As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting a designer who left a powerful presence on the architecture of 20th century England, Mary Jane Long. From juggling the construction of a library for three decades to teaching at Yale, Long was always engrossed in her work. Learn more about her impressive life and accomplishments below:
The Life of MJ Long
MJ Long was born on July 31, 1939, in Summit, New Jersey. Long graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class in 1956 and excitedly moved to Montreal, where she began her undergraduate studies in journalism at Smith College. Shortly after though, she discovered her love for architecture and enrolled in Yale’s four-year architecture program.
During her time at Yale, Long was surrounded by some of the 20th century’s most celebrated architects, including James Stirling, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, her professor Paul Rudolph and her future husband, Colin St John Wilson. After meeting at Yale, Wilson and Long moved to London together, where she began working in his office as an architect in 1965 and later married.
Notable Works and Achievements
Much of Long’s work was created in tandem with her husband at his architecture firm. One of their first projects was Spring House in Cambridge, which was completed in 1965 and featured a mixture of traditional US, UK and Scandinavian architectural elements. Unique characteristics of the home include a roof clad in concrete Roman tiles, reclaimed brick and specific lighting conditions for several rooms.
Long’s next major project took nearly 30 years from start to finish to complete, but it immediately became a beloved masterpiece across the United Kingdom. Originally part of the British Museum, the British Library officially found its own home in 1973 with the help of Long and Wilson. Home to nearly 14 million books, the library is one of the largest in the world. Along with designing the library itself, Long was responsible for designing the King’s Library – the glass-enclosed sculptural centerpiece of the building.
Other notable builds designed by Long include the Pallant House, an extension of an elegant Georgian build, and the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, England, a grand timber shed paired with a concrete lighthouse completed in 2003.
Until her passing in 2018, Long brought her unique design perspective with her wherever she went, always building with utmost attention to detail. Her distinguished career solidified her as one of England’s most acclaimed architects whose designs still influence the daily lives of many today.