June 23, 2010

Women in Architecture – the Big Gap

by: Taz Loomans


Recently I was approached by a colleague looking to build some LEED homes to be considered for the role of architect.  As I’m busy with other projects right now, I had to decline and he asked me if I could recommend any other women architects.

I’m sad to say I was stumped!  Many of the women architects I know are working for large or medium-sized firms and wouldn’t have time to work on this.  A more appropriate fit would be a person that has her own firm and could take this project on for herself.  There are quite a few young men who’ve taken the plunge and started their own practices (many of whom I went to school with) but no women come to mind.

This got me to questioning:  Why aren’t there more women architects starting and running their own practices?  Why are the women, the few we have in the profession, mostly working for other people in firms?  I’m not saying that the work going on in large and mid-size firms isn’t important.  But I want to know where women are making their mark in architecture.

Often, it’s in the small, solo or partner firms that the envelope is pushed, assumptions are questioned and some very interesting and creative work occurs.  In my view, change comes from these small outfits with people who’re practicing their passion all out instead of punching in every morning at a corporate firm.  With this in mind, why does it look like that it’s the men in architecture who venture out on their own and not so much the women?

This is an ongoing discussion I’d like to have on the Blooming Rock blog:  Where are the women in architecture?

Photo Credit:  Zaha Hadid, one of the few women on the forefront of architecture.  Photo from Slow Painting

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10 Responses

  1. Bryan Flaig says:

    Alejandra Lillo is the managing partner and CEO of the Graft Los Angeles office. She is responsible for multiple award winning and philanthropic projects, among which is Make It Right in New Orleans, of which Graft is a co-founder and advisory board member.


  2. Bryan Flaig says:

    oh, one more relevant factoid…MIR was recognized by the USGBC as the largest sustainable community in the US. Insofar as the single family housing LEED ratings go, it is pretty much second to none.


  3. Jaimelyn says:


    Thank you for taking the time to cover this issue. I am happy to have found your site and look forward to reading more your blogs.

    Take good care and warm wishes!


  4. I started my own women owned firm in Phoenix in 1992. I can tell you that i have had great support from my male and female colleagues. I can also say that there have been struggles that a male owned firm would not have had. Mostly, i ignore the bad and concentrate on the good. Several women i know who have started firms have also wanted to start families, and there in lies a major conflict. The women i know in architecture are thoughtful, creative, and intense. But women are also lateral thinkers who problem solve and multi-task. This often leads to, in my opinion, a “background” effect, where work is being done on several fronts at once. Men are often single minded in their approach to problem solving which can lead to an intense burst of activity on one problem, and thus if successful, an immediate recognition. There’s room for both approaches, and both can be successful in their own right. Come on women, make yourselves heard!

    • Taz Loomans says:

      Virginia, thanks for your comment and thanks for being a pioneer as a woman leader in architecture in Phoenix. You do great work and are an inspiration to other young women in the field wanting to make their marks on the built environment, especially here in Phoenix. I agree with you men and women have different ways of solving problems and I think for the most part, architecture has been dominated with the male way of doing things for too long. We need to balance it out and introduce more women to the leadership levels.

  5. mark lymer says:

    Hi Virginia! Hope you’re well. As far as only women architects to work with, it seems like a wierd question to ask. But couched in terms of ‘how I think, as a man’, I suppose you don’t think so. I’ve never not recommended a woman for work, unless I personally did not like them as people, that happens.(integrity, humor, nice or not, etc) As far as thinking differently, I’m not so sure. In arch school, wasn’t a large part of the education about ‘process’ ie: lateral thinking. I know when i was a TA at ASU teaching beginning freehand drawing, i dont think they even teach it anymore, i talked about architecture as being something where each project required one to stretch into the shoes of the client. And if you were designing an opera house, you’d better come up to speed pretty damn quick! And among classmates in school, it didn’t make any difference if you were male or female, still got graded the same, still had to fulfill the assignment. This was in the 80’s at ASU. And some of my most memorable teachers were women, Francis, Jane, Suzanne. or even in my first degree, fine art; Christine and Joan (kinda famous too) I do know that it was different elsewhere in earlier days. A friend was not allowed to study arch at U Mass in the 60’s because she was a she. There’s MBWBE too ya know. I’m a middle age white guy, and the civil rights bill was signed in ’64 when i was in high school. So gotta wonder why anymore, eh?

  6. mark lymer says:

    oh, but Christine, I forgot, my watercolor teacher, only read female authors. So at that time, i decided to just read male authors. I mean really, only a guy can understand how a guy thinks, right?

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