer Florence Knoll, circa 1955, President of Knoll Designs
American architect, furniture designer and President of the Knoll design firm, Florence Knoll, circa 1955. Florence Knoll, circa 1955. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images, ©2009 Getty Images cropped

As Director of the Planning Unit at Knoll Furniture, architect Florence Knoll designed interiors as she might design exteriors—by planning spaces. From 1945 to 1960, professional interior design was born, and Knoll was its guardian.

Learn more about Florence "Shu" Knoll Bassett

12
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Architect Maya Lin, with glasses in 2007, New York City
Maya Lin, 2007, New York City. Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for LVMH/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Trained as an artist and an architect, Maya Lin is best known for her large, minimalist sculptures and monuments. When she was only 21 and still a student, Lin created the winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

13
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Anna Keichline was the first woman to become a registered architect of Pennsylvania, but she is best known for inventing the hollow, fireproof "K Brick," which was a precursor to the modern concrete block.

14
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Susana Torre describes herself as a feminist. Through her teaching, writing, and architectural practice, she works to improve the status of women in architecture.

15
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Many women designed plans for houses, but Louise Blanchard Bethune is thought to be the first woman in the USA to work professionally as an architect. She apprenticed in Buffalo, New York, and then opened her own practice and ran a flourishing business with her husband.

16
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Architects Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller in 2014
Architects Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller in 2014. Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images for Prada/Getty Entertainment/Getty Images

Along with partner Ricardo Scofidio, Elizabeth Diller continues to transform architecture into art. From the Blur Building to the High Line, Diller's ideas for public spaces range from the theoretical to the practical.