To celebrate International Women’s Day here at Lynch + Comisso, we’ve decided to briefly highlight exceptional women in the field of architecture:
Denise Scott Brown is known to be one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. She is also an advocate for women in architecture, and has been ever since she wrote her essay and published her essay ” Room at the top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture“. Brown abstained from publishing her article for 14years, her reasoning for abstaining to publish was the fear that it would hurt her career, so she waited until the world was ready to read what she had written.
Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first American woman known to have worked as a professional architect. Bethune’s work was mostly of industrial and public buildings rather than residential. She is very well known for having designed public schools, however, she is more well known for her masterpiece, the Hotel Lafayette.
Norma Merrick Sklarek was the 3rd African American woman to be licensed as an architect in the United States. Sklarek was also the first black woman to be licensed as an architect in New York, and later on, she became the first black woman to be a licensed architect in California. Sklarek’s race and gender often excluded her from receiving recognition for architectural projects, an exception to this would be the U.S.Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, who recognize her work. Sklarek is recognized honorably by many as the “Rosa Parks of Architecture”.
Emilie Winkelmann was the first woman to run an architecture practice in Germany, and the first freelance architect in Germany as well. In 1908, Winkelmann began her own architecture practice and managed to build and employ a team of 15 people, that of which included many junior female architects.
Elizabeth Wilbraham was a member of the British Aristocracy. She is known as the first female architect, whose work has been frequently credited to men rather than herself. It is speculated that as many as 400 buildings may have been designed by her. During the 17th century, it was impossible for a woman to pursue any profession, and Lady Wilbraham is thought to have used male executant architects to supervise the construction of her designs in her place.
Josephine Wright Chapman is credited as one of the most important female architects at the start of the 20th century. The firm Chapman worked with designed the first steel-frame building, the Carter Building in Boston. Chapman would, later on, set up her own architectural firm in Boston, and upon forming her firm, Chapman was commissioned by Harvard University to design the Craigie Arms Dormitory. While she worked on this project, she also designed St. Mark’s Episcopal. By the beginning of the 20th century, Chapman had 6 drafters working at her firm, including one other woman.
Zaha Hadid was the first woman to ever receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. She also received the U.K.’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize. In 2012 she was made a Dame by Elizabeth II for her impact in the field of architecture, and later on, she became the first and only woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. The Guardian of London depicted her as “The Queen of The Curve”, who liberated architectural geometry.
Signe Horborg was a Finnish architect, and possibly the first qualified female architect in the world, she studied at the Helsinki Polytechnic Institute,being able to graduate as an architect via ‘special permission’, as, at the time, architecture was viewed as a mans profession, and it was not seen as right for a woman to be working in the field. She designed works such as the Signelinna in Pori, and the facade of the Sepanktu Apartment Building.
Biriukova was born in Vladivostok, Russia, and practiced architecture in Rome after fleeing from the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1929 she moved to Toronto, Ontario, and became the first woman in the Ontario Association of Architects, and also became the 2nd woman to ever register as an architect in Canada. Biriukova’s most recognized work is the Lawrence Harris Residence, in an art deco design. After her work on the design of Harris’ residence, she received no further commissions, which raises the question of whether modernism was much too unorthodox for Canadians at the time the home was built. Biriukova lived the rest of her work life as a nurse and died in retirement in Toronto.