5 Women Changing the Face of Architecture

In a profession all-too-often associated with and dominated by men, women have begun to carve a space for themselves in the architecture world – but still few are recognized as they deserve. 

So Alice Shure and Janice Stanton, the founders of Amici Productions LLC, began work on a new documentary, : a visual register for future generations of architects that will document what is changing in architecture today and how these changes are affecting women. 

After interviewing over 30 architects, Shure and Stanton selected five women, five “rising stars” to hi-light. The documentary will show their day-to-day lives as well as tell the stories of how they achieved success. 

Thanks to a recent Kickstarter campaign, this project will soon be a reality. But to get your sneak peek into these five female pioneers, read on after the break.

Anabelle Selldorf, a German architect, is the founder of the New York-based firm Selldorf Architects, which specializes in architecture and interior design. Her projects include the Neu Galerie in New York, the renovation of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW).

Courtesy of , via Blouin Art Info

Odile Decq first gained recognition as the co-founder of the French firm ODBC with housing projects in Paris, the Banque Populaire in Rennes, and the winning Motorway Bridge for the A14 competition in Nanterre. Since 1998, she has worked alone; in 2001 she designed an extension for Rome’s Contemporary Art Museum and in 2011 the Restaurant L’Opera at Opera Garnier. She is currently the director of the French firm Odile Decq and teaches at Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture, where in 2007 she was Head of the Department.

Courtesy of FutureGiraffes.com

Farshid Moussavi is an architect who was born in Iran and raised in England. She’s the director of the London-based Farshid Moussavi Architecture, which specializes in projects that integrate architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. Until 2011, she was co-founder and co-principal of Foreign Office Architects (FOA), established in 1995 after winning the competition to build the International Terminal of Yokohama in Japan. Current work includes the recently opened Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio. She is also a professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Courtesy of Harvard GSD

Marianne McKenna is a founding partner of KPMB Architects. She has been recognized for creating architecture that advances cultural and educational mandates and catalyses community building. She is well known for the award-winning Royal Conservatory TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, with its acclaimed Koerner Hall. Her other projects include Le Quartier Concordia in Montreal for Concordia University, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the Walker Arts Centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Courtesy of Ann Marsden (CNW Group / KPMB Architects)

Kathryn Gustafson is a landscape architect from Seattle, WA, known for her unique, sculptured landscapes. As a founding principal of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (Seattle) and Gustafson Porter (London), she works primarily in the civic realms with a focus on cultural spaces, parks, and gardens. Major projects include: The Lurie Garden of Millennium Park in Chicago, Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, Bay East / Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, Rights of Men Square in Evry, France, and the Valencia Parque Central in Spain. Kathryn is one of the few landscape architects to have received the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture. She is also the recipient of the Chrysler Design Award and London’s Jane Drew Prize. In 2011, Kathryn and her Gustafson Guthrie Nichol partners received the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Architecture.

Courtesy of Gustafson Porter

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "5 Women Changing the Face of Architecture" 13 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=447721>
  • Adrian

    Rising Stars, no offense but the aren´t they too old to be a rising star. Aren´t they the ladies/dames of contemporary (?) or rather modern architecture? If so, is Hadid missing?
    Farshid Moussavi is not a rising star, she is well-know and well-established architect. C´mon and Kathryn Gustofson established her practice in the nineties and has projects all over the world.

  • axio

    I’m going to speak to a tangential point that this article inadvertently reveals. And it has nothing to do with sexism or the inevitable and currently ongoing equalization of the industry between the sexes (ps I’m all for it)

    The underlying issue is Ageism. Architecture is an industry, because of a number of both fundamental and manufactured aspects, in which only the older succeed. It is not, barring a few outlier exceptional cases, an industry where young architects thrive. And much of that has to do with the way the established architecture community cannabalizes its young.

    • rcruk

      I think age is a factor, but it’s more complex and nuanced than that. For example, I’m entering architecture as a 39 year old part II and am finding my age can be a problem, when I step through the door for a part II interview people sometimes appear surprised, they were probably expecting someone much younger and for what ever reason seem a little uncomfortable that I might be the same age or even older than them.

      Likewise the gender makeup of architecture practice, is probably not so clear an issue. One of the things I love about working in architecture is that my collaborators, peers and directors are an arbitrary mix of male and female, their gender is not a factor in determining their individual contribution to the project/practice.


    what about Carme Pinos who’s been really changing the face of architecture?

  • Sorperdida

    …not to mention Francine Houben, Billie Tsien, or Winka Dubbeldam?

  • AJ

    I don’t know if she’s too established to be an up and comer (is this the intent, here – some of these professionals named are pretty established) would be Jeanne Gang, surprised she’s not listed. Same for Julie Snow and Anne Fougeron

    • slpo

      Definately lots of women architects are missing, it’s just a sample !!!

  • MH

    Excluding Martha Welbourne is a mistake! She has made a huge impact on the built environment as an archietct and urban planner

  • h

    this seems to a mostly north-america view of the “face of architecture”..

    • DH

      h- You hit it right on the head. Well said.

  • cynic

    The real question is not about whether these women are up and coming, successful or whatever…but whether they have children. call me a cynic but I highly doubt it. the time and energy required to bear children seems to remain incompatible with serious success as an architect.

    • APM

      You’re right – BUT I’d call you irrelevant, not a cynic. It’s certainly a very interesting question – but NOT one that has to do with the TOPIC AT HAND. As far as I know “not having children” wouldn’t disqualify anyone from this list.

    • slpo

      I love this comment, it is soooooooooooo true !!!

  • Mariano Managò

    where’s jeanne gang?

  • BL

    I would add Brigitte Shim to the list of notable omissions…

  • tungusko


  • motera

    It is a snapshot of 5 women in architecture, it is not a definitive list of the top women architects

  • yasko

    Why is Zaha Hadid excluded? She is the leading female architect worldwide.

  • Jamil

    They are really great. But it seems you have forgotten to include the top architect, Zaha Hadid. She is an Iraqi-born. Let’s be free from the conspiracy theory.

  • KCL

    Looking forward to a day where the list considers women as ‘architects changing the face of architecture’ not nec. ‘female architects changing the face of architecture.’

  • Hootie K

    I think Mary Jane Colter would be so happy and proud of these fascinating women!!!

  • JIO

    In what way is Odile Decq changing the world? Her buildings are worthless.

  • Laura

    As I understand the project, these are 5 women who have met several criteria: they are female architects, have established a name for themselves, and have agreed to have their day-to-day activities documented. Perhaps the other women weren’t overlooked, but simply did not meet all the requirements.