This year for International Women’s Day 2021 UD/MH Fellow Erin Sharp-Newton, M. Arch, NK Architects, has shared with us a list of women in urban design and mental health impacting the built environment. This list is the result of a challenge to find examples of women shaping the built environment in countries including those that, to date, have been underrepresented in the field of urban design, mental health, public health and the built environment. We continue to mind the GAPS. See also our previous International Women’s Day toolbox: A To-do List to help plan and design cities that empower women.
Let's travel a world of women affecting positive change, making impact on the built environment, advocating mental health, filling gaps, defying limits, empowering others. We would love to hear which women in the built environment inspire you too - let us know in the comments.
Afghanistan Safia Ahmed-jan Head of Women’s Affairs Ministry in Kandar, an Afghan women's rights advocate and an who secretly taught women & young girls and ran successful trade schools. In Kandahar alone she opened six schools.
Algeria Samia Henni PhD was born in Algiers, Algeria. She is an architect, an architectural historian, theorist, lecturer, and teacher at Princeton University working at the intersection of architecture, planning, colonial practices, and military operations from the early 19th century to the present.
Angola Paula Nascimento is an Angolan architect, curator and designer of the Luanda Encyclopedic City. She along with Stefano Pansera designed the Angolan pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia which won the Golden Lion for "best national participation".
Antigua and Barbuda Georgiana Ellen Robinson was an Education Advocate, an Antiguan teacher who pioneered change in access to education, breaking down race and class barriers with the belief that all children should have access to learning. She served on the Water Preservation Committee, expanding access to clean water in the country. She was the only woman to have received the Order of the National Hero from the government of Antigua and Barbuda (as of 2017).
Argentina Ana María Falú is an Argentine architect and social activist for human and women's rights. Former Regional Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (Andean Region, Brazil and the Southern Cone Countries), Director of the Housing and Habitat Research Institute (INVIHAB), Co-founder of the Women and Habitat Network of Latin America, the Centro de Intercambio y Servicios para el Cono Sur Argentina (CISCSA), UNC's Interdisciplinary Program of Women's and Gender Studies (PIEMG), and of Articulación Feminista Marcosur, in favor of women's rights.
Armenia Anna Ter-Avetikian came from a family of architects and city developers who were noted for creating such works as the first drinking water system of Yerevan, the first hospital of the city, as well as other landmarks. She was the first Armenian woman to become an architect.
Australia Margaret Fellman was the first female cadet for the public works department of Western Australia. She was the first-ever female town planner of Perth. She planned Kwinana, New town for the industry workers, was a public speaker and advocated better planning. As a founding member of the Western Australian Town Planning Institute, she played a vital role in bringing urban conservation to Australia by bringing it to universities and setting up the heritage conservation registry.
Austria Eva Kail is one of the world’s pre-eminent experts in gender mainstreaming and was the first head of the Women’s office in the municipality of Vienna. The project: City with a Female Face “deliberately planned with a brand identity, one that might elsewhere be considered political: all the streets and public spaces are named for women.” This city has historically been committed to “Gender mainstreaming” (the practice of ensuring women and men are accounted for equally.)
Azerbaijan Gulnara Mehmandarova is an architect, researcher, historian of architecture and art. She has a PhD in theory and history of architecture and restoration of architectural monuments and has published more than 70 scientific publications. She serves on the editorial board of URBANIZM an International Scientific Journal on Urban Planning and Sustainable Development.
Bahrain Ghada Jamsheer In 2006, Time Magazine identified Jamshir as one of four heroes of freedom in the Arab world, and Forbes magazine selected her as one of the ten most powerful and effective women in the Arab world.
Bangladesh Khaleda Ekram was a Bangladeshi architect, planner, professor, researcher, and academic. After completing her education in Urban and Regional Planning, she worked as assistant architect planner, and contributed to community service projects in Honolulu. She was the former dean of the faculty of architecture and planning, head of the department of architecture as well as the first woman to be appointed as the Vice-chancellor of BUET.
Barbados Mia Mottley was the first female Prime Minister and pioneer for the New Barbados Planning Act. When elected one of her first actions was to start a program of radical planning reform to address the country’s economic problems and remove barriers to progress.
Belarus Lyubow Usava was a state architect who helped restore Minsk after WWII. She participated in the creation of Victory Park at the National Opera and Ballet of Belarus and she designed the reconstruction of Maksim Gorky Central Children's Park.
Belgium Sofie De Caigny Director, Flanders Architecture Institute, The Flanders Architecture Institute has been working to bring “women who have left their mark on Belgium's design heritage out of the shadows” Invisibility is a sign that there is still much more work to do.
Belize Esther Ayuso born 1958, was the first female architect of Belize, born in Venezuela; specializes in hospital design. She served as a Senator and as the Chair of the National Women's Commission, as well as the Belizean delegate to the Inter-American Commission of Women. In 2015 she was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for contributions to the community.
Bhutan Dorji Yangki is one of the first female architects from Bhutan. Responsible for helping the Ministry of Works and Human Settlements of Bhutan to establish the first Guidelines for the introduction of Green Buildings in Bhutan. As a native from Bhutan, a country that follows the principle of ‘GNH’ or Gross National Happiness, Dorji advocates for sustainable Biophilic design and planning that has a sense of place, connects people to nature and helps to initiate happiness among people.
Bolivia Patricia Urquieta says “Planning that is inclusive of women is important,” She is part of the Development Sciences program at the Greater University of San Andrés (CIDES-UMSA) and lead researcher of the El Alto scoping study.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Vesna Bugarski was born in Sarajevo. In Belgrade she was the only woman to study architecture in 1964. Bugarski graduated in Sarajevo after an architecture department had opened there. Her first employment was with Prosperitet, a planning and design firm in Sarajevo. In August 1992 during the Bosnian War, while walking home from the market in Sarajevo, she was killed by a grenade fired from the hills. Most of her work in Sarajevo was destroyed during the war.
Botswana Charity Kiki Kennedy is founding Chairperson, Botswana Network for Mental Health. She is a Civil Leader through the Young African Leadership Initiative – Regional Leadership Center Southern Africa and a Mental Health advocate both at National and Regional level. She is a survivor of major depression which through her survivor story got inspired to take mental health advocacy to a different level to impact lives , seen in the formation of Botswana Network for Mental Health and The African Umbrella for Mental health.
Brazil Maria Firmina dos Reis - decades before slavery was banned in 1888, the Afro-Brazilian author wrote the first abolitionist novel, Ursula. A clear-eyed depiction of life under slavery, the novel is written from the perspective of a young African girl who is kidnapped from her hometown and subjected to a lifetime of cruelty. Ursula is also considered the first novel written by a Brazilian woman. She published critical essays, poems, short stories and abolitionist songs. She also founded the first free and racially mixed school in Brazil before the abolition of slavery.
Brunei Dr Noor Affizan is Deputy Medical Superintendent, In 2020, Noor was selected to join the Equity Initiative. The initiative forms part of the global Atlantic Fellows, empowering emerging leaders to advance fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies. Noor has been involved in the promotion of Brunei’s youth and national development. This includes the Chevening Youth Forum and the National Youth Congress. Noor founded You Can Lead BN in 2019.
Canada Jennifer Keesmaat is the Canadian urban planner who served as the city chief planner of Toronto and also established the Keesmaat group that works with advances in urban planning and city-building that provides consultation to cities internationally. She is a professor at the University of Toronto and CEO of a nonprofit group – Creative housing society. She has worked majorly on many housing projects throughout her career as well as during her tenure as the chief planner. Her round table discussions about her plans were broadcasted with live twitter engagement which was her way of community engagement for planning and strategizing. Her other focus of work was transit and road safety for which she launched and led multiple projects some of which turned out to be very successful models to be adopted internationally. Her advocacy for public safety remains at the core of most of her endeavors.
Egypt Hatshepsut, pharaoh of Egypt. When her husband died, she took on regent duties at first. But eventually, she took an unprecedented step and assumed the full powers of pharaoh by co-ruling with her young stepson. As a ruler, she oversaw large-scale building projects such as the famed temple of Deir el-Bahri in western Thebes, where she was later buried. She also commissioned trade expeditions that brought back such treasures as gold, incense, ivory, and ebony. To portray herself as a strong ruler, Hatshepsut often ordered that statues and paintings should depict her as male, with a muscular frame and a beard. But despite her vast accomplishments, her successor King Thutmose III ordered almost all evidence of her leadership to be destroyed—potentially to hide any examples of a powerful El Salvador.
France Charlotte Perriand "The extension of the art of dwelling is the art of living—living in harmony with man's deepest drives and with his adopted or fabricated environment."—Charlotte Perriand (curiously referencing man’s drives and his environment)
India Brinda Somaya one of the celebrated Indian architects for her approach to vernacular architecture and inspiration as an urban conservationist. Somaya is the founding trustee of the HECAR Foundation that stands for Heritage, Education, Conservation, Architecture & Restoration. Her work as an urbanist extended to the conversation, research, women in architecture, architectural restoration, and many more overlaps of related fields. Her architectural practice won many prizes in design and restoration. Her work reflected her inspiration from the elongated travels to rural India. She is known for representing Indian ethos in her design expression.
Iraq Zaha Hadid one of the most famous urban designers of our time. Her firm has completed over 900 projects in 55 countries around the world before her death. She was the first woman (and the first Muslim) to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize. Her signature aesthetic has changed the future of city horizons forever.
Ireland Eileen Gray In some circles, Irish-born Eileen Gray is the figurative "poster-child" for the 20th century woman whose work is dismissed by a male-dominated culture. These days, her pioneering designs are revered. The New York Times claims that "Gray is now regarded as one of the most influential architects of the last century."
Israel Neri Oxman was an Israeli-born visionary who invented the term "material ecology" to describe building with biological forms. She incorporates biological components as part of the construction for truly “alive” results. She is a professor at MIT.
Italy Lina Bo Bardi was a proliﬁc architect, designer, and thinker. Her contributions to her adopted homeland, Brazil, spans across architecture, furniture, stage and costume design, urban planning, curatorial work, teaching, and writing. ‘Linear time is a Western invention, time is not linear, it is a marvelous tangle, where, at any moment, points can be selected and solutions invented, without beginning or end’.
Jamaica Jasneth Mullings is an epidemiologist at The University of the West Indies at Mona. A researcher, she is author of Urban Renewal and Sustainable Development in Jamaica: Progress, Challenges and New Directions; addressing the need for “active participation of the average resident in the decision making process for land use management and other aspects of urban renewal to meet the goals of the New Urban Agenda and to realize Vision 2030 Jamaica”
Japan Sejima is a Japanese architect at SANAA, renowned for works characterized by a minimalist aesthetic and structural delicacy. In 2010, Sejima was appointed curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale, the first woman ever to be offered the appointment. In the same year, she was awarded the Pritzker Prize – becoming the second female recipient, after Zaha Hadid, in the award’s forty-year history.
Jordan Meisa Batayneh Founder and principal architect at Maisam architects & engineers, she has led projects in architecture, planning, urban design and place branding. She was named Architect of the Year at the Jordan Business Award.
Kenya Eugenie Dorothy Hughes, MBE, FRIBA was a Kenyan architect, politician, social reformer, and disability activist. She founded the Kenyan Council of Social Services and served as the head of the Sports Association for the Disabled. As the first East African female architect, she owned her own firm and is best known for her design of the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Nairobi.
Mexico Miriam Gonzalez started contributing data to the world's biggest crowdsourced map from her Mexico City home five years ago, she found herself part of a rare and odd group of volunteers. She is also a Co-Founder of the GeoChicas, a group of women who do mapping in OpenStreetMap and work to close the gender gap in the OpenStreetMap community.
Namibia Fatima Müller‐Friedman trained and worked as an architect in Germany, Namibia and the USA before beginning her research on post-apartheid urban spaces. She is the Author of “Toward a (post)apartheid architecture? A view from Namibia.”
Palestine Suad Amiry A prominent architect, award-winning author and community leader, founder of Riwaq, vice president of Birzeit University’s Board of Trustees and a board member for the Palestine Housing Council, as well as a jury member for The Palestine Award for Culture. Her most notable work is Riwaq’s 50 Villages project and cultural heritage initiative with the primary aim to rehabilitate and revitalise Palestine.
Romania Erica Mann (1917 - 2007) was an architect and town planner and later in her life an NGO head who lived and worked in Kenya for almost all her adult life after fleeing her home in Romania during the Second World War. She made a significant contribution to the 1948 master plan for Nairobi and took a leading role in planning Mombasa and other parts of Kenya. She became interested in development projects seeking to improve living standards and was director of the Women in Kibwezi project, which was recognized at the United Nations Habitat II conference in 1996.
Rwanda Rather than an individual, we are showcasing the initiative Women for Women: Architecture helps give 300 Rwandan women and survivors of war a chance to rebuild their lives.
South Africa Katherine Maree Otten, usually known as Kate Otten, was born in 1964, in Durban and is a South African architect, who has won numerous awards for her South African traditional work.
Taiwan Wang Chiu-hwa is an architect wgi has distinguished herself by embracing a down-to-earth philosophy of functional design and understated aesthetics, winning the 2019 National Award for Arts at the age of 94 and becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious honor for artistic achievement in architecture.
Uganda Assumpta Nnaggenda-Musana is an architect, urban planner, academic and an advisor to the National Planning Authority and has been involved in the National Development Plan. An advocate for affordable housing she urged the Ugandan government and Kampala City Council to do better in order to avoid sprawling slums.
Zimbabwe Irene Masiyanise There are only 10 female registered architects in Zimbabwe. The first female architect only registered with the 87-year- old Institute of Architects of Zimbabwe in the late 1980s. In 2012, Ms Masiyanise became the first female president for the Institute of Architects of Zimbabwe since its formation in 1929. The glass ceiling had been shattered there.
Of course there are so many architects, planners, urban designers and other women who are a key part of creating the built environments in which we live. In the comments section, perhaps you could share some of those who inspire you most.