fbpx

Women in Architecture: Anne Tyng

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting someone who was at the forefront of architectural experimentation in the mid-twentieth century, Anne Tyng. Tyng pioneered the inclusion of complex geometry as a source for form in architecture and design and became an expert in the field. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below: 

The Life of Anne Tyng

Anne Griswold Tyng was born in Lushan, Jiangxi province, China, on July 14, 1920. Although her family lived in China at the time, their roots traced back to the Massachusetts Bay colonies, and they frequently visited the United States for family trips. Tyng’s love for design sparked when she was just a child, and she often recalled how she would carve whole cities out of the soft stone surrounding her family’s properties. 

At 18, Tyng moved permanently to the U.S., where she attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA, to study fine arts. During her final year, however, she discovered the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture — the first institution to provide design training to women only — and began taking classes there. 

After her graduation in 1942, she went on to further her architecture studies at Harvard, studying with renowned architects like Marcel Breuer and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. In 1944, Tyng was among the first women to complete their studies at Harvard, and later she became the only woman to enter the architecture licensing exam in 1949. Tyng finished her education nearly 30 years later when she was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Tyng with Khan in his Philadelphia office, 1955

In 1945, Tyng moved to Philadelphia and began working for Louis Kahn’s architecture firm, Stonorov and Kahn. Khan and Tyng became close collaborators, and her passion for geometric form influenced many of the firm’s designs of the time. In 1964, she left the firm, where she had been a partner, and began developing more solo projects until the end of her career.

Notable Work and Achievements  

Although she became a successful architect, Tyng was also passionate about mathematics. Thanks to the versatility and flexibility of architecture, this allowed her to conflate her interests  and focus on space frame architecture — creating light-filled spaces using interlocking geometric forms of architecture.

Tyng’s influence can be seen in Kahn’s design for a model of the Philadelphia City Tower

Many of Tyng’s earliest works can be traced back to the influences she left in Kahn’s designs, including the Yale University Art Center (1953), Philadelphia City Tower (1957) and the Trenton Bath House (1956), all of which included triangles or cubes in their forms. However, her former residence, the Tyng House, is where her personal style is most celebrated. 

Built in the 1950s, the single-family home features slotted windows, a pyramidal timber-framed ceiling and metal screened openwork staircases. And although the exterior of the house appears ordinary at first, a closer look reveals a mansard roof and large parlor-floor windows. 

The Tyng House, Philadelphia, 1950s

In the late 1960s, after falling in love with Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Tyng designed the Four-Poster House. In her design, Tyng took inspiration from the surrounding ecology, and she strived to make the home an organic outgrowth of the wooded area. Using logs, cedar shake and tree trunks, the house was framed similar to a four-poster bed with four central columns.

Four-Poster House model, 1960s

Alongside her transformative work, Tyng has been a recipient of many architecture awards and achievements, including: 

  • First woman licensed as an architect in the state of Pennsylvania
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, 1975
  • Academician of the National Academy of Design, 1975
  • Selected by the United States to participate in the First International Congress of Women Architects, 1976 

Tyng’s career was devoted to understanding the synthesis of geometrical shape and human consciousness within architecture, and because of her extraordinary contributions, the spatial potential of architecture was pushed further than ever before.

Women in Architecture: Lilly Reich

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting an often overlooked contributor to the Modernist Movement, Lilly Reich. Popularly known for being a close confidant and collaborator of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Reich was a spearhead of the times in her own right, contributing many acclaimed designs that are still prominent today. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below:

The Life of Lilly Reich

Lilly Reich was born on June 16, 1885, in Berlin, Germany. Throughout her childhood and early adult life, many of her interests belonged to the arts and crafts, specifically embroidery. At 23 years old, Reich traveled from Germany to Vienna, Italy, where she found work at Josef Hoffman’s visual arts production company. Reich continued to explore her passion for embroidery in Vienna, and thanks to the many other artists and designers who worked with her, she eventually discovered new mediums, including textile, clothing, and even designing store windows. 

In 1911, Reich returned to her home in Berlin, where she was determined to find a career. Less than a year after moving back, she became a member of the Deutscher Werkbund, or German Work Federation. After shifting her design focus from textile and clothing to other forms of design like furniture and interiors, Reich’s professional reputation quickly blew up. And, in 1920, after eight years in the Deutscher Werkbund, she became the first woman elected to its governing board. 

A tubular steel footed daybed designed by Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe
A tubular steel footed daybed designed by Reich and Mies for a client, 1930, Courtesy of MOMA

Reich was working at Frankfurt’s Trade Fair Office in 1924 when she first met Mies. They immediately formed a connection that sparked a decades-long period of collaboration between the two. Continuing her dominance in design at the time, Reich became the creative director for Germany’s contribution to the Barcelona World Expo in 1929. The Expo’s most notorious contribution included the Barcelona Chair, which was designed by Mies and Riech respectively. Reich and Mies continued collaborating until his emigration to the United States in 1938. 

The Work of Lilly Reich

Reich’s ambition and adaptability also carried over into her career. While working with Mies, Reich designed several furniture series of tubular steel – one of the only women doing so at the time besides Charlotte Perriand. Inspired by the modern technology and materials of the time, she contrasted the coolness of steel with warm materials such as wood and leather – a staple of her creations. The furniture designs included everything from chairs and tables to bed frames and day beds. 

A design sketch of a cooking cabinet that takes the appearance of a closet.
Designs for Apartment for a Single Person, Lilly Reich, 1931, Courtesy of MOMA

Reich’s contribution to interior design expanded beyond furniture. In 1931, for the German Building Expo in Berlin, she embraced the ideals of domestic reformers of the time and designed Apartment for a Single Person. A radical idea for the time period, the design featured a cooking cabinet that took the appearance of a closet. However when opened, it revealed a sink, shelves, drawers and plenty of counter space. 

As a woman in her field during the early 20th century, Lilly Reich found a way to break traditional barriers and establish herself as a leader of the Modernist Movement. Whether collaborating with other visionaries like Mies or contributing her own ambitious designs, Reich always found a way to leave her mark on society, securing a legacy few can achieve.

Women in Architecture: Minnette de Silva

Women continue to make giant strides in architecture today, contributing to some of the most celebrated designs in the world. Historically however, many trailblazing women and their designs became overlooked and overshadowed. Today, we’re spotlighting a pioneer of tropical-modern design in Southern Asia, Minnette de Silva

Minnette de Silva’s Life & Career

De Silva was born on February 1, 1918, in Kandy, Ceylon – present-day Sri Lanka. Her father, George E. de Silva, was the President of the Ceylon’s National Congress and was a well-known politician. Her mother, Agnes Nell, was an activist who pushed for universal suffrage throughout the country. As a child, de Silva attended school overseas in England, spending much of her youth away from her family. However, when home, her family would frequently visit the architecture of ancient Sri Lankan cultures, influencing her profoundly.

Because she wasn’t able to study architecture in Sri Lanka, de Silva convinced her father to allow her to attend Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Mumbai, India. Coming into the country with no previous architecture experience forced de Silva to learn the trade through apprenticeship and additional schooling at the Architecture Academy Mumbai before she was able to attend Sir J.J. School of Art. 

After being expelled from the academy in 1942, de Silva started working under emigre architect Otto Königsberger designing prefabricated housing in Bihar, India. And not long after, through connections back home, she was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects, where she built relationships with some of the world’s most inspiring architects. 

The exterior façade and garden of de Silva’s Karunaratne House, 1950

After Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, de Silva’s father insisted she come home and contribute to the growth of her home country. So, de Silva moved back into her parents’ house with no money to her name and opened her studio – one of only two studios in the world named after the woman they were owned by at the time.

While back in Sri Lanka, de Silva developed her unique architecture style, influenced by a mixture of the traditional architecture she grew up with and the modern builds she was exposed to outside of her home country. In hopes of becoming exposed herself, de Silva began designing everything she could from small cottages to luxurious villas. 

Notable Works & Achievements

Her first build was the Karunaratne House, built for family friends from 1949 to 1950. At the time of completion, the house was the first building in the country completed by a woman and received much attention and controversy. The house was an exhibition of Silva’s design philosophy. Featuring woven Dumbara mats used as interior door paneling, clay tiles fired with ancient patterns and a custom mural in the living room designed by local artist George Keyt.

De Silva’s next build, Pieris House, was another commissioned home for family friends, this time in the country’s capital, Columbo. The open plan echoed traditional Sri Lankan architecture with a courtyard incorporated into its living room, which became a hallmark of de Silva’s designs. The house also featured one-of-a-kind patterned tiles and railings lacquered in gold leaf prints. 

The traditional open courtyard of Pieris House, known as the midula, 1952

One of her later but most acclaimed builds came in 1958 for Kandy’s Public Housing Project. The ambitious project had de Silva conduct extensive research and interviews with various house seekers in the city to uncover each of their unique lifestyles. She then used the information she received to curate and design custom housing types for each family – some families even assisting her throughout the process. 

While today this approach to design is celebrated, at the time, de Silva’s prospect was suspect and left unsupported. However, she knew the ultimate success would lay in whether the homeowners felt their environments were accessible to their lifestyles. The project eventually became a huge success and quickly became a model used throughout the country, encouraging the boom of strong mixed cultural communities in Sri Lanka. 

De Silva was awarded the Gold Medal by the Sri Lanka Institute of Architecture in 1996. She championed a new, inspired vision in Sri Lanka, mixing modernism with the traditional design elements that excited her growing up. Even though few of her buildings survive today, her legacy as a pioneer of tropical-modernism remains. 

Women in Architecture: Kazuyo Sejima

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re putting a spotlight on one of the world’s most cherished architects, Kazuyo Sejima. Throughout her breathtaking portfolio of work, Sejima has exhibited her enigmatic and refined point of view and became the second woman ever to receive the acclaimed Pritzker Architecture Prize. Today, we’re diving into Sejima’s notable life, work and achievements.

The Life and Career of Kazuyo Sejima

Sejima was born in Mito, Ibaraki, Japan in 1956. After discovering her passion for architecture and design at a young age, she began her studies at the Japan Women’s University, where she completed both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in architecture. Following her graduation in 1981, Sejima began apprenticing with Toyo Ito – a renowned Pritzker Award-winning architect also from Japan. 

After nearly seven years working with Ito, Sejima felt empowered to launch her architecture firm, Kazuyo Sejima & Associates, in 1987. Directly after opening, Sejima convinced her long-time confidant, whom she worked with under Ito, Ryue Nishizawa, to work with her at her firm. Nishizawa gladly joined Sejima, and nine years later, the pair founded a firm of their own, Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates (SANNA). And, thanks to Sejima and Nishizawa’s visionary designs, SANNA quickly became a nationally renowned firm after only a few years. 

Sejima’s designs are frequently recognized for their vibrant materials and colors, including various types of marble, glass and metals. She also often takes advantage of organic forms and aesthetics in her work, thoughtfully exploring each design as an instrument for human experience. Sejima’s appreciation for sheer glass in many other builds allows for an abundance of natural light, helping to create a more fluid transition between interior and exterior environments. 

The exterior of Platform House I featuring its corrugated metal roof, 1987

Throughout her career, Sejima has expressed the same concern for each of her projects: the functionality of the space’s social uses and their potential for adaptation. This philosophy explains why she doesn’t consider any of her builds finished until each of its inhabitants places pieces of their lives into the space through their various actions and interests. 

Notable Works and Achievements

Sejima translated her vision and architectural philosophy into her first project, Platform House I, in 1987. Sejima built the Platform House in a Japanese suburb and took inspiration from western designs, intermixing traditional Japanese values with European elements of architecture. With her first project, Seijam set out to create a living environment built with a platonic ideal of architecture – where it would function as provisional to the residents based on their actions and lifestyle. 

Throughout the house, Sejima experimented with large spaces, positioning the building’s central living area a half level below the kitchen and a half level above the sleeping floor below. Sejima also adopted her signature use of bright materials throughout the home, utilizing floor-to-ceiling windows in the home to illuminate its interior spaces and a gleaming, corrugated metal roof to signature the movement and human interaction that occurs below it. Following Platform House I,  Sejima designed companion projects: Platform House II and III.

New York’s New Museum for Contemporary Art, 2007, Photo by Dean Kaufman

Sejima extended her vision across the world, and in 2007 she, along with Nishizawa, designed the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Their design was chosen due to its adaptable atmospheres – mirroring the ever-changing nature of contemporary art. From the exterior, the building’s bold design consists of four white cubes that sit on top of one another, further symbolizing the dynamic energy of contemporary culture. After its completion, the building received praise, and Conde Nast Traveler named it one of the architectural New Seven Wonders of the World

Most recently, Sejima constructed a vibrant tribute to renowned Japanese artist Hokusai Katsushika through the Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Sejima thoughtfully designed the building to blend in with its surrounding urban environment, making it more accessible to its visitors. Sticking to her trademark design elements, Sejima used reflective aluminum panels to cover the façade. The building’s exterior also features various slits on all sides, eliminating the notion of a “front” and “back”, and providing outdoor walkways connecting each first-floor area.

The Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo, 2016

Alongside her extraordinary work, Sejima has also received numerous architecture and art awards as well as achievements:

  • Young Architect of the Year, Japan Institute of Architects, 1992
  • Prize of Architectural Institute of Japan, 1998, 2006
  • International Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 2007
  • Pritzker Architecture Prize, 2010

Today, Sejima continues to fearlessly voice her unique architectural perspective, gifting the world with her ambitious designs. She currently teaches as a Visiting Professor at Tama Art University and Japan Women’s University. And, succeeding Zaha Hadid in 2015, she leads an architectural design studio at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

Women in Architecture: Neri Oxman

As part of our ongoing “Woman in Architecture” series, we’re shining a spotlight on one of the world’s inspiring creatives, Neri Oxman. With a rich background in architecture and a drive to create, there was no question whether she would become the ingenious architect and designer she is today. Today, we’re diving into Oxman’s momentous life, work and achievements. 

The Life of Neri Oxman

Oxman was born on February 6, 1976, in Haifa, Israel. Both of her parents taught architecture, and growing up, Oxman spent much of her childhood immersing herself in her parent’s studio, which helped her establish a desire for creation at a young age. 

Originally, Oxman attended medical school in Israel, but after just two years, she realized that her interests belonged elsewhere. She began her architecture studies at Technion Israel Institute of Technology but eventually transferred to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London – one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the world – where she graduated in 2004.

In 2005, Oxman traveled to the United States, where she began her Ph.D. studies in architectural design and computation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Throughout her research at MIT, Oxman discovered her passion for environmental design and digital morphogenesis – a type of generative art. Oxman also launched her own research project titled material ecology – a term she coined – to experiment with generative design. 

Design Philosophy

Oxman launched her research project material ecology – a term she coined – in 2006 while studying at MIT to experiment with more facets of generative design. Material ecology, Oxman’s design philosophy, combines aspects of 3-D printing techniques with biology, engineering and computer sciences to build objects and structures through natural growth instead of assembly. 

The advanced philosophy also places humanity in harmony with nature, which is a principle of sustainable and regenerative design. Through her work, Oxman hopes to shift from consuming nature as a geological resource to instead editing nature as a biological resource. Oxman’s philosophy has led her to utilize biological shapes and textures throughout many of her designs. 

Notable Work and Achievements

Much of Oxman’s early work involved only 3-D printing. At MIT, she founded the Mediated Matter research group where she has created almost all of her structures and designs – large and small. Oxman’s innovative 3-D projects range in size from complex enclosures to detailed pieces of clothing.

Silk Pavilion, Neri Oxman, 2013

Some of Oxman’s most famous works utilize fabrications created by animals or other natural processes, including Silk Pavilion. The installation was created in 2013 with the help of 6,500 free-ranging silkworms that wove layers of silk onto a Nyon-framed dome. The completed project resulted in a stunning moon-like pavilion. The method of creation was recreated in 2020 for Oxman’s Silk Pavilion II, which resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 

Inspired by vibrant marine life, in 2013, Oxman collaborated with renowned fashion designer Iris Van Herpen and materials engineer Craig Carter to create Anthozoa. The 3-D-printed dress used a mixture of hard and soft materials that were crucial to its movement and texture. Oxman worked with Carter again in 2014 for a project called Gemini, a chaise lounge chair consisting of a milled wood frame and a 3-D-printed upholstery. The intricate chair was designed with the intent to recreate a womb-like environment.

Anthozoa, Oxman, Iris Van Herpen and Craig Carter, 2013

Oxman and Mediated Matter have also prototyped various new tools for printing since the group’s founding. A few of the groundbreaking technologies include a printer that can create sections of rooms and an unprecedented glass printer. Alongside her extraordinary work, Oxman has also received many architecture and art awards as well as achievements throughout her career. 

  • Senior Fellow in the Design Futures Council
  • London Design Festival Design Innovation Medal, 2018
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Contemporary Vision Award, 2019
  • Dezeen’s Design Project of the Year for Aguahoja, 2019
  • Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts, 2021
Gemini, Oxman and Carter, 2014

Oxman’s illustrious career has led her to collaborate with some of the most resourceful designers in the world, further catapulting her unique philosophy into the spotlight of the design world. Today, she continues working with the Mediated Matter group experimenting with different forms of generative design, and teaches at MIT as a tenured professor.

Women in Architecture: Charlotte Perriand

A trailblazer for women designers, Charlotte Perriand always found a way to reinvent her work with the ever-changing aesthetics of interior design and architecture in the 20th century. She forged herself as a leader of the avant-garde cultural movement, which influenced new perspectives and values in the design world. Today, as part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re exploring the life of this exceptional designer and some of her most celebrated creations. 

The Life of Charlotte Perriand

Perriand was born in Paris, France in 1903. She lived with her mother, who was a talented seamstress, and her father, who worked as a tailor in the city. Because of the lively energy of her surroundings, Perriand found a deep appreciation for city life but also relished her frequent visits to her grandparents’ home in the French Alps, where the natural environment was peaceful and calm. 

At a young age, Perriand discovered a passion for the arts. As her talents continued to flourish, Parriand’s mother encouraged her to push herself by attending École de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. From 1920-1925 she studied under the renowned artist and decorator Henri Rapin, who helped bring her unique ideas to life. 

During her time at École de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, Perriand learned to incorporate popular aesthetics such as ornate patterns, warm materials like wood and soft textiles like cotton. Dissatisfied by the status quo, Perriand pushed her interests and fed her curiosity by enrolling in classes made available through large department stores that housed their own design workshops. Encouraged by the reactions to her creations that incorporated glistening surfaces, reflective metals and blunt geometric forms, she began to submit her work to expositions throughout Paris. Perriand’s most notable entry at the time was Le Bar sous le toit, or Bar in the Attic, at the prestigious Salone d’Automne, in1927. This installation of furniture, finishes and a built-in bar reflected the current machine-age landscape and displayed a bold design featuring nickel and other metals. Emboldened by the reactions of her peers, Perriand quickly began embracing these taboo materials in her work, conveying exciting new interpretations of modern design. 

An initial sketch for Bar in the Attic, Charlotte Perriand, Paris 1927, courtesy of Intérieurs Fig. 40
An initial sketch for Bar in the Attic, Charlotte Perriand, Paris 1927, courtesy of Intérieurs Fig. 40

Career and Achievements

After the success from Bar in the Attic, Perriand had a difficult time discovering what her next move should be in the art world. She took advice from a friend, jewelry designer Jean Fouquet, and immersed herself in the intensive literature of Le Corbusier. Dazzled by his work, Perriand reached out with her portfolio for a position at his atelier. After a hasty dismissal, she showed Le Corbusier her acclaimed Bar in the Attic project, which caused him to reverse his decision and hire her on the spot. 

The Grand Confort, designed by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
The Grand Confort, designed by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

While working for Le Corbusier and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, Perriand contributed to the design of some of their most celebrated furniture pieces: the basculant sling chair (known as LC1), the Grand Confort (LC2 and LC3) and the chaise lounge chair (LC4). However, her impact reached far beyond furniture; Perriand brought to life the trio’s vision of modern luxury as Equipment for the Home for the 1929 Salon d’Automne, which included an entire apartment set with a bold kitchen and bathroom. 

Perriand left Le Corbusier’s atelier in 1937 after ten years of extraordinary growth and accomplishment. Her expertise led her across the world, but she eventually traveled back to the French Alps, where her roots enticed her to work on her largest – and final – project, Les Arcs. Composed of three different structures and built over a nearly-20 year period, Les Arcs brought to life a new style of living with an open-plan interior and an exterior integrated into the surrounding natural environment. 

Les Arcs, designed by Charlotte Perriand, courtesy of Matthew Rachman Gallery
Les Arcs, designed by Charlotte Perriand, courtesy of Matthew Rachman Gallery

The bedrooms of the famous ski resort were built with minimal design elements. Thoughtful design was instead prioritized in communal spaces, like the great rooms, where windows opened to vibrant sunlight and views of the pristine natural surroundings. 

Throughout her illustrious career, Perriand preferred to look to the future instead of reflecting on her previous work. And on this life journey,Perriand established herself as a fearless forward-facing designer who was eager to reinvent her design philosophy over and over.  

Women in Architecture: Jane Drew

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting another luminary in the field: Jane Drew. As the spearhead of the Modernist Movement in London, Jane Drew prevailed as a determined leader in a male-dominated profession, as she changed the lives of many by directing her career to explore the intersections of architecture and wellness.

The Life of Jane Drew

Drew was born on March 24, 1911, in Thornton Heath, Croydon, in South London. Her father was a surgical instrument designer and founder of the Institute of British Surgical Technicians, and her mother was a school teacher who greatly encouraged Drew’s interest and appreciation for art and nature. 

After graduating high school, Drew began her study at one of the most prestigious and competitive architectural schools in the world, the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Following five years of study, during which she married fellow architect James Thomas Alliston, Drew propelled herself into the architecture world working for Joseph Hill. During her employment, Drew was introduced to Bohemianism, which fostered her musical, artistic, literary and spiritual pursuits and had a lasting impact on her career. 

Following her divorce in 1939, Drew became heavily involved in the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM), introducing her to Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Eventually, under the guidance of the CIAM, Drew became a principal founder of the Modern Movement in Britain alongside Henry Moore, Elizabeth Lutyens, and her future husband, Maxwell Fry. 

A housing complex in Chandigarh, India, designed by Jane Drew

Inspired by the abundance of talent surrounding her, Drew’s illustrious architectural career blossomed in the 1940s. She opened her firm at the beginning of the decade and only employed female architects, giving them a unique platform for professional and creative pursuit. Due to constraints posed by World War II, much of Drew’s work was limited to London. However, in 1944 she was appointed as the assistant town-planning advisor to the resident minister for the British West African colonies, which would change the trajectory of her career forever. 

Career and Accolades

Alongside the great heartbreak, World War II brought to London came new opportunities, especially for Drew and her husband, who had established a new firm in London: Fry, Drew and Partners. In 1947 she began designing a series of new schools in Ghana and Nigeria. With cultural appreciation in mind, Drew and Fry worked around the unique topography to incorporate native motifs and create a new architecture style for the new nation, now known as Tropical Modernism. 

In 1951, Indian Prime minister Pandit Nehru approached the couple in hopes they would develop the new capital of the Indian state Punjab, Chandigarh. The couple eagerly accepted his offer and began working with Le Corbusier to create their most celebrated architectural work. The couple experimented with new forms of design in the country and discovered methods to integrate schools, health facilities, and swimming baths into housing structures, affecting the future of housing designs throughout India.

Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast, Ghana, Jane Drew, 1947

Drew’s triumphant accomplishments didn’t stop there; she garnered even greater acclaim during the latter half of her career. Some of her most renowned works included designing the interior of London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts building (an organization that she helped establish), the School for the Deaf in Herne Hill, London, and buildings for the Open University in Milton Keynes, England. 

Drew continued her involvement in architecture after her retirement in 1973 and served on the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which she was a lifelong fellow. And, shortly before her death in 1996, she was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. 

Throughout her distinguished career, Drew’s passion for conscious design prevailed through her modern work. With every new project, Drew took away an abundance of new knowledge, forever shaping her future work and fashioning the process of thoughtful decision-making that remains in architecture today. 

A building at the University College, Ibadan, designed by Jane Drew

Women in Architecture: Amanda Williams

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series at Optima, we’re taking a look at another spearheading female figure: Amanda Williams. Similar to many of the women in this series, she is a pioneer in her field. Trained as an architect, Williams blurs the line between visual arts and modern architecture. Learn more about her remarkable life and work below. 

The Life of Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams was born in 1974 in Evanston, Illinois. However, she grew up in Chicago’s Southside Gresham neighborhood. She graduated from Cornell University in 1997, where she studied architecture and was a member of one of the nation’s most prominent honor societies. After graduating, Williams moved to San Francisco and worked for a commercial architecture firm for six years before returning to her hometown to focus on her love of painting.

Back in Chicago, Williams discovered The Center Program. The Hyde Park Arts Center’s capstone program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for groundbreaking artists. While in the program, fellow artist Trisha Van Eck challenged Williams to take her talents a step further and paint on a larger architectural scale. Her response led to some of her most recognized and celebrated work today. 

Throughout her practice, Williams uses vibrant color to draw attention to the complexities and intersections of race, place and value within cities. Her paintings, sculptures and installations are all created to examine how the mundane can be viewed through a new lens and question the state of urban space throughout the country. 

Flamin’ Red Hot, Color(ed) Theory, 2014
Flamin’ Red Hot, Color(ed) Theory, 2014

Notable Work

In 2015, Williams debuted her most famous project, Color(ed) Theory at Chicago’s Architecture Biennial. The critically acclaimed exhibition, featured in The New York Times, examines race and space on Chicago’s South Side. With the help of family and friends, Williams repainted eight abandoned houses in the Englewood neighborhood between 2014 and 2016 as part of the exhibition. Each house was decorated with specific colors Williams found in products targeted towards Black consumers. Still standing today, the eight eye-opening houses continue to push for further discussions on the complexities of race and space Chicago and around the world.

Chicago is home to another one of William’s most well-known pieces. Located at The Arts Club of Chicago, Uppity Negress was a site-specific exterior installation created in 2017. The work investigates the claim of courtyards as either public or private areas and addresses the vast roles that gender and race play in urban accessibility. 

While much of Williams’ work is located in or near Chicago, her aptitude for creation has led her across the United States. In early 2019, Williams was chosen alongside acclaimed artist Olalekan Jeyifous to design Brooklyn’s newest monument dedicated to Rep. Shirley Chisholm, part of a larger city-wide initiative known as She Built NYC. The monument is soon to be completed and will sit at the Parkside entrance to the neighborhood’s Prospect Park. 

A rendering of Williams and Jeyifous’ Shirley Chisholm Monument
A rendering of Williams and Jeyifous’ Shirley Chisholm Monument

Alongside her transformative work, Williams has been a recipient of many architecture and art awards as well as achievements throughout her career:

  • Chicago’s 3Arts Award, 2014
  • United States Artists Fellow, 2018
  • New Generation Leader, Women in Architecture Awards, 2021
  • Obama Presidential Center Design Team

Williams has lectured at esteemed schools including Washington University, California College of the Arts, Illinois Institute of Technology and her alma mater. Today, she continues to forge a lane of her own and blend traditional visual art techniques with the complexity of architectural design.

Women in Architecture: Jeanne Gang

Perhaps one of the most well-known architects of her time, especially in Chicago, Jeanne Gang is the founder and leader of Studio Gang. Born 1964 in Belvidere, Illinois, a small town on the northern border of Illinois, she was raised with the prairies of the midwest and proximity to Chicago’s architectural legacy. 

Gang studied at the University of Illinois before going on to earn a Master of Architecture with Distinction from Harvard Graduate School of Design. After Harvard, she studied abroad in Switzerland and France as a Rotary Fellow before joining Dutch architect and design theorist, Rem Koolhaas and his architectural firm, OMA in Rotterdam. 

In 1997, she established Studio Gang, her own practice headquartered in Chicago. The studio’s mission is to use design to connect people to each other, their communities, and the environment. Soft details that reflect the light of the lake and suggest rippling columns of water can easily be identified as Studio Gang’s work.

Aqua Tower, Jeanne Gang

Studio Gang Around Chicago

Much of Gang’s work is a prominent part of Chicago’s landscape. Her designs can be found across the city, from O’Hare International Airport to the Loop to Uchicago dorms. Over the years, the studio’s work has become integral to Chicago’s rich architectural legacy. Gang’s 2010 Aqua Tower, situated at 225 N Columbus Dr in downtown Chicago, takes inspiration from terrestrial topography. The facade emulates the contours of a topographic map and reflects light in a way similar to the wave patterns of Chicago’s Lake Michigan. The tower combines a hotel, offices, apartments, and a green roof into a vertical community that facilitates human interaction.

In addition to the studio’s practice, Studio Gang is a strong supporter of climate action. As a member of the Active Transportation Alliance and Architects Advocate Action on Climate Change, the firm supports sustainable forms of transportation in urban environments and radical change in the building sector in regards to climate.

In effort to take climate action, Studio Gang has submitted a design to the C40 Reinventing Cities competition titled Assemble Chicago, a carbon-neutral residential community next to the main branch of Chicago’s public library. The proposed project would provide housing for the downtown workforce including those who earn as little as minimum wage. The design is also eco-conscious and works to reduce carbon pollution, minimize waste, and promote urban biodiversity. 

A model of Gang’s design for the Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural & Pop Music Center

Studio Gang in the World

Jeanne Gang’s designs can be found across the globe from a powerhouse in Beloit, Wisconsin to the Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural & Pop Music Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Wherever their location and whatever their purpose, the structures focus on immersing themselves in their environment both aesthetically and through their contributions to their ecosystems. Gang’s designs take inspiration from the topography and ecology of their surroundings and concern themselves with how they can bolster the environment and human communities around them, creating the perfect harmony between architecture and nature. 

The thoughtfulness of Studio Gang’s work has been recognized by receiving numerous awards. 

  • MacArthur Fellowship, 2011
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s National Design Award for Architecture, 2013
  • Named Woman Architect of the year by Architectural Review, 2016
  • Royal Institute of British Architects International Fellowship, 2018

Gang currently serves as a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and lectures frequently around the world. Her studio continues to present unique and conscious designs to the architectural landscape, working to build a sustainable future and sustainable communities.

Eileen Gray’s E-1027 Reopens to the Public

Previously, in our Women in Architecture Series, we highlighted the streamlined, industrial style of the modernist designer and architect Eileen Gray, which you can read here. Of her many projects, Gray’s French Riviera villa, E-1027, remains most notable. Over time, the grandiose structure fell into ruins, but following an extensive restoration project, Gray’s Villa E-1027 has reopened to the public.  

In its prime, one of the property’s most beloved visitors was Le Corbusier. Following his death, the villa experienced neglect from numerous tenants for years. However, the property was purchased in 1999 by the French agency, Conservatoire du littoral, to oversee its protection and preservation. Later, in 2014 they established the Cap Moderne Association to manage the rehabilitation. After six years of comprehensive restoration work, the E-1027 villa mirrors the original design that was completed in 1929 by Gray and her husband, Jean Badovici. 

The project aimed to restore both the exterior environment and the interior fixtures of the villa. Inside, new built-in and free-standing furniture and artwork reflect the villa’s original lived-in state from nearly a century ago. Visitors are invited to consider how Gray pioneered an interpretation of modernist warmth with welcoming internal fixtures that contrast the villa’s sometimes cold, concrete structure. 

A large room is filled with a bed, chairs, rugs, and artwork. All pieces are designed to look like the lived in style of the 1920's.
The interior of Villa E-1027, Photo by Manuel Bougot

On the exterior, vibrant blue awnings covering the outdoor walkways offset the villa’s bright white walls. The “house by the sea” is intended to be a living organism within the structure’s larger atmosphere. Surrounded by lush greenery and landscaping on its north and south-west sides and built on pilotis just above a plunging cliff into the sea, the villa successfully fulfills Gray’s goal of being harmoniously integrated into its environment.

Timed tours of this modernist wonder are currently available for small groups looking for a getaway. You can learn more about E-1027 and how to visit it on Cap Moderne’s website here

person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





    Acceptable file types: *.pdf | *.txt | *.doc, max-size: 2Mb