5 inspirational female architects
Being a woman in an industry as traditionally male-dominated as architecture can be tough. Very tough. In fact, in the 2016 Women in Architecture survey, 68% of women said that the construction industry has not accepted the authority of the female architect.
More than 20% would not recommend a career in architecture to other women. The gender pay gap is pronounced in many countries, and nearly three quarters of women worldwide say they have had to deal with sexual discrimination or harassment in their careers.
With statistics like that, it would be easy for women to steer well clear of architecture as a career choice. Yet there are a number of women who are not only thriving in architecture, but shaping the future of the profession. Through use of innovative materials combined with effortless and sustainable designs, women are truly breaking the mould.
Though there are too many notable female architects to list, we’ve selected five of the most inspirational from around the world.
Leila Araghian is an Iranian architect who designed the incredible Tabiat Bridge in Tehran. Araghian studied at the University of British Columbia and co-founded Diba Tensile Architecture. Despite her work being internationally recognised, Araghian has been restricted from entering some architecture festivals because of international sanctions against Iran – but her work speaks for itself.
The Tabiat Bridge is 270 metres long and connects two parks. Construction took place over four years (2010-2014) and involved 2000 tonnes of steel and 10000 cubic metres of concrete. Like all bridges, construction was challenging – amongst other things, dealing with structural expansion and contraction and ensuring no materials fell onto the busy highway below.
Julia Barfield is a British architect and Director of Marks Barfield Architects (with her husband David Marks. She has designed a wide variety of structures and her interest lies in geometry, nature and the intersection between the two.
Undoubtedly her best-known work is the world-famous London Eye. The Eye is 135 metres tall and the wheel itself is 120 metres in diameter. The wheel is supported by tensioned steel cables and during construction caused a cement shortage across the city. As Barfield said, “We were very unpopular with every building site in the city – we had all the cement in London.”
Eva Jiricna is a Czech-born architect and designer who is known for her detailed designs, and particularly her staircases. She is currently the head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Applied Arts in Prague. She gained attention through her innovative use of industrial materials, combined with creative use of light to transform spaces.
Eva combines her background of engineering, architecture and interior design to create unique spaces, frequently centred around staircases. Eva’s staircases are frequently made from glass and steel, but also incorporate other materials. As with any staircases Eva employs a number of measures to ensure safety – among them stair treads and tactile strips (depending on what works aesthetically with the particular staircase). One of her most notable staircases is in Somerset House in London.
Amanda Levete is a Stirling Prize-winning architect and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) whose credits include the Birmingham Selfridges Store, media centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground and the EDP Foundation Cultural Centre in Lisbon. She is renowned for her focus on sustainability, as well as her organic and flowing designs. Her aim is to blend seamlessly and draw attention to the environments in which projects sit.
The EDP Cultural Centre is a perfect example of this. Situated upon the River Tagus in Lisbon, its curved roof replicates the ripples of the river it sits next to. The steps up to the Centre blend with the river, becoming submerged at high tide. Amanda is passionate about breathing new life into old buildings. As she has said, “There’s one thing in life you can’t design – and that’s heritage.”
Kazuyo Sejima is a Japanese architect known for her Modernist design with clean, empty spaces and clear lines. In 2010 Sejima became only the second woman to receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize. Sejima’s work frequently uses glass and other slick materials such as marble and metals. One of her most famous works is the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York – a structure that takes its inspiration from cubes and rectangles to give it a minimal, yet clean feel.