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  • María Fernanda Perry - October Blog

Women and Architecture

Talking about women nowadays is on the spot and we think it is not a frivolous and fleeting trend. On the contrary! We think it is a valid topic and worthy of supporting and reaffirming. That is why we want to briefly review the role of some women in architecture since, as in all professions throughout history, they were undervalued, but their influence in architecture has always been present even though they have not figured as protagonists and even in some cases, have been the brain behind great works awarded to men.


Such is the case of Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham (1632–1705), English and considered as one of the first known architects. On the book First Woman Architect, John Millar suggests that Wilbraham was the architect behind more than 400 buildings, and that given the circumstances of the moment when women could not and should not practice a profession, many of them were officially attributed to his disciple Christopher Wren. One of his most outstanding works is the House of Weston Park in Staffordshire, England:


SOURCE OF IMAGE: Simon Huguet, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14277824


In the nineteenth century despite the difficult participation for women in the professional field, several were able to make important contributions and be recognized. For example Minerva Parker Nichols, who designed and built important projects in Philadelphia, was the second female architect in the United States and managed to consolidate her success without the collaboration of a man. Source: Minerva Parker Nichols: Architect Of Gender Equality

Parker stood out mainly for designing and building houses for residential use. One of his most outstanding houses is the Mill-Rae (1908):


SOURCE OF IMAGE: http://hiddencityphila.org

In the twentieth century the universities of the world gradually accepted women within their Architecture programs and granting degrees. Although also many had to settle for volunteering to attend classes without receiving any type of certificate or diploma, but their passion for this profession drove them to work in it with a low profile and without needing to be recognized and so they were demonstrating their great abilities.

An example of this (among many other cases), is Matilde Ucelay Maórtua (Madrid, 1912 - 2008) first architect graduated in Spain who, despite finishing her studies in 1936, received her degree 10 years later in 1946, after being disabled to practice. After a life of tireless work and important projects executed, at age 93 he receives the National Prize of Architecture in his country, in the year 2004.


Among his most outstanding works is the Castaño Building, well known in Madrid:

SOURCE OF IMAGE: https://artedemadrid.wordpress.com


Lina Bo Bardi (1914 - 1992) is recognized as one of the important architects of Brazilian and Latin American architecture. Born in Italy, she had to move to Brazil during World War II, where she was able to develop her profession and create important works like her own house, The Glass House in Sao Paulo, which is Architectural Monument in Brazil:


SOURCE OF IMAGE: http://www.archdaily.co/co/02-114321/clasicos-de-arquitectura-casa-de-vidrio-lina-bo-bardi


Beatriz Colomina a renowned Spanish architect and historian and author of interesting books such as Sexuality & Space (1992) and The Sex of Architecture (1996), says that "women are the ghosts of modern architecture." This is surely a shared thought in many other fields and for this reason it is important to recognize the work of current great architects and strive for the opportunities for both them and future ones to be the same as for men.


A recent breakthrough in this regard are the acknowledgments received by the late Iraki architect Zaha Hadid (1950 - 2016), who won the awards Mies Van der Rohe (2003) and Pritzker (2004), becoming the first woman to receive the last one. Hadid is nowadays regarded as one of the icons of the current architecture and its architecture office still operates. One of his main works is the BMW Building in Leipzig, Germany (2001 - 2005):


SOURCE OF IMAGE: http://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/bmw-central-building/


There are many examples of great female architects who have made important works and contributions to the profession. We hope that this continues more and more because as said Jane King, architecture historian referring to the architect Elizabeth Close (1912-2011): "By her example, she inspired many women to enter architecture, including me, she did not want to be recognized as a female architect, but as an architect who happened to be a woman."




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