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10 Contemporary Female US Architects Who Are Making A Difference

Women account for nearly 50% of the student body in architecture schools in the U.S., and while just under 20% become licensed architects, those that do are clearly making a difference in architecture and design in the country.

In our recent article “10 U.S. Architects Who Made A Difference” we included Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang with offices in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Here are 10 contemporary female architects in the U.S. who are leaving their mark on the urban landscape of America:

Diana Agrest

Born in 1945 in Buenos Aires, Diana Agrest came to New York City in 1971 and was the first female architect to teach at the Princeton University School of Architecture. While still a student, Agrest began to view existing urban design as inefficient. She has been at the forefront of a poststructuralist approach to critically rethink urbanism and city planning. Her work includes Manhattan West – the master plan for the west side of Manhattan – and the Melrose Community Center.

Karen Bausman

Born in 1958 in Pennsylvania, Karen Bausman is principal of Karen Bausman + Associates in New York City. Bausman has held chairs at the Yale School of Architecture and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The Performance Theater for Warner Bros in Los Angeles and the Flower Tower in Long Island City are two of her best-known projects.

Elizabeth Diller

Born in 1954 in Poland, Elizabeth Diller was named by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in 2018”. Diller is one of the founding partners of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an interdisciplinary design studio based in New York City that incorporates architecture with the visual and performing arts. Her work includes the World Trade Center Viewing Platform and the 1.4 mile long High Line project on the west side of Manhattan.

Merrill Elam

Born in 1943 in Atlanta, Merrill Elam is a principal of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta. She has been a visiting professor of architecture at numerous prestigious North American universities including Harvard, Yale, Ohio State, and the University of Toronto. Elam’s work includes the One Midtown Plaza Lobby in Atlanta and the Gates Center for Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Sheila Kennedy

Born in 1959, Sheila Kennedy received graduate degrees in architecture from the Ecole National Superieure des Beaux Arts and Harvard University. She is also is the first woman to hold the position of Professor of the Practice of Architecture at MIT. Kennedy is a founder and principal of Kennedy & Violich Architecture in Boston. Her work includes the East 34th Street Ferry Terminal in New York.

Toshiko Mori

Born in 1951 in Japan, Toshiko Mori is a founder and principal of Toshiko Mori Architect PLLC in New York City and is the first female faculty member to receive tenure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Mori’s major works include the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Laboratory Building in Cambridge, and the New York University Masterplan.

Maria Pellot

Born in 1971 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Maria Pellot is an associate principal at UrbanWorks, Ltd. in Chicago. Her work focuses on integrating design and architecture with environmentally-friendly and socially-conscious practices. Projects by Pellot include the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing Simulation Lab, the Cabrini Green Development Zone Plan in Chicago, and the Chicago Housing Authority Scattered Homes project.

Brigitte Peterhans

Born in 1928 in Germany, Brigitte Peterhans joined architectural firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill in 1958 while still a student, and in 1979 became an associate partner of the firm. Major works by Peterhans include Perimeter Center in Atlanta and the Sears Tower in Chicago, now known as the Willis Tower.

Monica Ponce de Leon

Born in 1965 in Caracas, Venezuela, Monica Ponce de Leon received her Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard. She has held teaching positions at a number of universities including Harvard, Rhode Island School of Design, and Northeastern University. Ponce de Leon is recognized as a pioneer in the application of robotic technology to building fabrication. Her major works include the Conrad Hilton in Lower Manhattan and Helios House in Los Angeles – the first gas station in the U.S. to be submitted for LEED certification.

Laurinda Hope Spear

Born in 1950 in Rochester, Minn., Laurinda Hope Spear is one of the founders of Arquitectonica, an international architecture, planning, and interior design firm headquartered in the Coconut Grove office submarket of Miami. Her design style is best described as unconventionally modern with the use of abstract geometric shapes and bold primary colors. Major works by Spear include the landmark Atlantis Tower in Miami, frequently featured in the 1980s TV show Miami Vice, the Miami International Airport Terminal, and landscape design for Hudson Square in New York City.

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