As we continue to celebrate NAWIC’s Women in Construction (WIC) Week, we take a step back in time to look at women in history who helped to pave the way for women designers and architects today. Samantha Frew with Architizer Journal, writes, “If history has taught us anything, it is that a driven woman is a force to be reckoned with.” She goes on to say, “Unfortunately, architectural history has not been kind to the creative women who have shaped it, often assigning their achievements to male counterparts or erasing them altogether. For centuries, women of all ages, backgrounds, countries and professions have persevered by challenging inequality, questioning bias.” Currently, only 25% of working architects in the United States identify as women. 

Frew’s article digs into the history and celebrates the lesser-known pioneers who paved the way for female architects today. Here are the women she highlights:

Katherine Briçonnet (1494–1526) – Played a significant role in designing the famous Château de Chenonceau in France’s Loire Valley; today the chateau has a rich history influenced by a long line of women who have lived, worked and owned the property over the years — the chateau is fondly nicknamed Le Château des Dames.

Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham (1632–1705) – Often dubbed the UK’s first female architect, Wilbraham was a prominent designer of grand houses when women weren’t legally allowed to study or practice architecture; while the majority of her contributions were historically attributed to her husband, historian John Millar argues that Lady Elizabeth was most likely behind the formal designs of more than 400 buildings.

Marion Mahony Griffin (1871 – 1961) – One of the world’s earliest licensed female architects; a graduate from MIT in 1894, she was the first employee of Frank Lloyd Wright, working with him in his Chicago office from 1895 to 1909; many of her signature fine line renderings were included in the Wasmuth portfolio, published in Berlin in 1910 and now regarded as one of the most influential architectural publications of the 20th century.

Lilly Reich (1885 – 1947) – Many historians have formed compelling arguments to suggest that Reich was the mastermind of many of the ideas that shaped pivotal works that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe received credit for including famous furniture pieces such as the Barcelona chair, the Brno chair and the Weißenhof chair.

Minnette de Silva (1918 – 1998) – First Sri Lankan woman to be trained as an architect, first woman to establish her own practice in the country, first Asian woman to be elected an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (in 1948), and the first woman to be awarded the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects gold medal (in 1996).

Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926 – 2012) – First Black woman to graduate from Columbia University School of Architecture in 1950, the first to become a licensed architect in the state of New York in 1954, then in California in 1962, and the first Black woman member of the AIA in 1959 (and later named a Fellow in 1980). ***Two Black women, Beverly Loraine Greene and Louise Harris Brown, had come before Sklarek, yet she was unaware of their existence. 

In addition to these women in history, Frew also acknowledges the following exceptional women whose work has also shaped towns, cities and lives: Julia Morgan, Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Jane Drew, Lina Bo Bardi, Anne Tyng, Denise Scott Brown.

To read the full article, click HERE.

NAWIC chapters and companies across the country are putting on a wide variety of events to commemorate the WIC Week 2022. To learn more and to find events in your area, click HERE.

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