Search “famous architects” on Google, and the suggested 50 results, spanning from the 15th century to today, are almost all men: the only women to make the cut are Zaha Hadid, Julia Morgan, and Maya Lin. The canon is clearly unbalanced, suggesting that women barely played roles in building our cities. A new website launched by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) seeks to help correct this longstanding lack of representation by highlighting women who have made significant contributions to the built landscape of the United States but have been widely overlooked, many even by architectural historians.
The result of a five-year research effort, Pioneering Women in American Architecture features extensive profiles of 50 architects all born before 1940 — “at a time when women struggled both to be allowed entry into the architectural profession and to be recognized for their work,” as the website states. Each dedicated page stems from archival research and hours of interviews that scholars conducted, and each is illustrated with photographs and other documents, such as patents and architectural plans.
“I think it was George Orwell that said that history is written by the winners, and we have now made it possible to have a more diverse and inclusive view of architectural history by including the ‘winners’ that were also women,” BWAF’s executive director Cynthia Phifer Kracauer told Hyperallergic.