Tapping unconventional sources like organic and natural systems for inspiration, architect and designer Melike Altınışık developed her award-winning practice to explore architecture, urbanism and design using technology, materiality and computational innovations. After working as a lead architect under the grand dame Zaha Hadid, Altınışık struck out on her own to establish Istanbul-based studio in 2013; her reputation-advancing work has a strikingly futuristic bent, often featuring undulating and rhythmic lines. Currently under construction in Istanbul, the firm’s 369-metre-tall Çamlica TV and Radio Tower will pierce the landscape with its slender and rolling silhouette, and it was recently announced Altınışık won the competition to build the Robot Science Museum in Seoul, South Korea, with a spherical dome-like volume that will utilize robots and a building information modelling system to essentially build itself.
Born in Spain in 1962, Carme Pigem is one of only three women to date to have won the Pritzker Prize, which she collected with the co-founders of her Catalonia-based practice, RCR Arquitectes, in 2017. In contrast to previous winner Zaha Hadid, a dramatic figure who basked in her fame, soft-spoken, understated Pigem embodies her firm’s ethos of creative collaboration, believing that the role of the individual is overrated in today’s world and that the best ideas come from conversations between groups. This collegiality is reflected in RCR’s work, which includes everything from an acclaimed library and senior citizens centre in Barcelona to the Soulages Museum in France. Above all, Pigem’s projects are rife with “feeling,” the quality she has stated should be paramount in buildings.
“Innovative” is a word that is often abused in the architectural world, but one that truly applies to the work of Toronto firm gh3 and its founding partner Pat Hanson. Projects like the Governor General’s Medal–winning Borden Park Pavilion, a mirrored, drum-shaped structure in an Edmonton park, helped Hanson gain notice for a unique ability to integrate architecture with landscape. Sustainability is also key to her practice: last year the firm added a stunning new facility to Borden Park, which includes Canada’s first naturally filtered outdoor pool. The firm has numerous AZ Awards under its belt, and this year Hanson will join the jury.
A laureate of the AIA’s prestigious Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for social justice and progressive action in 2014, Ivenue Love-Stanley has been an ever-present champion for underserved communities in her home city of Atlanta – working to garner institutional recognition for the overlooked architectural heritage of the city’s West End. In 2008, Love-Stanley’s Cathedral at Turner Chapel was recognized with a ‘Silver’ Prize in the Brick in Architecture Award. The Atlanta-area building also stands as the largest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the world.
Just last month, Farshid Moussavi was selected to design the first Ismaili cultural centre in the U.S. The Iranian-born architect, who also teaches at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, beat out Rem Koolhaas, Jeanne Gang and David Chipperfield to land the commission. While this major project will catapult Moussavi’s renown, she has already proven herself a force in architecture. Since establishing her namesake firm in London – previously Moussavi was a co-founder of Foreign Office Architects (the firm behind the Yokohama International Cruise Terminal and the Spanish Pavilion at the Aichi International Expo) – she has led on a number of envelope-pushing projects, from the steel-clad MOCA Cleveland to a series of social housing achievements in Europe. Advancing the design of multi-unit affordable housing, they include Îlot 19 in France’s La Défense district and the Carabanchel building in Madrid’s outskirts. She also leads the Functionlab, a research project that examines how ornament, form and style are applied to architecture.
For the past three decades, Barbara Bestor has been actively redefining the architecture in her home base of Los Angeles via a practice that rigorously engages the city through design, art and urbanism. The architect brought “stealthy density” to the notoriously sprawling metropolis through a housing project in Echo Park, while her groundbreaking commercial spaces for innovative brands such as Beats by Dre and Nasty Gal provided new models for workplace design. Increasingly, the firm has been applying the lessons gleaned in L.A. on a broader field, from Napa Valley to New England. The aim, according to Bestor, is to give “shape and character to communities” far and wide.
It was a dream of a project that put Spanish firm Flores & Prats on the map: the restoration and adaptation of a centuries-old home into a cultural centre for the city of Palma de Mallorca. Completed in 2014, Casal Balaguer is, as the firm describes, “a geometric metamorphosis, but also [a metamorphosis] of materials, proportions and dimensions.” The wonderful result earned Eva Prats – who runs the firm with Ricardo Flores – a well-deserved nomination for 2019 Woman Architect of the Year. The architect and academic has taught at the School of Architecture of Barcelona since 2002 and at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology since 2014. Amongst the firm’s other must-see projects are the fantastic Sala Beckett in Barcelona, the Mills Museum in Palma de Mallorca, and Microsoft’s Milan campus.
Marina Tabassum is best known for the elemental yet profound architecture she has contributed to her native Bangladesh. As a co-founder of Urbana – the firm she ran with Kashef Chowdhury from 1995 to 2005, before establishing her own practice – she was instrumental in the creation of the Independence Monument of Bangladesh and the Museum of Independence, completed in 2013. As the leader of her eponymous firm, MTA, she designed the minimal, sun-dappled Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Last year, she took part in Freespace, the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale for Architecture, where she explored the Bengali courtyard – a theme tied to an ongoing project in Dhaka where she’s working with villagers to create their own $2,000 homes. As she recently explained to Azure, “This is part of a process we call co-creation: Where the villagers and the architects work together to create a design and the construction system and everything. It’s an interesting process, and we’ve built something like 20 houses – so it’s a process that’s quite viable and works really well. What we try to do is make a proper planning of own household, keeping the idea of courtyard and household home so you don’t lose the character of a village.”
Toronto architect Janna Levitt aims for a transformative effect – culturally and environmentally – in embracing a rigorous community-engagement process. She has led LGA Architectural Partners, which she co-founded as Levitt Goodman Architects, since 1991. Amongst its best-known works are Laurentian University’s new McEwen School of Architecture – considered the first Canadian architecture school of “the north” – and the Kiln Building Redevelopment at Evergreen Brick Works. But the studio’s most profound impact has been through architecture created for Toronto’s vulnerable communities: the Native Child & Family Life Centre, The Centre for Native Child & Family Well Being, The Meeting Place for St. Christopher House, and Eva’s Phoenix Brant Street, a transitional housing and employment training facility for youth experiencing homelessness. Soon to be completed: LGA’s new building for the North York Women’s Shelter.
Based in the small Portuguese city of Fátima, the office of Paula Santos Arquitectura has quietly emerged onto the international stage with a series of thoughtful and elegant public spaces. Fronting the historic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, Santos’ sheltered prayer altar introduces a simple but declarative intervention – and an interpretation of spirituality in the 21st century. With a growing portfolio and a budding status as one of Europe’s leading women in architecture, Santos is gaining international recognition for her uncommonly deft understanding of contextualism and natural light.
Can new buildings preserve rural traditions? For architect Xu Tiantian of Beijing’s DnA_Design and Architecture, the question is at the heart of an architectural mission to revive ancient building practices, evoking rich layers of cultural heritage. Described by Tiantian as “architectural acupunctures,” structures like the Bridge at Shimen Village create cultural – and physical – links between cultures and generations. As a freshly minted winner of 2019’s Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture, Tiantian is contributing meticulous interpretations of historical vernacular that are on the cusp of well-deserved global recognition.
Over the course of a nearly five-decade career, Sharon E. Sutton has consistently been one of America’s leading voices for inclusivity in city-building, landscape architecture and urban design. Sutton was the 12th African American woman to be licensed to practice architecture, and the first to become a full professor of architecture. Published in 2017, Sutton’s book When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story About Race in America’s Cities and Universities shed light on what she called the “arc of insurgency” in architecture and design education — offering a narrative of black architectural resistance that takes on new urgency in the Trump era.
There is no Pedro or Juana in Pedro y Juana, the Mexico City architecture and design firm that burst on the scene a few years ago with its “commons” and oasis – featuring some 221 plant lamps recalling Mexican paper cut-out art suspended in a dazzling array – for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. But the firm name sets up an aura of whimsy, and the real co-founders – Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss, she Mexican and he German – have delivered on this promise. Just this week, it was announced that the duo are the 2019 winners of MoMA’s Young Architects Program, which means that they will take over MoMA PS1 with a major installation that will host a summer series of talks and parties beginning in June. The pavilion, Hórama Rama, will take the shape of a 40-foot-tall, 90-foot-wide cyclorama projecting jungle panoramas. “I think architecture is social by definition. It is a service,” Galindo told Design Indaba in 2016. “The public, the public arena – as in the city, has always been an important part of architecture.”
When Sheila O’Donnell of O’Donnell + Tuomey was named Woman Architect of the Year at the 2019 Women in Architecture Awards, it was in recognition of a singular project: the Central European University in Budapest. As part of a grander masterplan that is still underway – one that retains many existing buildings and courtyards – the firm added a handsome limestone-clad building to the campus that respects its specific context. O’Donnell and her husband, John Tuomey, were also the recipients of RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 2015 and have been honoured with the Architectural Association of Ireland’s Downes Medal for Architectural Excellence an impressive seven times. Among their future projects are the TU Dublin Academic Hub & Library and the Sundays Well Houses in Cork, Ireland.
Based in Chile, Sofia von Ellrichshausen is one half of architecture duo Pezo von Ellrichshausen, which is quickly becoming recognized as one of South America’s most exciting emerging practices. Known for their playful yet unfailingly rigorous geometries, she and partner Mauricio Pezo have been recognized with the Mies Crown Hall Americas Emerge Prize by the IIT, as well as the Iberoamerican Architecture Biennial Award. Completed last year, Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s Loba House on Chile’s Coliumo Peninsula elevated the studio’s angular precision to new heights. Long, narrow, and defiantly sharp, the concrete monolith expresses an architectural purity that makes the project a subtle global standout.
One of the two founding principals of studioSUMO, a Queens, New York-based firm with an academic bent, Yolande Daniels has long been interested in exploring the connections between social systems and spacemaking. Trained at Columbia and City College New York, she does this primarily through essays and installations, examining how concepts such as race and gender are influenced by technology. SUMO’s projects, which have ranged from a museum of African diasporic art in Brooklyn to an apartment block in Miami’s Little Haiti, translate the firm’s research into physical form. A committed lecturer, Daniels has also taught at many of America’s leading schools, including Columbia, M.I.T. and Pratt Institute.
“I am not a female architect. I am an architect,” Dorte Mandrup declared in 2017. Writing in Denmark’s Politiken, the acclaimed Copenhagen-based designer – who heads an eponymous 60-person studio – sparked a global conversation about women in architecture. Is the label patronizing or affirming? As the debate continues, the strength of Mandrup’s portfolio speaks for itself. In the suburbs of Copenhaen, the Jægersborg Water Tower was converted into a youth housing project that combines contextually attuned adaptive reuse with subtly playful angularity. It’s signature Danish design, and signature Mandrup. Due to be completed next year, the architect’s Icefjord Centre in Greenland will be a stunning hub for climate research and a poetically immersive perch from which visitors can observe the region’s glacial formations.
A “sophisticated sense of the new” defines the work of Reddymade, the diverse architecture and design practice founded by Suchi Reddy in 2002. Moving easily between her home country of India and her home base in New York, the imaginative architect with a “globally curious” eye has been praised for her humanistic approach to design, her imaginative use of colour and her passion for innovative materials. Reddy’s enthusiasm for experimentation is evident in her projects, which have included a modular home in Beverly Hills and a Chennai building with a kinetic rain-screen facade. She also strongly believes in design’s healing power, as her firm’s recent Valentine’s Day installation in New York’s Times Square – an X-shaped construct symbolizing the power of love over divisiveness – made powerfully clear.
Born in Lima and educated in Peru and France, Sandra Barclay co-founded the firm of Barclay & Crousse in 1994 in Paris. In 2006, the studio relocated to Lima, where it has quietly emerged as one of South America’s foremost practices. Although her work is informed by her transatlantic experience, the firm is perhaps best known for its exquisite houses along Peru’s desert coast, which were the subject of a monograph in 2012 and presented at that year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice. Four years later, Barclay served as the curator of the Peruvian pavilion at the 15th Biennale. In 2018, she was also awarded the WIA Architect of the Year Prize by the Architectural Review.
Architect, academic and materials expert, Francesca Torzo is a modern Renaissance woman. After working for Peter Zumthor for a couple of years, the 44-year-old established her own practice in Genoa in 2008, taking the lessons she learned under the Swiss master in entirely her own direction. To be sure, a Zumthor-esque rigour informs Torzo’s work, but she also infuses it with colour and dynamism. (Witness her contemporary art gallery in Hasselt, Belgium as proof.) In addition to running her practice, Torzo teaches frequently and widely. And her curiosity – both academic and hands-on – extends to materiality, including experiments with dry stone construction.
The work of Pernilla Ohrstedt defies disciplines and challenges perceptions. Since opening her London studio in 2012, Ohrstedt (who was born in Stockholm) has continuously and seamlessly blended architecture, art, design and fashion to build a portfolio that is curious, captivating and more than a little compelling. Her roster of international clients and collaborators is just as diverse and includes catwalks and showspaces for Topshop, Vitra’s interactive and experimental Workspace showroom/laboratory (with Jonathan Olivares) and the Coca Cola Beatbox for the 2012 London Summer Olypmics, a wild pick-up-sticks-like structure she masterminded with Asif Khan that fused architecture, sports, music and technology.
As partner at OMA – the only woman out of the eight – Dutch architect Ellen van Loon has been quietly operating for over 20 years. Responsible for a host of significant and award-winning contributions to the build environment, van Loon’s style is one that she describes as combing sophisticated design with precise execution. This calculated approach is evident in some of her more recognizable works like De Rotterdam, a series of three interconnected and slightly off-kilter mixed-use towers that at 160,000-square-metres and 150-metres high are the largest in the Netherlands, and most recently BLOX, the new home to the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen, a building composed of stacked volumes that straddles a main roadway.
Since co-founding her New York studio nArchitects in 1999, Mimi Hoang has been challenging what the firm refers to as “contemporary issues in architecture.” Tapped by World Architecture News as one of a select group that is poised to lead the “next generation of designers in the 21st century,” Hoang consistently – and successfully – strives to create socially engaging environments that encourage interaction between buildings and public space. The recently completed New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, NY, for example, is a series of four one-storey structures of differing heights and rooflines arranged in such a manner as to welcome both visitors and a connection to the exterior landscape inside. And as part of the team behind the transformation of Chicago’s Navy Pier, Hoang and partner Eric Munge collaborated to conceive a space that revolves around a strong link to the lake through framed views, pavilions and polished stainless steel kiosks.
When Toronto’s KPMB launched in early 1987 – and quickly established itself as one of Canada’s top firms with projects like the Design Exchange in Toronto – it was widely noted for the equal gender balance among its four partners. The two female co-founders, Marianne McKenna and Shirley Blumberg, ran the collaborative practice alongside Bruce Kuwabara and Tom Payne until 2013 when that gender balance shifted in the female favour following Payne’s departure.
In addition to leading acclaimed projects such as McKenna’s Koerner Hall in Toronto and Blumberg’s Remai Modern in Saskatoon, both have been invested into the Order of Canada. Also of note: McKenna was deemed one of Canada’s 50 most powerful people in 2014. And Blumberg founded Building Equality in Architecture Toronto in 2015, an organization that has since gone national, with chapters all over Canada.
Based in Ithaca, New York, Jenny Sabin’s eponymous studio produces some of the most unique and memorable structures we’ve seen in recent years. Her experimental practice blends biology, mathematic theory and computational design to create awe-inspiring material structures such as the 2017 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Pavilion, Lumen. The robotically woven cellular canopy was made from a responsive textile that featured subtle shifts in colour throughout the day and emitted a soft glow at night. Sabin also established a new research degree in Matter Design Computation at Cornell University, where she is the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Architecture.
This young Syrian architect first gained global attention in 2016 with a TEDtalk on how her native country’s architecture and city planning paved the way for war. Later that year Marwa al-Sabouni released the best-selling novel Battle for Home, based on her experiences remaining in her home city of Homs throughout the war. Since then she’s been working to create design solutions to repair the architectural structures of war-torn Syrian cities such as Homs, along with their social structures. In December she was honoured with the 2018 Prince Claus award for her efforts to rebuild Syria’s physical and social infrastructure.
Fei Precht first co-founded Penda in 2013 while living and working in Beijing with partner Chris Precht, before moving the studio to rural Austria in 2017 and renaming it Precht, a more personal moniker that reflects the co-founding principals’ ethos. Experimental, cross-cultural and driven by a desire to always be learning, Precht focuses her lens on addressing today’s biggest problems – rising populations, the resiliency of cities, future-proofing communities, food production and more. With a few awards already under her belt – the studio was chosen as the Emerging Firm of the Year in 2016 by the Architizer A+Awards and in 2017 nabbed first-place for Best Architectural Startup in 2017 by Archipreneur – Precht and co earlier this year revealed The Farmhouse, a modular housing concept built around vertical farming. Comprised of prefabricated A-frame modules with integrated electrical and plumbing systems, it’s a promising idea that meshes agriculture with urban existence, and one that exemplifies the studio’s forward-thinking approach.
While many point to motherhood as an obstacle for women in architecture, Saint John architect Monica Adair proved you can have it both ways with one of her firm’s early projects, Hugo Bureau. An “office” within the office of Acre Architects, which Adair founded with her husband Stephen Kopp in 2010, the project provided a space at the firm where the duo’s young son – later joined by his brother – could spend the day.
Other projects, ranging from a 100-square-foot patio, to an apartment complex commissioned by Saint John Non-Profit Housing, have been gently adding contemporary architecture to a province that has previously been all-but void of modern design interventions. And the efforts have been applauded: Acre has twice been listed among the top emerging firms in Canada by Twenty + Change and was selected to join the Canadian team for the 2012 Venice Biennale. In 2015 Adair was honoured with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s as RAIC Young Architect Award, and last year, her practice received the Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture from The Canada Council for the Arts.
Since co-founding New York’s MOS architecture studio in 2005, principal Hilary Sample has been instrumental in developing her firm’s international recognition as one that “rejects the ordinary” and was quickly positioned as a leader among other young architecture practices. Also an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and author of several books, Sample blends mediums and disciplines, always with a humorous and slightly playful spin. The firm’s most recent publication, 2016’s MOS: Selected Works, compiles 32 projects over 10 years of practice that reveal their diverse range – “from the sophisticated to the absurd” – and unique approach to architecture, design and thinking.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrate 30 outstanding women in architecture.