The women designing new London


Women have played a key role in shaping London’s skyline and streets for years and today’s generation of female architects are at the forefront of city-thinking

When Gillian Wearing’s sculpture of the suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in April this year to celebrate 100 years of British women voting, it was something of a double first. Not only is Wearing the first female artist to create a statue for Parliament Square, it is the first statue of a female subject to be placed there.

It also forms part of #BehindEveryGreatCity, a major new Mayoral campaign for gender equality, and one which we’re exploring in the following pages where we spotlight the women transforming London’s skyline – the capital’s best female architects.

Despite a visible and vibrant culture of female-led architectural design in London, too often the role of women in the architectural profession is underplayed – in the press and the history books.

Of course we have all heard of Zaha Hadid, and some will be familiar with Lina Bo Bardi, Alison Smithson, maybe Jane Drew. But how about Norah Aiton and Betty Scott of Aiton and Scott, who, in 1931, designed the steel-framed home of Aiton & Co, the engineering firm owned by Norah’s father? This early example of English Modernism is one of the first industrial buildings designed by a professional female partnership anywhere in the world.

Of course there are many more, and their exclusion from mainstream architectural history is unacceptable. General history has been overhauled significantly in recent times – just compare the BBC’s two versions of ‘Civilisation’, one first broadcast in 1969, the other in 2018, to see how history is changing – and architecture’s back-story must follow suit. This list is by no means comprehensive, but here are 25 of the best.

Julia Barfield

Julia has created a new kind of building – big-top architecture – with the London Eye, Brighton’s i-360, and the Treetop Walkway at Kew, blending avant-garde design with fairground logic, a unique talent

Roz Barr

This London-based Scot uses large-scale maquettes to accurately model the projects she works on, resulting in an intensely-crafted architecture such as can be seen at St Augustine’s Church, Hammersmith

Eleanor Fawcett

As Head of Design at the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, architect and urban designer Eleanor is leading London’s biggest regeneration project since the 2012 Olympics

Alison Brooks

An Open City Trustee and Stirling Prize-winner for the Accordia housing scheme in Cambridge, Canadian-born Alison’s firm ABA is a leading force in British housing design with a string of pioneering projects in its portfolio

Mary Duggan

Once half of Duggan Morris and now lead at Mary Duggan Architects, Mary’s quiet architectural style draws upon contemporary Swiss and German influences and post-war British Modernism

Clare Wright

Clare founded Wright & Wright with her husband Sandy after they honed
their skills with celebrated practice Gillespie Kidd & Coia. The Camden-based Glaswegians are old-school modernists and specialise in campus architecture and the cultural sector. Currently they’re refurbishing the Geffrye Museum

Amanda Levete

A former director of Future Systems, which scooped the Stirling Prize for Lord’s Media Centre, today Amanda’s V&A extension on Exhibition Road is one of several keynote projects her firm AL_A has designed around the world

Frida Escobedo

According to Frida, “architecture is always the ruin of its own idea,” which may or may not be something you can detect in her work as this year’s designer of the Serpentine Pavilion . The Mexican architect is the youngest yet to tackle the annual commission

Elsie Owusu

Elsie was responsible for the masterplan for Green Park Station in London
at previous employer Feilden & Mawson, and today heads her own firm of architects who specialise in conservation. Elsie made history this year as the first black woman to run for RIBA president

Linda Thiel

Linda is White Arkitekter’s London boss. Scandinavia’s biggest practice, whose past two CEOs have been women, also employs more women than men. And for Open House sister event Green Sky Thinking, Linda’s firm presented a paper exploring why girls use playgrounds less than boys

Sadie Morgan

Co-founder of Stirling Prize-winning dRMM, Sadie is closer to power than anybody in her profession: as chairwoman of the HS2 design panel at the National Infrastructure Commission, she reports directly to the Secretary of State

Liza Fior

The hand behind one of London’s best public sculptures, the ‘ruins’ of Barking town centre, Liza Fior of architects MUF has influenced a generation of young urban thinkers with her investigative slash whimsical design approach

Maria Smith

The Studio Weave co-founder and maker of the Python-esque Lullaby Factory at GOSH now leads Interrobang, a studio combining offbeat architectural design with engineering nous

Paloma Strelitz

Paloma is one of the more public faces of Assemble, the art and architecture collective whose community-faced work was recognised by the Turner Prize in 2015. Its recent retiling of a retail unit by Seven Sisters tube is a jewel alongside Blackhorse Workshop which is open for this years festival

Holly Lewis

Holly’s studio We Made That specialises in ‘ground-up’ collaborative design in regeneration projects across London, working with communities to shape their own neighbourhoods

Dominique Oliver

Dominique is a director of housing firm PTE Architects, and the designer of the Finsbury Leisure Centre, recently won in competition against starchitects Richard Rogers and Nicholas Grimshaw. See Pollard Thomas Edwards (Diespeker Wharf), Colby Lodge and refurbishment of The Ice House Quarter


This female-led practice is run by three Cambridge graduates whose forensic design approach exploits the potential of seemingly unpromising sites with pure, geometric architecture

ZCD Architects

A female-led practice whose directors Dinah Bornat – a design advisor to the Mayor, and Cordula Weisser – a founding member of pop-architects FAT, have specialist skills in housing and designing for children

Deborah Saunt

Deborah’s studio, formed with husband David Hill considers London, the city itself, as its permanent ‘other’ client, present in every project it does in the capital – from residential one-offs to masterplans for whole swathes of city

Sally Lewis

Sally founded Stitch Architects in 2012 with a simple goal: the creation of a new generation of streets for London. Today the practice’s first project – 149 new-build homes in Dagenham – does that, replacing tower blocks with terraced homes

Barbara Weiss

The Milan-born architect specialises in health and residential design and leads the Skyline campaign that argues for control of skyscraper development in the capital. See The Weiner Library

Cristina Monteiro

A director of DK-CM, the studio Cristina runs with Dr David Knight, Cristina is one of several young female architects defining the look and feel of London’s public projects: buildings, public spaces, policy, urban strategy

Fiona Scott

With fellow architect Jay, Fiona, a design advisor to the Mayor, leads Gort Scott, a practice fronting a new wave in civic architecture and public realm design. See examples this year at The Magistrates and The Low Line

Tracy Meller

The only female partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the architect behind Lloyds, the Cheesegrater and the O2 ‘Millennium’ Dome, Tracey has led projects including NEO Bankside and Mossbourne Academy. Other RSH+P projects in this years festival include The Leadenhall Building and Maggie’s Centre

Farshid Moussavi

Founder of Foreign Office Architects, who shot to global fame in the 90s with its design for the Yokohama ferry terminal. Iranian-born Farshid’s mid-rise tower on Fenchurch Street, a sleek composition with a fluted and tinted glass curtain wall, is nearing completion.