About The AIAPrograms & Initiatives
Diversity and Inclusion > Diversity and Inclusion Celebrates Women’s History Month
Join us as we recognize the contributions that women architects have made to the profession and the built environment. Featured architects and organizations include the Beverly Willis Foundation, begun in 2002, by Beverly Willis, FAIA. BWAF, now celebrating its 10th year, is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the contributions women have made and continue to make in shaping the American built environment. It is the only foundation in the U.S. with this mission.
Norma Sklarek, FAIA (New York City 1926-2012)
Norma Sklarek was the first African American woman to be licensed as an architect in New York and California, in 1954 and 1962 respectively. She became the first African American woman member of the AIA in 1959, the first African American woman to be elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 1980, and the first woman to receive the AIA Whitney Young Award in 2008.
In 1985, she became the first African American woman architect to form her own architectural firm - Siegel, Sklarek, Diamond, the largest woman owned architectural firm in the United States at the time. Among Sklarek's designs are the San Bernardino City Hall in San Bernardino, California, the Fox Plaza in San Francisco, the Los Angeles International Airport Terminal One, and the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo, Japan.
Susan Maxman became the first female president of the American Institute of Architects in 1993. In 2011, President Obama nominated her as a member of the National Institute of Building Sciences Board of Directors.
Maxman made environmentally sensitive design a priority for her administration while president of AIA. Under her leadership, the AIA and the International Union of Architects jointly sponsored a convention focused on architecture, the environment and sustainable design.
Maxman is a nationally recognized advocate and expert on the principles of sustainable design and historic preservation. She founded SMP Architects in 1980, and served as principal architect of the firm until 2011.
Maxman sat on the Eco-Efficiency Task Force of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, represented the architectural profession at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and chaired the Urban Land Institute’s Environmental Council.
She has served on numerous boards and organizations, including the Board of Overseers of the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania and the Planning and Design Commission of the Georgia Institute of Technology. (From http://www.nibs.org).
Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, Schwennsen was 2006 President of the American Institute of Architects, the second woman to serve as the elected leader of the then-149-year-old, 80,000-member organization.
She is currently the Chair of Clemson University’s School of Architecture, as well as a professor. Her teaching and research focus on issues of diversity, leadership and evolving education and practice models in architecture. Recent publications/presentations include: "You Can't Just Add Women and Stir", "Sustainable Education Sustainable Profession," and "The Architect at Mid- (21st) Century."
She has held many leadership positions in professional organizations, and is currently a Co-Vice-President for Region III, (the Americas), on the Education Commission of the International Union of Architects (UIA). She is licensed to practice architecture in Iowa and South Carolina. Professor Schwennsen was formerly (2001-2010) Associate Dean for Academic Programs of the College of Design, Iowa State University.
Beverly Willis , FAIA
Willis began her prolific career in 1954 in Hawaii as a painter and multi-media artist. By 1958, when she moved to San Francisco, she expanded her repertoire to include industrial and architectural design. Architecture increasingly took over her work, and by 1966 Willis had obtained her architectural license, and a decade later was running the 35-person firm, Willis and Associates, Inc. Architects. For Willis, architectural practice has always embraced multiple approaches: whether designing residential or civic structures, pioneering adaptive re-use to revitalize downtown commercial zones, or innovating technology-driven land use planning. Her most famous building is the San Francisco Ballet Building in the City Civic Center.
In the 1970s, Willis complemented her architectural practice with professional organizational leadership-- often holding positions never before held by a woman. Willis served as President of the California Council of American Institute of Architects, which governs 22 California chapters that include San Francisco and Los Angeles. Willis also held leadership roles on the national level such as serving on the US delegation to the United Nations Conference on Habitat I, as well as serving on the executive committee of the National Academy of Science's Board on Infrastructure and Constructed Environment, or chairing the Federal Facility Council. Willis was a founding trustee of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., a position she still holds. In 2002, she founded the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation. (From http://www.bwaf.org).
The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) is a research and educational not-for-profit 501(c)( 3) dedicated to advancing knowledge about the contributions women have made and continue to make in shaping the American built environment. It is the only foundation in the U.S. with this mission.
Founded in 2002, it is now celebrating its 10th year. After two years of investigating current practices within the present culture of the building professions, including engineering and construction, the Foundation embarked on a grant program for individuals and national organizations that support its mission. Core programs now include education, research—both historical and interdisciplinary—and outreach. BWAF hopes to broaden our collective understanding about the many different roles women have in shaping the places and spaces in which we live and work, as well as to ensure a vibrant future for all women involved in all aspects of the building professions. (From http://www.bwaf.org).
Zaha Hadid, founder of Zaha Hadid Architects, was the first woman awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, and is internationally known for both her theoretical and academic work. Each of her dynamic and innovative projects builds on over thirty years of revolutionary exploration and research in the interrelated fields of urbanism, architecture, and design. Hadid’s interest lies in the rigorous interface between architecture, landscape, and geology as her practice integrates natural topography and human-made systems, leading to experimentation with cutting-edge technologies. Such a process often results in unexpected and dynamic architectural forms. (From www.zaha-hadid.com)
Visionary architect and 2011 MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang is the founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects, a Chicago-based collective of architects, designers, and thinkers whose projects confront pressing contemporary issues. Driven by curiosity, intelligence, and radical creativity, Jeanne has produced some of today’s most innovative and award-winning architecture. The transformative potential of her work is exemplified by such recent projects as the Aqua Tower (named the 2009 Emporis Skyscraper of the Year), Northerly Island framework plan, Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, and Columbia College Chicago’s Media Production Center.
Jeanne seeks to answer questions that lie locally (site, culture, people) and resound globally (density, climate, sustainability) through her architecture. She roots her designs in compelling ideas rather than repetitive formal principles, and often arrives at design solutions through cross-field investigations in materials, technology, and the natural and social sciences. Known for pursuing a future where the urban and natural worlds interweave, Jeanne’s work has been honored and exhibited widely, most notably at the International Venice Biennale, MoMA, the National Building Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago. A distinguished graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, she has taught at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and IIT, where her studios have focused on cities, ecologies, materials, and technologies. Reveal, her first volume on Studio Gang’s work and working process, was released in April 2011 from Princeton Architectural Press. (From www.studiogang.net)
Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first American woman known to work as a professional architect. She was born July 21, 1856 in Waterloo, New York. After graduating from high school in 1874, she traveled and taught school for two years. In 1876 she gave up her plans to study at Cornell University and, instead, she accepted a job as a draftsman in an architectural office of Richard A. Waite in Buffalo, New York. In October 1881, she opened her own architectural office in Buffalo with Robert A. Bethune, whom she married two months later. Bethune designed many types of buildings: schools, factories, hotels, housing developments, a bank. A music store in Buffalo designed by Bethune was one of the first structures in the country with a steel frame and poured concrete slabs. The only public building designed by Bethune which is still in existence is the Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo on 391 Washington Street, Lafayette Square. It was designed in Renaissance style and was built in 1904. The commission for this 256-room building was $1 million.
Bethune was elected to the Western Association of Architects in 1885, and later served a term as vice president. In 1888, she was elected a member of the AIA, and in 1889 she was named a Fellow. In 1891, she published an article "Women of Architecture" in Inland Architect and News Record. She also worked hard in support of legislation for licensing of architects. In 1892-93, Bethune was invited to compete in the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to the New World. She declined the offer because she was not offered a fair honorarium. She died December 18, 1913, in New York City.
Beverly Loraine Greene earned a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1936, a Master’s of Science in city planning and housing in 1937 and a Masters degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1945. After completing her master’s degree, Ms. Greene worked for the Chicago Housing Authority. She later became a registered architect in Illinois in 1942.
Greene went on to work for a number of notable architectural firms. She worked for a firm headed by Isadore Rosefeild, specializing in healthcare design, Edward Durell Stone on the arts complex at the Sarah Lawrence College and a theatre at the University of Arkansas. She also worked with Marcel Bruer on the UNESCO United Nations headquarters in Paris, France.
The Inaugural AIA Women's Leadership Summit, is held in Chicago in September. Panel discussions and breakout sessions were tailored to the concerns affecting women in the profession today: equity, identifying leaders, leadership styles, visioning and strategic planning, next-generation leadership, design quality from the owner's point of view, design successes and challenges, and design excellence. Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, the first female president of the AIA, provided the keynote address.
Architect Barbie makes her debut as Career of the Year as part of Mattel’s “Barbie...I Can Be” series, at the 2011 AIA national convention in New Orleans in May. Architect Barbie Workshops are held during the convention, where nearly 400 local girls learn about the contributions of women architects from women architects, interns, and students, and leave with their very own Architect Barbie doll.