Art History Lab

Breaking Barriers: Celebrating Women Architects Who Changed the Field

Introduction to

Women in Architecture

Architecture as a profession has been an exclusive domain of men for centuries. The idea of women becoming architects was considered a novelty and a taboo.

Women were expected to occupy spaces that were considered “feminine” or “domestic,” leaving the field of architecture to men. However, with time, women architects have risen through the ranks and made their mark in this industry.

This article sheds light on the historical exclusion of women in architecture and the importance of highlighting women architects. The article also explores the career of Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham, the first woman architect in the United Kingdom.

Historical Exclusion of

Women in Architecture

For many centuries, architecture was considered a male-dominated profession. Women were not encouraged to pursue a career in architecture, and their contributions to the field were often overlooked.

It was believed that women lacked the necessary skills and ability to be successful architects. However, women architects have been quietly breaking through the barriers and gaining recognition for their work.

They have been pioneers in their own right, and their contributions have played a significant role in the evolution of architecture.

Importance of Highlighting Women Architects

It is essential to highlight women architects’ contributions to the field to inspire and encourage more women to join the profession. Women architects have paved the way for future generations and have broken barriers that once seemed insurmountable.

By showcasing their work, we can celebrate their accomplishments and encourage more women to pursue a career in this field. Overview of Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham’s Career

Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham was a prolific designer in the 17th century and the first woman architect in the United Kingdom.

Despite the societal norms and barriers, she was able to make a name for herself in the field of architecture. Unfortunately, much of her work remains anonymous.

Notable Architectural Works

Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham’s most notable works include:

1. Weston Park: This magnificent structure was designed for the Earl of Bradford and is located in Shropshire, England.

It is a stunning example of Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham’s talent and creativity as an architect. 2.

Belton House: Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham was commissioned to design the stable courtyard at Belton House, which is now a popular tourist attraction in Lincolnshire, England. 3.

Windsor Guildhall: Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham was commissioned to design the courtroom in Windsor Guildhall, which is still used today by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. 4.

Uppark House: Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham designed the extensions to Uppark House, a stunning Georgian mansion in West Sussex, England.


In conclusion, women architects have made significant contributions to the field of architecture, and their work should be celebrated and highlighted. Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham’s career is an example of the significant contributions women have made to the field of architecture.

Her work is a testament to her talent and creativity and deserves recognition. As we continue to break down barriers and challenge the norms, we can expect to see more women architects making their mark in this industry.

Marion Mahony Griffin – Influencer of

Prairie Architecture

Marion Mahony Griffin was a talented draftsman who played a significant role in the development of Prairie architecture. A personal friend and co-worker of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Marion’s influence on the movement was significant.

Through her work, she brought a unique perspective and vision to the field of architecture.

Draftsman for Frank Lloyd Wright

Marion Mahony Griffin first met Frank Lloyd Wright while they were both working for the renowned architect Louis Sullivan. After leaving the firm, Marion was offered the opportunity to work with Wright on some of his most iconic designs.

She was known for her excellent drafting skills and ability to bring Wright’s vision to life in incredible detail.

Prairie Architecture

Prairie architecture was a movement that was championed by Frank Lloyd Wright during the early 1900s. The style was characterized by low-pitched roofs, large overhangs, and horizontal lines, which were meant to reflect the flat, expansive landscape of the American Midwest.

Marion Mahony Griffin contributed significantly to the visibility and emergence of Prairie architecture by developing the graphic style that became associated with the movement.

Notable Architectural Works

Marion Mahony Griffin worked extensively with Frank Lloyd Wright, contributing her artistic skills to many of his iconic designs. Some of her notable works include:


Adolph Mueller House: This Prairie-style home in Decatur, Illinois, features a horizontal design with low-pitched roofs and an expansive, open floor plan. 2.

David Amberg House: Located in Elmhurst, Illinois, the David Amberg House is a prime example of the Prairie Style of architecture. This home features horizontal lines, low-pitched roofs, a large, central fireplace, and bright, open spaces.

3. Capitol Theater: One of Marion Mahony Griffin’s most significant works is the Capitol Theater in Peoria, Illinois.

Designed in the Prairie style, the theater features an elaborate faade and a stunning interior with intricate detailing.

Julia Morgan – Accomplishments as a Female Architect

Julia Morgan was an incredibly talented architect who is best known for her work on the stunning Hearst Castle in California. As a female architect working in the early 1900s, she faced significant challenges and was often overlooked due to her gender.

However, her accomplishments speak for themselves and have made a significant impact on the field of architecture.

Working Alone

One of Julia Morgan’s significant accomplishments was her ability to work independently on many of her most significant projects. As a female architect in a male-dominated field, she faced significant obstacles in her career.

Despite this, she was able to overcome these challenges and develop a successful career as an architect.

Beaux-Arts Education

Julia Morgan studied at the prestigious Beaux-Arts School of Architecture in Paris, France, which was one of the most prominent architectural programs in the world at the time. This education provided her with a solid foundation in both classical and modern design, which allowed her to create her unique style.

Notable Architectural Works

Julia Morgan is best known for her work on the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. This stunning estate was developed for William Randolph Hearst and features 127 acres of gardens and a magnificent castle with incredible detailing and intricate design elements.

Another notable work by Julia Morgan is the Chapel of Chimes in Oakland, California. This impressive building features a complex system of interconnected gardens, chapels, and columbaria, which make it a unique and peaceful resting place.


Marion Mahony Griffin and Julia Morgan both made significant contributions to the field of architecture. Through their work, they challenged the norms and expectations of a male-dominated industry.

Their achievements have paved the way for future generations of women architects and serve as a testament to their talent and creativity. Both women helped to shape the field of architecture as we know it today, and their contributions will continue to inspire and influence generations of architects to come.

Elisabeth Scott – Career and Achievements

Elisabeth Scott was a talented architect who achieved significant success and recognition in a male-dominated industry. She is best known for her work on the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is considered to be one of her most significant achievements.

Winner of International Competition

Elisabeth Scott’s career reached new heights when she won an international competition to design the Royal Shakespeare Theater in 1928. This competition attracted entries from some of the world’s most prominent architects, making her success all the more impressive.

Her design was chosen for its innovative use of modern materials and its ability to incorporate the natural landscape into the building’s design.

Prominent Public Building

The Royal Shakespeare Theater was completed in 1932 and marked a significant achievement for both Elisabeth Scott and the

British Modern Movement. The building’s design was simple, functional, and modern, featuring a reinforced concrete structure with large, uninterrupted spaces.

The building’s success paved the way for the acceptance of modern architecture in Britain and established Elisabeth Scott as one of the leading architects of her time.

Notable Architectural Works

Elisabeth Scott’s other notable works include:

1. Newnham College: Elisabeth Scott designed several buildings for Newnham College at the University of Cambridge, including a library, a dining hall, and several student residences.

2. Pier Theater: Elisabeth Scott was commissioned to design the Pier Theater in Sussex, which was one of the largest entertainment complexes in the South of England.

Dame Jane Drew – Impact and Contributions

Dame Jane Drew was a highly regarded British architect who played an influential role in the

British Modern Movement. She was one of the first women to achieve success in this field and her work helped to pave the way for future generations of women in architecture.

Highly Regarded

Dame Jane Drew’s talent was widely recognized, and she was highly regarded by both her colleagues and contemporaries. She was known for her ability to incorporate modernist principles into her designs while also creating buildings that were functional, practical, and aesthetically pleasing.

British Modern Movement

Dame Jane Drew was a central figure in the

British Modern Movement and contributed significantly to the development of modern architecture in Britain. Her work featured clean lines, functional design, and the use of new materials, which reflected the movement’s principles of simplicity and efficiency.

Women in Architecture

Dame Jane Drew’s work has had a significant impact on other women in architecture. She served as an inspiration and encouragement to many women who wanted to pursue a career in architecture.

Her success proved that women could achieve significant success in this field and that gender was not a barrier to success.

Notable Architectural Works

Dame Jane Drew’s other notable works include:

1. Institute of Contemporary Arts: Dame Jane Drew designed the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, which was one of the first buildings to feature a curtain wall structure and became a symbol of the

British Modern Movement.

2. School for the Deaf: Dame Jane Drew was commissioned to design the School for the Deaf in Margate, which was a pioneering project that incorporated the needs of deaf children into the building’s design.

3. The Open University: Dame Jane Drew was part of the team of architects who designed The Open University campus in Milton Keynes, which was praised for its innovative design and use of sustainable materials.


Elisabeth Scott and Dame Jane Drew were both talented architects who made significant contributions to the field of architecture. They challenged the norms and expectations of a male-dominated industry and proved that women could achieve significant success in this field.

Their work has had a lasting impact on the architecture of Britain and serves as an inspiration to future generations of architects.

Lina Bo Bardi – Unique Architectural Designs

Lina Bo Bardi was an extraordinary architect known for her unique approach that combined elements of modernism and populism. Her striking and daring designs have left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape, showcasing her innovative and forward-thinking vision.

Modernism and Populism

Lina Bo Bardi embraced the principles of modernism in her designs, which emphasized functionality, clean lines, and the use of new materials. However, what set her apart was her commitment to incorporating elements of populism into her work.

She believed in creating spaces that were not only functional but also accessible and inclusive to the broader public. Her designs often incorporated cultural and historical references and sought to engage with the local communities.

Bo Bardi believed that architecture was not just about buildings but also about creating a sense of place that resonated with people’s needs and aspirations.

Notable Architectural Works

Lina Bo Bardi’s architectural works so unmistakably reflect her unique style and vision. Some of her notable works include:


So Paulo Museum of Art (MASP): One of her most iconic and internationally recognized designs is the So Paulo Museum of Art. The building features a striking concrete and glass structure elevated on slender columns, creating a spacious public plaza beneath it.

This design allows for the merging of culture, public gathering, and engagement, solidifying Bo Bardi’s commitment to architecture as a tool for social inclusion. 2.

Glass House: The Glass House, located in So Paulo, showcases Bo Bardi’s architectural expertise and ingenuity. It is a stunning example of her ability to integrate the natural surroundings into her designs.

The house is enveloped in glass walls, blurring the boundaries between the interior and the abundant greenery outside. 3.

SESC Pompia: SESC Pompia, a cultural center in So Paulo, is another testament to Bo Bardi’s vision. The adaptive reuse of an old factory, Bo Bardi transformed it into a multifunctional space filled with arts and recreational facilities.

She preserved the industrial character of the building while adding modern interventions, creating a dynamic fusion of the old and the new.

Norma Merrick Sklarek – Achievements as a Woman of Color

Norma Merrick Sklarek was a trailblazer and deserves recognition for her incredible achievements as a woman of color in the field of architecture. Despite facing discrimination and bias, she demonstrated remarkable resilience and talent, paving the way for future generations of architects of color.

First Woman Architect of Color

Norma Merrick Sklarek made history as the first African American woman to become a licensed architect in the United States. Her accomplishment shattered racial and gender barriers within the architectural profession, inspiring countless aspiring architects of color who followed in her footsteps.

Discrimination and Challenges

Throughout her career, Sklarek faced significant discrimination and bias due to her race and gender. She often found herself being the only woman or person of color in professional settings, where she had to work harder to prove her worth.

Despite the challenges, Sklarek persevered and became a respected and influential architect in her own right.

American Institute of Architects

Norma Merrick Sklarek’s contributions to the field of architecture were not only acknowledged by her peers, but also by prestigious organizations like the

American Institute of Architects (AIA). She became the first African American woman to be elected a Fellow of the AIA, a recognition of her outstanding achievements and expertise.

Notable Architectural Works

Norma Merrick Sklarek’s portfolio includes numerous notable architectural works, where she made significant contributions. Some of her remarkable projects include:


United States Embassy in Tokyo: Sklarek served as the principal architect for the United States Embassy in Tokyo. Her design showcased her versatility and elegance, creating a harmonious blend of modern architecture and Japanese influences.

2. San Bernardino City Hall: Sklarek played a key role in the design of the San Bernardino City Hall.

Her vision reflected the local context while incorporating contemporary architectural elements, creating a building that successfully merged functionality with aesthetics.


Lina Bo Bardi and Norma Merrick Sklarek were pioneering architects who defied societal expectations and made significant contributions to the field of architecture. Bo Bardi’s unique blend of modernism and populism created buildings that were not only visually striking but also deeply connected to the communities they served.

Sklarek, on the other hand, broke down racial and gender barriers, paving the way for increased diversity within the architectural profession. Their legacies continue to inspire current and future architects, demonstrating the power of architecture to shape society and challenge conventional norms.

MJ Long – Overview of Career

MJ Long was a highly accomplished British architect known for her significant contributions to the architectural field. Throughout her career, she worked on notable projects such as the

British Library and the

National Maritime Museum, leaving a lasting impact on the architectural landscape.

British Library

One of MJ Long’s most iconic projects was the

British Library in London. As part of the architectural practice Colin St John Wilson and Partners, Long played a crucial role in the design and construction of this landmark building.


British Library is known for its unique architectural features, including its redbrick exterior and large open spaces. Long’s attention to detail and architectural expertise helped bring this ambitious project to life.

National Maritime Museum

Another notable project of MJ Long’s career was her work on the

National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, artworks, and historical documents related to Britain’s maritime history.

Long’s designs for the museum ensured that the architecture would not only provide a suitable home for these exhibits but also enhance the overall visitor experience.

Architectural Practice

MJ Long’s career was not confined to individual projects alone. As part of the Colin St John Wilson and Partners architectural practice, she worked closely with other talented architects, contributing to a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to design.

Her contributions to the practice showcased her ability to work in teams and to communicate and collaborate effectively with her colleagues.

Notable Architectural Works

MJ Long’s notable architectural works include:


British Library: The

British Library is a magnificent building that stands as a testament to Long’s skill and creativity.

Its architectural design and attention to detail reflect the importance of the institution it houses. 2.

National Maritime Museum: Long’s work on the

National Maritime Museum demonstrates her ability to create functional spaces that showcase exhibits effectively. Her designs not only enhance the visitor experience but also pay homage to the rich maritime heritage of Britain.

Dame Zaha Hadid – Impact and Recognition

Dame Zaha Hadid was a groundbreaking and influential architect who made an indelible mark on the architectural world. Her innovative and futuristic designs revolutionized architectural thinking and challenged conventional notions of space, form, and materiality.

Her exceptional talent was recognized through numerous prestigious awards, including the Pritzker Prize and the RIBA Gold Medal.

Pritzker Prize and RIBA Gold Medal

Dame Zaha Hadid’s accolades speak volumes about her impact on the architectural field. In 2004, she became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Prize, widely regarded as the highest honor in architecture.

This recognition highlighted her visionary designs and architectural contributions. Additionally, she was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 2016, a prestigious acknowledgment of her significant influence on the profession.

Influential Architect

Throughout her career, Dame Zaha Hadid pushed the boundaries of architectural design, constantly challenging traditional norms and conventions. Her work emphasized fluidity, dynamic forms, and the interplay of light and shadow.

She was known for creating visually stunning and iconic structures that showcased her remarkable ability to blend art and technology. Her designs were transformative and inspired other architects to approach their work with creativity and innovation.

Notable Architectural Works

Dame Zaha Hadid’s architectural works were celebrated around the world for their boldness and ingenuity. Some of her notable projects include:


Riverside Museum, Glasgow: The Riverside Museum in Glasgow is a dramatic structure that houses a vast collection of transport-related exhibits. Its flowing lines and futuristic design make it an architectural landmark that stands out in the urban landscape.

2. Guangzhou Opera House, China: The Guangzhou Opera House is an awe-inspiring building that showcases the grandeur and power of Hadid’s designs.

Its striking form and curvaceous lines create a sense of movement and dynamism, beautifully integrating with its surroundings. 3.

Generali Tower, Italy: The Generali Tower in Milan is a testament to Hadid’s ability to create visually captivating structures. The tower’s twisting and fluid design challenge the traditional notions of a skyscraper, creating a captivating architectural statement.


MJ Long and Dame Zaha Hadid were two architects who left an indelible mark on the architectural world. MJ Long’s contributions to iconic projects like the

British Library and the

National Maritime Museum demonstrate her talent for creating functional and innovative spaces.

Dame Zaha Hadid’s groundbreaking designs and architectural achievements earned her global recognition and reshaped the field of architecture. Their legacies continue to inspire future generations of architects and highlight the power of architecture to transform and enrich our built environment.

Beverly Willis – Overview of Career

Beverly Willis is a remarkable architect whose career has spanned over several decades. Born in 1928, she began her journey in the architectural world with an unconventional start, working as a watercolor artist and running an orphanage in Arizona.

However, her passion for design and built environments eventually led her to pursue a career in architecture.

Orphanage and Watercolor Artist

Before becoming an architect, Beverly Willis worked as an artist and ran an orphanage in Arizona. Her experience in art brought a unique perspective to her architectural career, as she would often incorporate artistic concepts and elements into her designs.

Her background in watercolor art provided her with an acute sense of color, composition, and form, which she utilized to bring a fresh and artistic touch to her architectural creations.

Architectural Concepts

Beverly Willis’s architectural concepts are rooted in her belief that architecture should not only be aesthetically pleasing but should also have a positive impact on people’s lives. She champions the idea that architecture can shape social interactions and influence human behavior.

Her design philosophy revolves around creating spaces that are not only functional but also engaging and inspiring.

Notable Architectural Works

One of Beverly Willis’s notable architectural works is the San Francisco Ballet Building. Designed in collaboration with William Turnbull Jr. and James Maxwell, the elegant and contemporary building serves as the headquarters for the San Francisco Ballet.

The design incorporates glass facades and creates a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces. The San Francisco Ballet Building showcases Willis’s ability to blend functionality, aesthetics, and human experience in her architectural designs.

Denise Scott Brown – Influence on Postmodernism

Denise Scott Brown is an influential architect and urban planner who has played a significant role in the postmodern movement. Her work and theories have challenged traditional approaches to architecture and urban planning, advocating for a more inclusive and multicultural design process.

Urban Planning and Multiculturalism

Denise Scott Brown’s impact on the world of architecture extends beyond physical buildings. Her work in urban planning emphasized the importance of understanding and responding to the cultural and social contexts of different communities.

Scott Brown believed that good architecture and urban planning should reflect the diverse identities and needs of their users. Her approach highlighted the significance of incorporating multicultural perspectives into the design process to create inclusive and responsive built environments.

Postmodern Movement

Denise Scott Brown was a key figure in the development of the postmodern movement, which emerged in the late 20th century as a response to the strict modernist principles of the time. The movement sought to reintroduce historical references, symbolism, and contextual elements into architecture, challenging the modernist focus on universalism and functionalism.

Scott Brown’s influential book, “Learning from Las Vegas,” co-authored with her husband Robert Venturi and Steven Izenour, championed the postmodernist ideas of embracing popular culture and architectural complexity.

Notable Architectural Works

One of Denise Scott Brown’s notable architectural works is the Children’s Museum of Houston. The museum, which was designed in collaboration with Robert Venturi and John Rauch, showcases her dedication to creating buildings that engage and inspire.

The playful and colorful design captures the imagination of children and reflects Scott Brown’s commitment to incorporating diverse influences and perspectives into her architectural creations.


Beverly Willis and Denise Scott Brown are two groundbreaking architects who have made significant contributions to the field of architecture. Willis’s career showcases her ability to combine her artistic background with architectural concepts, resulting in unique and engaging designs such as the San Francisco Ballet Building.

Scott Brown’s influence on postmodernism and her emphasis on multiculturalism in urban planning have shifted the architectural landscape, with projects like the Children’s Museum of Houston serving as testaments to her innovative and inclusive approach. These architects have left an enduring impact on the profession, challenging norms and inspiring future generations of architects to embrace creativity, diversity, and social responsibility in their work.

In conclusion, architects like Beverly Willis, Denise Scott Brown, MJ Long, Lina Bo Bardi, Norma Merrick Sklarek, Julia Morgan, Marion Mahony Griffin, Elisabeth Scott, and Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham have broken barriers, challenged gender and racial biases, and left an indelible mark on the architectural world. Their contributions have not only shaped the physical landscape but have also served as inspiration for future generations.

From innovative designs that blend art, functionality, and inclusivity to groundbreaking urban planning principles, these architects have shown the power of architecture to reflect and shape the society we live in. Their achievements remind us of the importance of diversity, creativity, and vision in architecture, and serve as a call to continue pushing boundaries and reimagining what is possible in the built environment.

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