Sheila O’Donnell wins Woman Architect of the Year 2019 award
Central European University from the Women in Architecture 2019 Awards won by Sheila O’Donnell and Xu Tiantian

Sheila O’Donnell wins Woman Architect of the Year 2019 award

Sheila O'Donnell of O'Donnell + Tuomey has been named Woman Architect of the Year 2019, with DnA founder Xu Tiantian winning the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture.

The two architects have been recognised during the 2019 Women in Architecture Awards, an annual celebration held by the Architects' Journal and The Architectural Review.

O'Donnell, who is the eighth person to be recognised as Woman Architect of the Year, won for the Central European University in Budapest.

Woman Architect of the Year 2019: Central European University from the Women in Architecture 2019 Awards won by Sheila O’Donnell and Xu Tiantian
O'Donnell was named Woman Architect of the Year for her work on the Central European University

"O'Donnell's passion for the buildings of the Central European University was rewarded with an exceptionally high-quality building, which she evidently fought hard for," said the judges.

"She is a role model for young women in architecture. Sheila O'Donnell did not have to break the glass ceiling – her and John Tuomey created a new reality."

Woman Architect of the Year 2019: Central European University from the Women in Architecture 2019 Awards won by Sheila O’Donnell and Xu Tiantian
The judges described the Central European University project as an "exceptionally high-quality building"

O'Donnell was chosen from a shortlist that also included Eva Prats, co-founder of Flores & Prats, for Casal Balaguer Cultural Centre; Ellen van Loon, partner at OMA, for the Qatar National Library; Carme Pigem, co-founder of RCR Arquitectes, for De Krook Library in Ghent.

"Beyond their individual programmes, these four buildings strive to make a significant contribution to the wider urban fabric around them," said Manon Mollard, editor of The Architectural Review.

Woman Architect of the Year 2019: DnA projects from the Women in Architecture 2019 Awards won by Sheila O’Donnell and Xu Tiantian
Xu of DnA won the 2019 Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture. Photograph by Wang Ziling

Xu won the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture, which is named after the late director of design at the V&A. It awards £10,000 each year to a woman designer under the age of 45 on the basis of their achievements and completed projects.

Xu founded DnA (Design and Architecture) and is based in Beijing. Buildings designed by her include a bridge that connects two communities together, a brown sugar factory, a tofu factory, the Hakka Indenture Museum, and the Wang Jing Memorial Hall.

Woman Architect of the Year 2019: DnA projects from the Women in Architecture 2019 Awards won by Sheila O’Donnell and Xu Tiantian
Tofu Factory is one of Xu's key projects with her studio DnA. Photograph by Wang Ziling

"There is an effortlessness, maturity and deftness about Xu's work," said the judges.

"Her projects are all deeply contextual, and executed with bravery and conviction. She is attempting to work in a sustainable way with an entrepreneurial spirit, and has clearly had a very positive impact on her client."

Woman Architect of the Year 2019: DnA projects from the Women in Architecture 2019 Awards won by Sheila O’Donnell and Xu Tiantian
Hakka Indenture Museum is another project by DnA founder Xu. Photograph by Wang Ziling

The other emerging architects shortlisted were Lina Ghotmeh of Lina Ghotmeh Architecture, Irene Pérez of TEd'A Arquitectes, and Jeannette Kuo of Karamuk Kuo.

Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro was also recognised in the 2019 Women in Architecture Awards, receiving the Jane Drew Prize for an architect whose work has raised the profile of women in architecture. The Ada Louise Huxtable Prize 2019, which recognises those working in the wider architectural industry, went to Swiss-French architectural photographer Hélène Binet.

The Women in Architecture awards began in 2012 with the mission of inspiring change in architecture by celebrating women architects who can be role models for younger women in the profession.

Architecture is still an industry where the top roles are dominated by men. In 2017 a Dezeen survey revealed that only three of the top 100 practices in the world were lead by a woman.

Last month a women's action group invited people to help compile an all-female alternative list of RIBA Royal Gold Medal winners, as a comment on the actual almost all-male winners list.

Photography is by Tamás Bujnovszky unless otherwise stated.