Dezeen Magazine

Women architects and designers

Twenty-five women architects and designers you should know

To mark International Women's Day, we asked our current and former Dezeen Awards judges to nominate a woman in architecture and design who should have greater recognition.

Each of the prominent architects and designers who are judges for this year's Dezeen Awards, which launched last month, or from previous years, select a woman in the industry they believe more people should be aware of.

Read on for 25 women architects and designers you should know:

Shefali Balwani
Photo by Architecture BRIO

Shefali Balwani, founder of Architecture BRIO
Nominated by Kamna Malik

"Shefali Balwani is an Indian architect living both in Mumbai and Rotterdam who is the co-founder of Architecture BRIO. Her work is contextual, sensitive and emotionally moving.

"Her projects have a certain voice that goes beyond the conventional definitions of architecture and design. Whenever I look at her work, I see mindfulness on so many levels; whether it is through the use of materials, the applied sustainable design solutions or the sensitivity shown towards the surroundings.

"Shefali constantly addresses new ways of understanding the often contradictory interrelations between the city, architecture, landscape, and the world of interiors. She is perceptive, instinctive, and if I have to ever describe her work in a nutshell, I would say it's bold but timeless."

Oana Stanescu
Photo by Rachel Israela

Oana Stănescu, founder of Oana Stănescu Studio
Nominated by Ingrid Moye

"Having met Oana Stănescu many years ago while working at SANAA in Tokyo and again afterwards at Herzog & de Meuron in Basel, we have not only been following each other's path but also become friends who coincide every now and then at different parts of the world.

"I admire Oana's curious perspective through which she observes the world and her ingenuity as a thinker and creative. Her refreshing voice shows not only in her original architectural practice but also in her work as an academic, lecturer, and writer. Despite her professional accomplishments and success Oana is down to earth and has a generous heart."

Tatu Gatere
Photo by Buildher

Tatu Gatere, co-founder of Buildher
Nominated by Stella Mutegi

"Tatu Gatere is the co-founder and CEO of Buildher – an organization that seeks to empower women with skills needed in the construction industry, which is very male-dominated in Kenya. The women that get these accredited construction skills are disadvantaged and come from a very low-income bracket.

"Tatu is an architect who is passionate about the built environment. She has worked within the informal settlements for several years and therefore has firsthand experience of the issues that the women there face.

"The skills that these women are empowered with at Buildher make a tremendous impact on every aspect of their daily lives. Changing the lives of women who would otherwise be hopeless is a worthwhile reason for Tatu to get greater recognition."

Jessica Smulders Cohen
Photo by Ellen Kydd

Jessica Smulders Cohen, repair specialist
Nominated by Katie Treggiden

"Having studied sustainable design at Kingston University and mastered the craft of weaving, Jessica Smulders Cohen decided not to become a designer or a maker, but instead to become a repair specialist. She is currently based out of Toast's London Shoreditch store offering repairs for their customers as part of a team of six – as large as their design team.

"Jess and her work deserve more recognition because our whole industry needs to move away from the veneration of newness and instead embrace reuse and repair – it is the only hope we have for a regenerative and circular future that will enable our species to thrive on this planet."

Betty Ng, founder of Collective

Betty Ng, founder of Collective
Nominated by Maria Cristina Didero

"I had the pleasure to collaborate with Betty Ng seven years ago on a project in the Hawaiian islands and her work could not be more exciting. Beside her charming smile, Betty Ng is a registered architect in the Netherlands, a RIBA-chartered architect in the United Kingdom and an associate member of the AIA, United States.

"Prior setting up Collective in 2015, Betty was design director at OMA, previously practiced at Herzog de Meuron and at Massimiliano Fuksas Architetto. She has vast project experiences internationally and is one of the best people to collaborate with.

"Her studio, Collective, practices architecture, interiors, urban design and exhibition design, focusing on research and concept driven architecture practice able to offer powerful narratives on clarity and function. The studio believes that beauty is a consequence instead of an intention."

Clara Solà-Morales
Photo courtesy of Clara Solà-Morales

Clara Solà-Morales
Nominated by Fernanda Canales

"Clara Solà-Morales has made me consider architecture not through buildings but through a different kind of history and an unexpected relation to landscape, literature and people. She transforms our understanding of architecture not through 'big things', not even through tangible considerations, but through apparently imperceptible minor details.

"Architecture related to the way we walk, we speak, or socialize, takes varied meanings that connect to life in more profound ways. Her buildings, exhibitions, residential projects, and the design of public spaces, reflect a care for introducing personal moments in which anyone can find their own space in this world."

Jade Folawiyo Shitu

Jade Folawiyo Shitu, designer
Nominated by Titi Ogufere

"Jade Folawiyo Shitu is a British-Nigerian designer, who started her career as a product designer over 15 years ago and has moved into interior design. She is an incredible creative who has built a successful career designing for brands like Zanotta, Fabrica, Bosa ceramics and Vista Alegre, to name a few, with her famous stick-stack glass candelabra produced by Secondome in Italy.

"From the onset of her career, she was announced as an emerging design talent, becoming a designer in residence with the Design Museum in London. She later went on to be selected to present her designs to the former Queen Elizabeth II at a private exhibition celebrating the Diamond Jubilee."

Ingrid Wallberg

Ingrid Wallberg, architect
Nominated by Alexandra Hagen

"Ingrid Wallberg was the first Swedish woman to start her own architecture practice in 1928. She was trained in Germany as there was no architectural education available in Sweden for women at that time.

"She worked a few years for Le Corbusier, who was the brother in law of her sister. She designed many beautiful homes in all shapes and sizes villas, terraced housing, housing for elderly and affordable housing to meet the need of all parts of the population. She also designed other types of buildings factories and public buildings.

"Most of them are still standing, loved and inhabited today. I have personally grown up around many of her buildings. Wallberg was fearless and never ceased to explore."

Salma Samar Damluji
Photo by Larazok

Salma Samar Damluji
Nominated by Yasmeen Lari

"Salma Samar Damluji is a British-Iraqi architect, author and professor of architecture and co-founder of the Daw'an Architecture Foundation. She is an expert in the use of earth bricks and has been providing emergency reconstruction of heritage in Yemen."

Sandhya Naidu Janardhan and Bhawna Jaimini
Photo by Community Design Agency

Sandhya Naidu Janardhan and Bhawna Jaimini, Community Design Agency
Nominated by Tanya Khanna

"The work of Sandhya Naidu Janardhan and Bhawna Jaimini at Community Design Agency, steps beyond the temporal nature of architecture and design.

"Shifting away from architecture manifesting for the client and a standard brief, the studio and the principals focus on the human need for shelter, and hence adopt a democratic and community-focused approach to design intervention.

"Dispelling the myth of the master-architect by democratising participatory design, their practice is inclusive and participatory in nature. Unconcerned with trends and oblivious to the fast paced churn of contemporary architecture and construction work in India, their practice defines a new paradigm that aims to empower and create impact by shaping the built environment."

Frida Escobedo
Photo by Ste Murray

Frida Escobedo
Nominated by Ketuna Kruashvili

Mexican architect Frida Escobedo has been gaining recognition in recent years with her 2018 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, but she caught my attention earlier when she designed a pivoted stage at the Lisbon Triennial. And later in 2015 with her installation of steel platforms over the pool in the courtyard of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I admire her approach to architecture: simple, bold, strict forms and use of simple materials in a smart and playful way, creating rhythm with modular pieces.

Nzinga B Mboup
Photo courtesy of Worofila

Nzinga B Mboup, founder of Worofila
Nominated by Dominique Petit-Frère

"Nzinga B Mboup is a researcher and architect based in Dakar, Senegal. She is the co-founder of architecture and research design studio Worofila, which specializes in bio-climatic architecture and construction using local materials such as raw earth and typha. She promotes an architecture that is durable and in harmony with the climate.

"I admire her dedication and her incredible depth in understanding the built environment in west Africa. I am inspired by her approach to space and as an African woman myself, I find that in her work she is extremely intentional about embedding layers of narratives that centres the utilisation of localised material and technologies that surrounds us.

"Against the rampant Western modernisation that is taking place in west Africa, I find that it is important that the work of female architects such as Nzinga gets the recognition and awareness it deserves."

Portrait of Dezeen Awards 2019 judge Cecilie Manz
Dezeen Awards 2019 judge Cecilie Manz

Cecilie Manz, founder of Cecilie Manz Studio
Nominated by Ilenia Martini

"Cecilie Manz has a deeply thoughtful and innovative approach to her design philosophy anchored in simplicity, functionality, and quality. What makes her work so inspiring is her ability to create pieces that are both beautiful and practical, not only aesthetically pleasing.

"With a keen eye for detail, Cecile is able to create pieces that are both timeless and modern, blending classic design principles with contemporary sensibilities while understanding the impact that design can have on the planet.

"She also strives to create pieces that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Her work is a testament to the fact that beauty, functionality, and sustainability can go hand in hand."

Yayoi Kusama, artist
Nominated by Paola Navone

"Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is my favourite artist of nowadays, for her lifestyle, her creativity, the messages she expresses through her arts.

"She has been living through decades and artistic movements, always being part of them in a modern way and always having a prominent position, like the one she has today. She is over the top."

Olayinka Dosekun
Photo courtesy of Studio Contra

Olayinka Dosekun, co-founder of Studio Contra
Nominated by Tosin Oshinowo

"Olayinka Dosekun runs a practice in Lagos with her husband Jeffrey Adjei, called Studio Contra. They work on contemporary African expressions in architecture, urban design and interior design.

"Their work focuses on the productive synthesis between the languages of African architectural traditions and the opportunities around materiality and tectonics presented by the contemporary African city.

"I celebrate Olayinka because she is a refreshing voice in design and has elegantly navigated and balanced life between practice, family and motherhood. She is definitely someone to watch!"

Julia Peres and Victoria Braga
Photo courtesy of Ruina

Julia Peres and Victoria Braga, co-founders of Ruina
Nominated by Tosin Oshinowo

"Julia and Victoria have a young practice called Ruina in Brazil, and their work revolves around creating site-responsive architecture while working with materials repurposed from construction sites.

"They are part of a generation of practitioners working consciously, contextually, and sustainably. It's exciting to see how they navigate the process as women."

Patricia Urquiola, architect and designer and Dezeen Awards judge 2019
Patricia Urquiola, designer and Dezeen Awards judge 2019

Patricia Urquiola, architect and designer
Nominated by Rossana Orlandi

"Patricia Urquiola is energetic, vital, creative, tireless, collaborative, generous. Brilliant."

May al-Ibrashy, architect
Nominated by Mariam Issoufou Kamara

"I have been following the work of Egyptian architect May al-Ibrashy for quite some time. Through Megawra Built Environment Collective – an architecture firm and NGO that she founded in Cairo – Al-Ibrashy works to conserve Cairo's historic buildings but more importantly, she works hard to learn from the communities living alongside historic architecture and learns from them.

"The 2022 Prince Claus Impact Awardee's work is based on the respect for built environment, the people who live there and the need to approach heritage as a resource that people can benefit from.

"Since taking on the role of professor of architecture heritage and sustainability at ETH Zurich, I have been even more in inspired by Al-Ibrashy's work in Cairo and wish to bring light to her work so that more people know about her important contribution to conservation on the African continent."

Portrait of designer Bethan Laura Wood

Bethan Laura Wood, designer
Nominated by Sabine Marcelis

"I love Bethan and the way she is so unapologetically genuine. It is crucial to have a strong identity and recognisable visual or conceptual language as a designer and no one does that better than Bethan.

"She is her work and her work is her; she dives deep into cultures, materiality and production processes and bends and shapes them into her own unique design language.

"Our aesthetics couldn't be further apart but we have a fantastic bond and mutual respect for each other. It's great to have a wing-woman to navigate this industry with."

Raquel Prado, scientist at Ananas Anam
Nominated by Kate Goldsworthy

"Raquel is a remarkable woman who really understands how to innovate materials that have environmental stewardship at their core. She's a chemist by training, holding a PhD in renewable materials engineering, and has used this knowledge to constantly improve the sustainability of the chemistry-related processes involved in developing new textile products at Ananas Anam.

"I had the pleasure of working with her and the team on the development of their new Piñayarn an innovative and low impact yarn, made from waste pineapple leaves.

"I could really nominate the whole team at Ananas Anam for being such an incredible group of women headed up by CEO Mélanie Broyé-Engelkes and founder Carmen Hijosa. Together they have taken the company from strength to strength as a trailblazing force for good in the textile industry."

Kizzmekia Corbett
Photo courtesy of Kizzmekia Corbett

Kizzmekia Corbett, scientist 
Nominated by Thao Nguyen

"Kizzmekia and her team designed the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine (Moderna). It illustrates the substantial impact of great design."

Maya Lin, designer
Nominated by Isabelle Sun

"Maya Lin's work was first introduced to me during the first year of my university study. Back then, I didn't quite understand how difficult it was to achieve this true sense of simplicity. Still, I did appreciate how beautiful it appeared on the black-and-white slides.

"After becoming a mother myself, I started to really feel her works. It is so gentle and graceful, at the same time, confident and authoritative. These contradictory qualities can perhaps only be embodied by a female designer who also happens to be blessed with dual cultures.

"After visiting her A Fold in Field artwork in 2019, I was struck again by her modest ambition in expressing something quietly powerful in nature. One can feel the blow of westerly wind across the perfectly articulated systematic ordering of the terrain while in awe of its presence and insignificance in the landscape. Her ability to remain an artist despite all the worldly distractions in all the creative paths she explored is truly inspiring."

Neri Oxman for Dezeen 15

Neri Oxman, architect and designer
Nominated by Sian Sutherland

"There is nothing cleverer than the natural world. Neri Oxman knows that. Her art emulates nature. What makes her a remarkable designer in my eyes is her rare ability to simultaneously look back and appreciate ancient practice and traditions while looking forward to and working with cutting edge science and innovation.

"This is design alchemy on a grand scale. Neri is a design polyglot – someone with extraordinary breath and imagination, someone who understands that everything, literally everything, begins with design. It's her sine qua non.

"Recognition of Neri's uniqueness and the opportunity to ignite and inspire others to follow her is important. She designs for, with and by nature. Neri is reimagining our world and her ambition and reinvention might just help us design our way out of the ecological crisis we have made for ourselves."

Rosa Kliass
Photo by Imoisset

Rosa Kliass, landscape architect
Nominated by Noelia Monteiro

"From my point of view, Rosa Kliass has always been extraordinary, creating spaces with living elements such as vegetation. This is because life develops independently of the author so the results are generated by nature itself. Besides the care for environmental preservation, it is visible to the attention to creating spaces that contemplate the diversity and make the city alive.

"Rosa Kliass stands out for her involvement with institutions that value the profession of the landscape architect. Among them is the Brazilian Association of Landscape Architects – ABAP, which Kliass founded in 1976.

"In 2019, she became the first woman to receive the Golden Necklace from the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB). This important award recognises architecture professionals who have outstanding contributions."

Dezeen Awards 2023

Dezeen Awards celebrates the world's best architecture, interiors and design. Now in its sixth year, it has become the ultimate accolade for architects and designers across the globe. The annual awards are in partnership with Bentley Motors, as part of a wider collaboration that will see the brand work with Dezeen to support and inspire the next generation of design talent.