Twenty-two women architects and designers you should know
To mark International Women's Day, we asked 22 of the world's most inspirational women architects and designers to nominate another woman who should be better known for their work.
Each of the prominent architects and designers was asked to select a woman who they think deserves greater recognition.
Several chose to shine a light on historic figures who did not receive full recognition in their lifetimes, with MVRDV co-founder Nathalie de Vries, Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum and Neri&Hu co-founder Rossana Hu nominating Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, Minnette de Silva and Lin Huiyin respectively.
Others took the opportunity to draw attention to a contemporary woman or women-led team that should be better known, with Camille Walala, Tatiana Bilbao, Dorte Mandrup and Eva Franch i Gilabert nominating Unscene Architecture, Taller Comunal, Marie-José Van Hee and V. Mitch McEwen respectively.
Read on for the 22 architects and designers that deserve greater recognition:
Marie-José Van He
Nominated by Dorte Mandrup, Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter
"Marie-José Van Hee is a remarkably talented architect. Working primarily in her native country, Belgium, she is forging a significant mark on contemporary architecture with her attention to space, light and natural materials.
"Through her understated, authentic and poetic work, she continuously influences and inspires architects and designers alike. A timeless simplicity and weightlessness permeate throughout her designs, creating a stillness that seems almost tangible – blurring the line between art and architecture."
Nominated by Sofia Von Ellrichshausen, Pezo von Ellrichshausen
"I would like to propose Eva Albarran: a Spanish entrepreneur, living both in Paris and Madrid, who operates in the expanded, and diffuse, field of contemporary art and architecture.
"She is a solid character who has managed to solve complex productions for significant artists (such as Christian Boltaski, Felice Varini or Francis Alys). Together with her husband, they direct a refined gallery and the Solo houses program, a project that might well be read as a radical revision of the current human condition in relation to nature."
Nominated by Es Devlin, Es Devlin Studio
"Last weekend I went to the South Downs to try to recreate this uplifting portrait of Charlotte Perriand (above) about which her daughter said: 'That photograph of a strong woman, triumphantly embracing nature, is the perfect image of my mother. She announces the contemporary woman, emancipated and free.
"Most of us have sat on the extraordinary and now iconic furniture she made in collaboration with Le Corbusier. Most of us are unaware of her fundamental role in its design. She was a genius in the art of collaboration, especially with powerful male artists. Her practice spanned an astounding onge of genres, her work drew deeply on the forms she observed in nature throughout her rich life."
Nominated by Harriet Harriss, dean of the Pratt Institute School of Architecture
"I'd like to nominate Kenyatta Mclean, co-founder and co-managing director of Blackspace: the black, interdisciplinary, spatial collective comprised of architects, artists, designers and planners who have asserted both the necessity and the agency of 'Black Urbanism'.
"From my perspective, her ability to co-create spatial narratives that are centred in and driven by racial justice is essential and urgent work applicable both to the US where the practice is situated, and cities worldwide, where structural racism and other forms of discrimination are embedded in the materiality and form of the architectures that surround us.
"Moreover, spatial collectives – from Matrix to Assemble – offer a much-needed antidote to the vagaries of starchitecture and the hierarchies typically found in traditional design practices. Kenyatta Mclean's visionary work reminds us all of the need to use this period of Covid-imposed introspection to re-examine how much more inclusive, equitable and impactful our industry needs to become.
"Blackspace also offers a road map and a benchmark for graduates and young practitioners who are committed to leading the changes we need to make."
Nominated by Camille Walala, Studio Walala
"I would like to nominate Unscene Architecture. A pair of fantastic women that I met the year before the pandemic started. The architecture design duo – founders Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler – were the co-creators of the British Pavilion for the postponed 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale. Definitely, ones to watch."
Nominated by Seetal Solanki, Ma-tt-er
"A rare kind within the world of architecture. Anupama Kundoo brings people a voice, materials a voice and building a voice that is beyond her own – an egoless practice. Traits that shouldn't be so rare actually, but she's paving the way for so many and hopefully many more to come."
Nominated by Sumayya Vally, Counterspace
"In this tribe, we evoke women near and far – friends, ancestors and mythical figures – women who write, organise, imagine and build worlds into being. I chose to draw attention to the unrecognised architect genius of the Ndebele women – women who craft ritual objects and build and adorn their own homes. The calling of their names invokes the calling of millions of errant, unrecognised, other architects the world over – past, present and future.
"They are Maria Ntobela Mahlangu, Dinah Mahlangu, Johanna Mkwebani, Martina Maghlangu, Anna Msiza, Sara Mthimunye, Sara and Lisbeth, Pikinini and Sara Skosana, Anna Mahlangu, Letty Ngoma, Sarah Mguni, Martha Mtsweni Ndala, Rossinah and Esther Mahlangu."
Nominated by Nathalie de Vries, MVRDV
"When working on our Concordia Design project in Wroclaw, Poland, I met Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, the grande dame of modern Polish architecture. Born in 1920, she brought architecture to the next level in the second half of the 20th century. In 1974, she was the first woman to receive the prestigious Honorary Award from the Association of Polish Architects.
"In a time when female Polish architects were mostly known as 'the wife of…' Jadwiga had a highly successful career, she had a big part in rebuilding postwar Wroclaw, and was also known for her schools and housing. I am really impressed by her work and her amazing personality. When I met her, she was very energetic and still very much involved in architecture. With her passing in 2018, Poland lost a great architect."
Minnette de Silva
Nominated by Marina Tabassum
"The first name that comes to mind is Minnette de Silva (pictured above with Pablo Picasso), an architect ahead of her time. Less celebrated than her contemporary male counterparts. You may have read this article below, but I'm sharing the link again. This tells her story better than I can write."
Nominated by Margaret Calvert
"I would propose Marina Willer, although she may not fit as she's already well known. Apart from being an exceptional graphic designer and filmmaker, Marina was the first woman to be appointed a Pentagram partner. Brazilian by birth, it was at the Royal College of Art, where I was teaching at the time, that I first became aware of her amazing drive, commitment and talent as a student."
Duygu and Begum Ozturk
Nominated by Nelly Ben Hayoun, Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios
"I nominate Duygu and Begum Ozturk, the two sisters behind the fashion brand Harem London. Born in Istanbul, they started their all-organic fashion brand recently in Dalston, London; merging traditional techniques from Istanbul and London, bringing together their heritage and future.
"I love that they started a business together as sisters and that they are persevering in developing their beautiful collection despite the pandemic and Brexit and all the complexity this created for them. They need to be applauded for their great work."
Nominated by Rossana Hu, Neri&Hu
"Lin Huiyin was the first female architect in modern China. Lin and her partner Liang Sicheng were the pioneers in architectural heritage restoration and documentation in China during the 1930s.
"Although it was the two of them who brought China's ancient architectural treasures to light, Lin's recognition in documenting and restoring China's historic buildings has often been overshadowed by her partner, who is recognised as the 'father of modern Chinese architecture'. In addition to her architectural practice, Lin is also widely acclaimed for her literary creation."
Nominated by Azusa Murakami, Studio Swine
"I would like to pick Mary Corse. She has been gaining much-deserved recognition in recent years with a solo show at the Whitney but has been arguably one of the most innovative artists to come out of the light and space movement.
"We love her material research, her ability to take industrial elements like the glass microbeads used on motorway reflective road markings and using it to make really delicate and sublime optical paintings is really inspiring."
Nominated by Morag Myerscough
"Yemi Awosile and I have known each other for quite a few years now, I was delighted on one occasion when Yemi was commissioned to make a work for a project I was involved with, The Bernie Grant Centre.
"Yemi has incredible depth with a powerful social approach to her work. Yemi makes work that has meaning, beauty, art and exquisite craft."
Franziska Porges Hosken
Nominated by Jane Hall, Assemble
"Austrian-born, and America-based, designer Franziska Porges Hosken was pioneering in multiple respects. In 1944 she became one of the first women to receive her master's of architecture degree from Harvard's Graduate School of Design and in 1947, together with her husband James Hosken, she founded their successful eponymous furniture business Hosken.
"Despite giving up her design practice to take care of her first child in the late 1950s, Hosken continued to create as a photographer and journalist, publishing numerous books on urbanism including The Language of Cities.
"She was also an activist for women's rights, founding the Women's International Network and publishing reports on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a term she is credited with coining, which affected the agenda of major health organisations including the WHO. Continuing to distribute a feminist newsletter well into her eighties, Hosken's legacy demonstrates an extraordinary commitment, undertaken over the course of a lifetime, to connect design with social activism."
Nominated by Sonali Rastogi, Morphogenesis
"Winka Dubbeldam is an architect whose contribution I would like to acknowledge. She is the founder of the WBE firm Archi-Tectonics. She had visited our studio about 15 years back whilst working on the redevelopment of the New Delhi railway station. I also enjoyed attending one of her juries in UPenn about ten years ago, and ever since, I have been following her.
"Being in academia myself, what resonates with me is her significant influence on the emerging generation through her involvement in architectural education and design juries worldwide. Her designs are evocative and transformative, and she creates architecture that matters.
"I read somewhere that she maintains a fluid balance between energy and calm, precision and informality, experiment and comfort in her designs, studio, and life, a mantra I have been following all my life."
Nominated by Farshid Moussavi, Farshid Moussavi Architecture
"Polish-born French architect Iwona Buczkowska's brilliant career is distinguished by an architectural approach opposed to any form of standardisation, thus placing the diversity of users and their agency at the core of her work. Her tireless commitment has led to the creation of works of incredible richness and inventiveness, whether for housing projects or public facilities.
"At a time when we need to question our built environment, and in particular, the housing in which we live, her work on diversification, user empowerment and inclusion seems particularly worthy of attention. As her work is under-studied, and because some of her built projects are currently under threat of demolition, I feel it is particularly important to bring to light what her work has to teach us."
Dana Al Amiri
Nominated by Pallavi Dean, Roar
"Dana Al Amiri, the co-founder of Watab Studio, is a rising star in the male-dominated Saudi construction industry. I love her minimal pared design philosophy – practicing in a region that is infamous for opulent and OTT statements. She truly represents the next generation of regional architects that are defining Saudi's design identity."
Nominated by Tatiana Bilbao
"I would like to make Taller Comunal, which is led by Mariana Ordóñez Grajales and Jesica Amescua Carrera, my recommendation. Because for them, architecture is not a profession, it is a service to facilitate architecture to be produced by the people who inhabit it. That should be the future of our profession."
Nominated by Huang Wenjing, Open Architecture
"Anne Tyng immediately came to mind as a female architect that deserves much more recognition. Born in China in 1920 to missionary parents; a classmate of Eileen Pei and IM Pei — these two little details seem to have brought her closer to me, my being Chinese and had worked in the office that IM founded.
"Tyng was one of the first women to study architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design; the only woman to take the architectural license test in 1949.
"It is unfortunate and unfair that people often seem to be more interested in her anecdotal affair with the iconic master Louis Kahn than her great influence on his early works — the rigour of geometry and order was very much Anne Tyng's interest and contribution. She went on to be an independent architect, theorist and educator. A true pioneering woman in the field."
V. Mitch McEwen
Nominated by Eva Franch i Gilabert
"Mitch is an architect, activist, dancer, rapper, entrepreneur, someone who has taken the lead on many occasions to make space for new ideas.
"We crossed paths several times throughout the last ten years; In 2011, during the Occupy Wall Street Movement, I organised an exhibition and a series of events at Storefront for Art and Architecture hosted by brilliant people; Mitch's workshop "How to Occupy a House in America" was one of them.
"In 2014, Mitch was one of the architects writing letters to the Mayor in the first edition in New York of the global project "Letters to the Mayor" asking Mayor Bill de Blasio: "How can New York City Housing Authority really become the Pride of Our City?" and provided some answers and ideas that still stand.
"Mitch is currently an assistant professor at Princeton University – where I am currently teaching a seminar. Her work is now on display at MoMA in New York as part of Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America."
Nominated by Sandra Barclay, Barclay & Crousse
"Mónica Bertolino is an architect from Córdoba, Argentina, where she lives and works as part of the Studio Bertolino-Barrado founded in 1981.
"Together with Carlos Barrado they have an excellent production of projects in different scales. In their work you understand immediately the search for good qualities in habitability, their sensibility when they intervene in the landscape, and their concern for research about materiality linked to the local traditions of construction.
"I admire and think she deserves recognition especially in her academic role where she transmits her passion and enthusiasm for architecture in an unconditional way. She is devoted to this mission!
"She participates in workshops and as invited professor in different universities in the world as well as a regular professor in the National University of Cordoba and in the Catholic University of Cordoba."