Throughout history, the field of architecture has often been dominated by male figures. However, there have of course also been numerous talented and successful famous female architects who have made significant contributions to the profession.
In this list, we highlight some of the most famous female architects from around the world, showcasing their innovative designs and influential careers.
From pioneers in the early 20th century to contemporary trailblazers, these women have made a lasting impact on the field of architecture and continue to inspire future generations of female architects.
Famous female architects
Jeanne Gang is the head of Studio Gang, an architecture and urban design company. Her architecture style focuses on fostering connections between people and the built environment, where she sees her work as a means of driving change.
This can be seen in her Polis station concept that aims to enhance the relationship between civilians and law enforcement by combining police stations with community recreational centers. One of the standout projects from this firm is the Aqua Tower in Chicago, which adds a unique and dynamic presence to the city’s skyline.
Gang is a pioneer in the creation of texturally interesting and dynamic building facades that add rhythm and movement to the urban landscape.
Her Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois received both a Popular and Jury A+Award in 2017. The complex, which includes rehearsal spaces, public areas, and a main performance space, celebrates the idea that theatre is a communal experience.
Sheila Sri Prakash
Sheila Sri Prakash is a well-respected figure in the world of architecture and sustainability. She founded Shilpa Architects Planners Designers in 1979 and has since become known for her innovative and environmentally conscious designs.
In recognition of her contributions to the field, she was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Architecture Award by Builders, Architects, and Building Materials in association with the CII Real Estate & Building Technology Exhibition. This award recognizes her outstanding achievements and her impact on the growth of the Indian real estate sector through her focus on sustainable design.
In addition to her professional work, Sri Prakash is also recognized as an expert on urban sustainability and has served as an independent director and urban expert for the Chennai Smart City initiative. She has also been invited to be a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security by the World Economic Forum.
In 2013, she developed the Reciprocal Design Index as part of the Global Agenda Council for Design Innovation to encourage sustainable design in cities.
Dame Zaha Hadid was a highly successful and influential female architect, known for her talent, vision, and commitment to her work. Born in Iraq and based in the UK, Hadid made history as the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize in 2004.
She was also awarded the RIBA Gold Medal, Britain’s top architectural award, in the year of her untimely death in 2016. Hadid left a fortune of £67 million upon her passing.
Zaha, who studied architecture at the American University of Beirut and founded her own practice in 1979, was known for her striking and innovative buildings that featured organic, flowing forms. Some of her notable projects include the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics, the Guangzhou Opera House, and the Generali Tower in Milan.
Hadid’s work earned her critical acclaim and recognition as a “starchitect,” with Time Magazine naming her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. Zaha Hadid Architects continues to carry on her legacy and influence in the field of architecture.
Denise Scott Brown
Denise Scott Brown is renowned modernist architect known for her innovative and multicultural designs. She is also an author, urban planner, and educator, and spent most of her career working alongside her husband, Robert Venturi, in the firm Venturi Scott Brown.
Denise has contributed to the planning of cities like Miami Beach and Memphis, and has designed buildings for notable institutions such as the Children’s Museum of Houston and world-renowned universities and museums. Her research in urban planning and architecture has had a lasting impact on the industry, and has played a significant role in shaping the postmodern movement.
She received attention when two Harvard students launched a petition to honor her with the Pritzker Prize, which she was not included in when her husband and partner, Robert Venturi, won the award in 1991. The petition, which received signatures from several Pritzker laureates including Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaus, aimed to rectify this oversight.
While Denise ultimately did not receive the prize, she stated that the petition was a greater honor than the Pritzker itself.
Maya Lin gained recognition as an architect when she won the competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. while she was still an undergraduate at Yale University. In a statement on her website, Lin describes her concept for the memorial as “cutting into the earth and polishing its open sides, like a geode,” which is exactly what she created.
Lin’s original proposal for the memorial can be viewed online.
Throughout her career, Lin has designed several other “memory works,” or memorials, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, the Women’s Table at Yale, and the multi-media What Is Missing? memorial focused on climate change.
In addition to these projects, Lin has also created a range of public and private buildings, such as the Museum for African Art and the Museum of the Chinese in America in New York City. Many of Lin’s designs, which also include artworks, address environmental issues in some way
Carme Pigem is a Spanish architect and co-founder of RCR Arquitectes, an architecture firm based in Olot, Spain. She was born on April 18, 1962 in Olot, Spain and received her Bachelor of Architecture from the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona in 1979.
She has received numerous accolades for her designs, including the Pritzker Prize in 2017, which she received along with her colleagues Ramón Vilalta and Rafael Aranda. Pigem received her architectural training at the School of Fine Arts in Olot and the El Vallès School of Architecture, near Barcelona.
After graduation, she co-founded RCR Arquitectes with Vilalta and Aranda, and has focused on creating architecture that is deeply connected to the place, materials, and user experience.
In addition to her work as an architect, Pigem has also served as a professor at El Vallès School of Architecture and the Barcelona School of Architecture, and is a visiting professor at the Zurich Institute of Technology’s Department of Architecture.
Odile Decq is a French architect and urban planner known for her avant-garde and daring designs. She founded her own internationally recognized and award-winning firm, ODBC, in Paris in 1985, and has since completed a range of projects including museums, cultural centers, and residential buildings.
She believes that architecture should improve people’s living conditions and have a humanistic approach, and she approaches her work as an adventure. Some of her notable projects include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome and the FRAC Bretagne in Rennes.
Decq has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Jane Drew Prize in 2016 as part of the Women in Architecture Awards, and the Commandeur de l’Ordre du Merite in France.
In addition, she founded an international school of architecture in Lyon that aims to integrate architectural education with other disciplines, such as physics, sociology, and visual arts.
Neri Oxman is a world-renowned Israeli-American architect, designer, and professor who is known for her innovative and interdisciplinary approach to design.
Born in Haifa, Israel in 1976, Oxman received her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Environmental Studies from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and later completed her Master’s degree in Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Throughout her career, Oxman has focused on exploring the intersection of design, science, and technology, and has developed a unique approach that she calls “material ecology,” which seeks to create intelligent materials and structures that respond to their environment in real-time.
She has worked on a wide range of projects, including buildings, furniture, and wearable technology, and has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades for her work, including the MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellowship and the Material ConneXion Global Award for Material Innovation.
In addition to her work as an architect and designer, Oxman is also a professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she leads the Mediated Matter research group. She is widely regarded as one of the leading figures in the field of design and architecture, and her work has been exhibited at major museums and galleries around the world.
Kazuyo Sejima is a Japanese architect and co-founder of Tokyo-based firm SANAA, is known for her clean, modernist buildings that draw inspiration from Japanese heritage. In 2010, Sejima became the second woman to receive the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, alongside her colleague Ryue Nishizawa.
She has worked on numerous projects around the world, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa in Japan and the New Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Elizabeth Diller, a New York-based architect and founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a highly influential architect known for her studio’s work on iconic projects such as New York City’s High Line, Lincoln Center, and MoMA. In 2018, she was the only architect to be named on TIME’s list of “100 Most Influential People.”
In 1999, she and Ricardo Scofidio were awarded the first MacArthur Foundation fellowship in the field of architecture. In 2022, she was named a Wolf Prize Laureate. Diller is a member of the UN Council on Urban Initiatives and a Professor of Architectural Design at Princeton University.
In addition to the High Line, other notable projects include The Broad contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and Zaryadye Park in Moscow.
Annabelle Selldorf is the founder and principal of Selldorf Architects in New York City. She is highly regarded in the architecture world for her modernist, functional approach to architecture. The German-born architect is known for creating minimalist spaces that are still welcoming and warm – receiving praise for both her public and private projects.
She is an active member of the American architecture community and holds numerous prestigious positions, including being a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, an academician of the National Academy Museum and School, and a board member of the Architectural League of New York.
Eileen Gray, an Irish Modernist, initially gained recognition for her lacquer objects made using traditional Asian techniques. She later expanded into interior and furniture design, opening a shop in Paris. Gray’s work was characterized by simplicity, geometric forms, and the use of modern materials, and was highly sought after by fashionable Parisians. Despite her success, Gray preferred to avoid the spotlight.
Despite lacking formal training in architecture, Gray began designing buildings in the 1920s after befriending architecture critic Jean Badovici. Her first project was Villa E-1027 on the French Riviera, a compact and modern home featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the water.
Gray’s architecture, like her design, was functional and minimalistic, yet warm and inviting. She also prioritized adaptability to the personal needs of the occupants, a novel concept at the time. For instance, she designed a table that allowed her sister to eat breakfast in bed without spilling. Gray also designed two homes for herself and numerous others that were never built.
During the last decade of her life, Gray collaborated with Zeev Aram, the founder of British design company Aram, to produce furniture based on her designs. Aram continues to hold the worldwide license for Gray’s furniture designs and sells various Eileen Gray-designed items, such as beds, lamps, and screens.
In recent years, Villa E-1027, Gray’s first architectural project, underwent a restoration and is now open to the public after years of neglect.
Norma Merrick Sklarek
Norma Merrick Sklarek made history as the first black woman to be licensed as an architect in both New York and California, as well as the first black woman to become a member of the American Institute of Architects, eventually being elected a fellow of the organization. Despite facing significant discrimination, Sklarek’s achievements are all the more impressive.
After obtaining a liberal arts degree from Barnard College, Sklarek studied architecture at Columbia University, where she was one of only two women and the only African American person in her graduating class with a B. Arch. in 1950. Despite being rejected by 19 firms in her job search, Sklarek eventually found employment with Skidmore Owings & Merrill in 1955.
She faced challenges in her architecture training due to many of her classmates having advanced degrees. Sklarek also encountered discrimination in her search for work, stating that she did not know if it was due to her gender or race.
Thanks to her strong personality and intellectual vision, Sklarek made significant progress in her career, eventually becoming the director of Gruen Associates and co-founding Sklarek Siegel Diamond, the largest female-only architecture firm in the US.
Some of her notable projects include the Pacific Design Center, San Bernardino City Hall, the US Embassy in Tokyo, and LAX Terminal 1. Sklarek, who passed away in 2012, is remembered as a role model for aspiring architects, stating that she had “absolutely no role model” in architecture and was happy to be a role model for those who followed.
Amanda Levete is a British architect and founder of AL_A, an international architecture and design firm.
Some of her most notable projects include the contemporary wing of the V&A’s Exhibition Road Quarter in London and the futuristic design of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon.
She was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize. Levete believes that designing buildings embodies what it means to be human, as it is about identity, social issues, and political issues. She finds that architecture is deeply creative, technical, and conceptual.
FAQ’s about famous female architects
Who is the most famous female architect?
It is difficult to determine who the “most famous” female architect is, as fame is subjective and can be influenced by a variety of factors. Additionally, many female architects have made significant contributions to the field of architecture and have had successful careers.
That being said, Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) is often considered to be one of the most famous and influential female architects of all time. Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004, and the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects, in 2016.
She was also a recipient of the Order of the British Empire and the Stirling Prize for Architecture. Hadid is known for her futuristic, fluid designs and her use of new materials and technologies, and her work has been widely recognized and celebrated around the world.
Who is the first female architect in the world?
The practice of architecture has a long and rich history dating back to ancient civilizations and the role of women in this field has varied across cultures and time periods. However, some historians consider the ancient Greek architect and engineer, Hippodamus of Miletus (498-408 BCE), to be one of the earliest known professional architects.
Hippodamus is credited with developing the grid plan for cities, which is still in use today, and is known for his work on the port city of Piraeus, near Athens.
In more recent history, the first woman to be officially recognized as an architect in the United States was Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1913). Bethune received her architectural license in 1881 and went on to design a number of buildings in the Buffalo, New York area. She was also a founding member of the American Institute of Architects.
Who are the most famous black female architects?
There have been many notable black female architects throughout history, and it is difficult to identify a definitive list of the “most famous.” Some of the most well-known include:
- Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012): Sklarek was the first African American woman to be licensed as an architect in California. She had a successful career in architecture and worked on a number of notable projects, including the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.
- Theodora Lee (born 1963): Lee is an American architect and co-founder of Lee & Associates, an architecture and design firm based in Los Angeles. She is known for her focus on sustainability and her work on a variety of projects, including residential, commercial, and cultural buildings.
- Dina Griffin (born 1962): Griffin is an American architect and founding partner of Griffin Enright Architects, a Los Angeles-based firm known for its modernist designs. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the AIA California Council’s Emerging Professional Award.
- Nana Spears (born 1978): Spears is an American architect and principal of Nana Spears Architecture + Design, a firm based in New York City. She is known for her work on residential, commercial, and cultural projects and has received several awards for her designs.
- Lucinda Lawrence (born 1955): Lawrence is a British architect and founder of Lucinda Lawrence Architects, a firm based in London. She is known for her work on sustainable and community-oriented projects and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Housing Design Award.
These are just a few examples, and it is important to note that there are many other talented and influential architects in this field.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Thanks so much for the article . I went to an amazing talk at the RIBA in London about 5 female architects, who I had never heard of , who have influenced social housing and made important contributions to society . Why have men been allowed to take center stage for so long . About time all the books were revised and the extensive plagiarism exposed in this industry.
Thanks Deb, it was a pleasure to put together.