The 10 Most Overlooked Women Architects

1. Sophia Hayden Bennett

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. 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 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. During the construction of the building, Hayden suffer 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.

2. Lilly Reich

Born June 1885 in Berlin, Reich moved to Vienna after high school to train as an industrial embroider – a design career considered suitable for women at the time. Upon returning to Berlin in 1911 she worked as a fashion and furniture designer and joined the Deutscher Werkbund – a German work federation – becoming its first female director in 1920. Her work as a designer took her to Frankfurt where she met Mies Van der Rohe. The two of them became very close and she began working in his office. In 1928, the duo were appointed artistic directors of the German pavilion at the Barcelona World exposition, leading to Mies’ iconic design, long considered one of the defining works of modernism. Many of Mies Van der Rohe’s most famous works, particularly in the area of furniture design, would not have been possible without this woman. It is said that Mies rarely asked for anybody’s opinion, but was always eager to hear hers.

More of these great women architects here.


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