06.03.2024 Valentina Grossmann

8 Remarkable Female Architects

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara from Grafton Architects, © Andrea Avezzu, Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Female architects are often less visible in the male-dominated world of architecture, despite the fact that women's architectural achievements and breakthroughs have had a major impact on society and the world we live in today. To mark International Women's Day, which is celebrated annually on 8 March, the Detail editorial team presents eight remarkable female architects of our time.

Grafton Architects: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

In 1978, the two architects and Pritzker Prize winners Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara jointly founded their architectural practice Grafton Architects, based in Dublin. Their architecture aims to positively influence people, improve their lives and provide the capacity to feel safe and protected. Their portfolio primarily includes public buildings, institutional buildings and educational buildings such as the Università Luigi Bocconi in Milan, the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Lima and the Town House at Kingston University in London. The two women have received several awards for their work. In 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara curated the 16th International Architecture Biennale in Venice. In an interview with Detail, they spoke about the term they often use and the title of the Biennale, "Freespace".

Lesley Lokko is the founder of the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana. © Festus Jackson-Davis

Lesley Lokko

For many years, Ghanaian-Scottish architect Lesley Lokko has been committed to promoting diverse approaches in architectural practice and education. Her work focuses on empowering underrepresented voices and exploring the complex relationship between architecture, identity and race. In 2021, Lokko founded the African Futures Institute (AFI) in Accra, Ghana. The institution honours the work of women from the African diaspora. As curator of the 18th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, she remained true to her focus: Africa and its diaspora formed the centrepiece of the show, which ran under the motto "The Laboratory of the Future". On 2 May, Lesley Lokko became the first woman with African roots to receive the Royal Gold Medal 2024 in London.

Tatiana Bilbao

The Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao and her architectural practice Tatiana Bilbao Estudio are dedicated to collaborative architectural concepts that deal specifically with people and their environment. Her aim is to create livable living spaces that enable people to live in dignity regardless of social class. The climate emergency also plays an important role in this, and Bilbao believes that mutual care and diversity are necessary to combat it. In the climate interview, she describes the potential that architecture offers.

Tatiana Bilbao's long-standing expertise is social housing. © Luis Garvan 

Yasmeen Lari

Yasmeen Lari was Pakistan's first female architect to design prestigious buildings to Western standards before she founded the zero-carbon self-build movement for climate refugees, the landless and disadvantaged population groups in 2005. Her architectural concepts for these essential needs are affordable, safe and ecological. Constructed from local materials such as clay, lime and bamboo, the climate-friendly buildings are designed to withstand the severe earthquakes and flood disasters in Pakistan. Lari shares her knowledge of self-build shelters in workshops. Together with her husband Suhail Zaheer Lari, she founded the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan in 1980 and is still committed to researching and saving her country's architectural heritage today. In 2023, the Royal Institute of British Architects honoured the architect's life's work with the RIBA Gold Medal.

Yasmeen Lari, © Archiv Yasmeen Lari
Barbara Buser, © Martin Zeller

Barbara Buser

Swiss architect Barbara Buser has dedicated her office in situ to circular construction. Together with Klara Kläusler, she founded the first component exchange in Basel back in 1996. Pilot projects such as the K.118 studio building in Winterthur, which consists of 70 % reused components, testify to her unwavering commitment to the fight against material waste. For this work, the building office received the Global Gold Award from the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction at the 17th Architecture Biennale in Venice. The architect specifically looks for uncomplicated solutions for the reuse of used components for her projects. In the climate interview, she talks about value chains, the complicated process of procuring materials and initiatives to save our environment.

Francesca Torzo, © Julia Nahmani
Dorte Mandrup, © Dorte Mandrup

Francesca Torzo

The Italian architect Francesca Torzo has been running her own office in Genoa since 2008. Her work is characterised by an intensive examination of the respective location. The architect devotes a great deal of time and focus to the task at hand, the cultural context and the choice of materials for her building projects in Europe and China. She also designs art installations, furniture and everyday objects. Francesca Torzo gained international recognition with her extension to the Kunsthalle Z33 in Hasselt. In 2018, she was represented with the museum extension at the Architecture Biennale in Venice and received the Piranesi Award in the same year. In the Detail podcast, she talks about the history of the building's creation, its relationship to the location and the importance of teamwork for a successful result.

Dorte Mandrup

Danish architect Dorte Mandrup loves complex challenges for which she develops striking solutions. In 1999, she founded her architecture firm Dorte Mandrup Architecture, based in Copenhagen. The office is known for transformations, mixed-use buildings, schools, office buildings and landmarks. Mandrup specialises in working with irreplaceable sites and listed buildings. Studies in sculpture and the natural sciences characterise her humanistic approach to architecture. Her internationally renowned projects include the Icefjord Centre in Greenland, the Ikea Hubhult international conference centre in Sweden and Sundbyøster Hall II in Amager. The multi-award-winning architect is also committed to promoting women in architecture.



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