The HERstory of Women in Architecture

Are you aware that Mattel’s Barbie® I Can Be™ series came out with Architect Barbie? The doll came with a drawing tube, a model of the Dream House, and hardhat in 2011. She was accessorized with a pink bangle bracelet and black framed glasses. She wore black booties and an A-line dress complete with the silhouette of a skyline at the hem. What can’t Barbie do? Throughout history we find many women who defined what it means to be female and an Architect.

The Challenge

It is difficult to find a succinct history of women in architecture, and that reality by itself highlights some of the challenges women still face in the industry today. While records of female architects can be found, the extent of their contribution is often vague. The percentage of women practicing appears to go up and down while relatively remaining the same now as in the 1980’s1. Meanwhile, the percentage of architecture students that identify as female has risen significantly. In many schools, they make up about half of the class.

Historical Examples

If I said the name Frank Lloyd Wright, you would probably picture the Prairie Style that he is famous for, but how many of you know his lesser-known accomplice, Marion Mahoney? She was not the only woman influencing well-known architects of the 1900’s. Famous names like Mies and Corbusier employed, worked with, or married women who influenced the industry. Would we have the iconic furniture we have today if Charles Eames worked independent of Rey’s influence? These women blazed the trail for professionals like the late Zaha Hadid, Liz Diller, even Maya Lin, and many others.

Other Perspectives

Previously on this blog we’ve highlighted women in the profession and women in history: Celebrating Women in Architecture The Built Landscape of Suffrage History AIA Female Leadership to name a few.

Whether it’s Barbie, a female Architect from the turn of the century, or a high school graduate, women can be architects too! I know that I personally feel a responsibility to the latter to leave a legacy of what is possible and to continue breaking down barriers and stigmas.

  1. ACSA Where Are the Women?

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