“Looking back on architectural history, you could be forgiven for thinking that women were an invention of the 1950s, alongside spandex and power steering – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Big names like Le Corbusier, Mies, Wright, and Kahn often had equally inspired female peers, but the rigid structure of society meant that their contributions tended to be overlooked.
“Sophia Hayden – Born in 1869 in Santiago, Chile to a Chilean father and American mother, Sophia Hayden Benett was the first woman to receive an architecture degree from MIT when she graduated in 1890. The degree, however, did not guarantee work; after searching fruitlessly, Hayden Benett resigned to accepting a job teaching technical drawing in a Boston High School.
“In 1891, Hayden came across an announcement calling on women architects to submit designs for the Woman’s Building, which would form part of Daniel Burnham’s gargantuan World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Hayden’s proposal, based upon her college thesis, was for a three-story building in the Italian Renaissance style. Hayden’s design won the first prize out of the field of thirteen entries. Only twenty-one at the time, Hayden received one-thousand dollars for her design, which was a tenth of what many men received for theirs.
“However, during the construction of the building, Hayden suffers constant micro-management and compromises demanded by the construction committee. So much stress was put on the young woman that she suffered from a break-down and was placed in a sanitarium for a period of enforced rest; leading many at the time to highlight it as proof that women had no place in the world of architecture. After the exhibition, Hayden never worked as an architect again.
“Marion Mahony Griffin – Marion Mahony Griffin was not only one of the first licensed female architects in the world but was the first employee of Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Born in 1871, she studied architecture at MIT. After graduating in 1894 she began working for her cousin, who happened to share a building with several other architects, including Wright, who hired Mahoney in 1895. Being his first employee, Mahoney exerted a considerable influence on the development of the Prairie style, while her watercolor renderings soon became synonymous with Wright’s work. As was typical for Wright at the time, he credited her for neither.
“Their collaboration ended in 1909 when Wright left for Europe, offering to leave the studio’s commissions to Mahony, who declined. However, she was subsequently hired by Wright’s successor, under the condition that she was in full control of the design.
“In 1911 she married Walter Burley Griffin, who also worked with Wright. The two set up a practice together and before long they won the commission to design the new Australian capital Canberra. The couple moved to Australia to oversee the project and later moved to India, where they continued to work until Griffin died in 1937. After his death, Mahoney refrained from working in architecture until her death in 1961.” (Rackard, ArchDaily, 12/4/2019)
- Eileen Gray
- Lilly Reich
- Charlotte Perriand
- Jane Drew
- Lina Bo Bardi
- Anne Tyng
- Norma Merrick Sklarek
- Denise Scott Brown