10 Architecture Studios Led by Women [II]

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Francine Houben (Holland 1955) began formulating the three fundamentals of her lifelong architectural vision while studying at the Delft University of Technology. It was in this crucible of higher learning that she began an architectural practice with two fellow students with the design of a groundbreaking social housing development. As a result, she graduated as architect with cum laude honours in 1984 and officially founded Mecanoo architecten with these same partners.

Francine has remained true to her architectural vision, Composition, Contrast, Complexity throughout her career. Always looking for inspiration and the secret of a specific location, Francine bases her work on both analyses and intuition. She enjoys interweaving social, technical, playful and humane aspects together in order to form a unique solution to each situation. Francine Houben combines the disciplines of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture in an untraditional way; with sensitivity for light and beauty.

Her use of material is expressive. She is known as one of the most prolific architects in Europe today. Her wide-ranging portfolio comprises an intimate chapel built on the foundations of a former 19th century chapel in Rotterdam (2001) to Europe’s largest library in Birmingham (2013). Francine Houben’s work reveals a sensory aspect determined by form and space, a lavish use or subtle combinations of the most diverse materials, as well as planes of saturated colour. Francine’s contribution to the profession of architecture is widely recognized. She was granted lifelong membership to the Akademie der Künste, Berlin in 2010.

In 2008, she received the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award. Honorary fellowships to the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and an international fellowship to the Royal Institute of British Architects were granted to her in previous years. The past three decades have seen her cumulative effect on the profession of architecture. Francine lectures all over the world and takes part as a jury member in prestigious competitions.

Her commitment to research and education is evidenced in her instatement as professor in Architecture, Chair of Aesthetics of Mobility at the Delft University of Technology (2000), her professorship at the Universitá della Svizzera Italiania, Accademia di architettura, Switzerland (2000) and her appointment as visiting professor at Harvard (2007). Dedication to her alma mater is reflected in generous sponsorship of the UfD-Mecanoo Award for the best graduating student of the Delft University of Technology.

Francine Houben lives in Rotterdam, a modern city where the skyline is dotted with buildings designed by world renowned architects; including her award winning Montevideo Skyscraper (2005). It was in this dynamic city that she directed and curated the First International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (2003), with the theme, ‘Mobility, a room with a view’. She has realised numerous signature projects throughout the Netherlands and Europe including Philips Business Innovation Centre, FiftyTwoDegrees in Nijmegen, (2005-2006), La Llotja Theatre and Conference Centre in Lleida, Spain (2009) and the Delft University of Technology Library (1999). Currently, she is expanding her architectural vision to other continents with the design of Taiwan’s largest theatre complex, The Wei-Wu-Ying Center for the Arts in Kaohsiung (2014), Dudley Municipal Center in Boston (USA) and Shenzhen Cultural Center (China). In 2011 the book Dutch Mountains was released, a chronicle of Francine Houben and eight special projects in five different countries.

Francine maintains an active presence in academia and culture, regularly publishing and giving lectures worldwide. She has performed in many academic and professional capacities throughout her career, including Chair of Architecture and Aesthetics of Mobility at Delft University of Technology, visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design, and as director of the First International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam.

Francine has received honorary fellowships from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. In 2014 Francine was named Woman Architect of the Year by the Architects’ Journal and in November 2015 Queen Máxima of The Netherlands presented Francine with the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prize for her wide-ranging career. Francine was awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Université de Mons, Belgium (2017) and the Utrecht University (2016).

“Architecture must appeal to all the senses. Architecture is never a purely intellectual, conceptual, or visual game alone. Architecture is about combining all the individual elements into a single concept. What counts in the end is the arrangement of form and emotion.”

Francine Houben, architect/creative director Mecanoo Architecten.


Sharon Davis is the founder and principal of Sharon Davis Design. She is an award-winning practitioner whose work is driven by her belief in the transformative power of design. Following a successful career in finance, she redirected her professional pursuits to the built environment, returning to graduate school in her forties and establishing the collaborative design practice dedicated to human-centered environments in 2007.

A LEED-accredited professional who earned her master of architecture degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in 2006, Davis received the Women for Women Active Citizen’s Award in 2010 and the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize from Columbia University in 2006. She has worked on architectural projects ranging in scope from residential interiors to commercial ground-up construction and international institutional development.


Toshiko Mori is the Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and was chair of the Department of Architecture from 2002 to 2008. She has taught at the GSD since 1995. She was the coordinator of the third semester core studio and is a thesis director in the Department of Architecture. Mori is principal of Toshiko Mori Architect, which she established in 1981 in New York City. The firm has been noted for its intelligent approach to historical context, ecologically sensitive strategies, and innovative use of materials, producing a creative integration of design and technology.

Her work has been widely published internationally, and has been featured in numerous exhibitions. She edited a volume on material and fabrication research, Immaterial/Ultramaterial which was later translated into Italian. A monograph of her work, Toshiko Mori Architect, was published by Monacelli Press in 2008. She is currently an advisor to A+U Magazine and serves on the Presidents Council for the Cooper Union. She is Vice-Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Design for the World Economic Forum. Mori taught at the Cooper Union School of Architecture. She has been a visiting faculty member at Columbia University and Yale University, where she was the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor in 1992.


· 2011: World Architecture Festival Award Finalist, Syracuse Center of Excellence.
· 2010: New York City Public Design Commission Award for Excellence in Design, Brooklyn’s Children Museum Rooftop Pavilion; World Architecture Festival Award Finalist, Greatbatch Pavilion; American Architecture Award Finalist, Greatbatch Pavilion; AIA New York State Award of Excellence, Greatbatch Pavilion; AIA New York Chapter Architecture Honor Award, Greatbatch Pavilion.
· 2009: AIA Buffalo/Western New York Honor Award, Greatbatch Pavilion; AIA New York State Award of Excellence, Newspaper Café.
· 2008: AIA New York State Award of Excellence, Addition to House on the Gulf of Mexico I; AIA New York Chapter Project Honor Award, Syracuse Center of Excellence.
· 2007: New York City Art Commission Design Award, Poe Park Visitor Center.
· 2006: Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
· 2004/2005: Best Architecture of Design Show, U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Art Critics.


Angela Deuber is a Swiss architect, educated at ETH Zurich (2002). Her practice, ADA is based in Chur, Grisons. From 2007 until 2010 she taught at the ETH in Zurich and was appointed lecturer at Lucerne University in 2012. Her office has produced a number of recognised buildings and projects, including: 2014 House on the Hebridean Island of Harris, Scotland, UK, 2013 School building in Thal, Canton of St. Gallen, 2012 Conversion of a late medieval House in Stuls, Grisons. In 2015 she was the winner of the third edition of the arcVision Price - Women and Architecture.

Yvonne Farrell - Shelley McNamara. Grafton Architects

Grafton Architects was established in 1978. Directors Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are both graduates of UCD, are Fellows of the RIAI, are International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA and are elected members of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Art organisation.

Teachers at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, they have been visiting professors at Accademia d’Archittettura, Mendrisio, EPFL, Lausanne, held the Kenzo Tange chair at GSD Harvard and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale University.

They have been external examiners at numerous universities including Cambridge University and The London Metropolitan School of Architecture. As well as public lectures in Dublin and abroad, including the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and the Royal Academy in London, they have lectured widely in European and American Schools of Architecture.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. 2020 PRITZKER ARCHITECTURE PRIZE


Carla Juaçaba. Born in 1976, since 2000, she developed her independent practice of architecture and research based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her office is currently engaged in both public and private projects, focusing on housing and cultural programs.

Since undergraduate student she worked with the architect Gisela Magalhães of the Niemeyer’s generation, mostly in the area of exhibitions related to the Brazilian native arts and historical museums.

During her first year after college (2000) she worked jointly with another architect Mario Fraga on the project named “Atelier House”. Following that, a series of projects have been conceived such as the “Rio Bonito house” (2005), the “Varanda House”(2007), the “Minimum House”(2008),“Santa Teresa House” in its final stage (2012), and a couple of exhibition design. Current works includes the ephemeral pavilion conceived with the senior scenographer and theather director Bia Lessa, “Humanidade2012” for Rio+20, the recent international meeting held in Rio de Janeiro. And also two houses on the outskirts of Rio.

Carla Juaçaba is constantly a part of the academic and teaching realms, as well as research studies, lectures, biennales, exhibitions and recently was the Jury at BIAU Bienal Ibero Americana in Madrid (2012). She is currently teaching at FAU-PUC RJ Pontifícia Universidade Católica.

Her work is focused on an intrinsic issue of the discipline: the poetics of tectonics, and its expressive potentiality.


Patama Roonrakwit studied architecture at Silpakorn University of Bangkok, and realized her master's degree in development practice under the guidance of CENDEP, at Oxford Brookes University, England. Roonrakwit has participated in more than forty housing development projects for underprivileged community and damaged villages in Thailand and constructed a shelter to help people after the tsunami in Phang-nag, a province in Southern Thailand. She was the only Thai woman architect to be selected for the final round of the arcVision Prize.

She founded CASE studio in 1997 which is a group of architects that work with an humanitarian and anthropological approach in creating appropriate housing for people.


Kate Otten was born in Durban and is part of a generation of significant architects working in the South African space. Graduating from the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, Kate set up her own practice in 1989. Kate Otten Architects has subsequently developed into a singular practice with a varied body of work, including important public buildings and places of memory. Kate is an active member of several professional bodies, maintains involvement with architectural education, and is deeply passionate about promoting the contribution of women to the profession. Her work has been widely published and has won numerous awards locally and internationally.


Siiri Vallner was born in Tallinn in 1972 and studied architecture at the Estonian Academy of Art in Tallinn, receiving her degree in 1998. After graduation she studied architecture at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Washington, DC, USA, and worked for two years for the architecture firm Berzak & Gold P.C. in New York and at Lewis & Associates Ltd., Alexandria, Virginia. In 2002, having returned to Estonia, she founded Kavakava with Katrin Koov and Kaire Nõmm, and a second practice, Head Arhitektid OÜ, with Indrek Peil. She has participated in numerous architectural competitions, of which all her major works are the result. She has written widely on contemporary urbanism and landscape architecture. Vallner is the designer of some of the most prominent buildings in her country.

Kavakava was stablished in 2002 in Estonia. They mostly build public buildings or urban space designs based on prize-winning proposals for open architectural competitions. Their major works include the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn, Pärnu City Centre Sports Hall, Lotte kindergarten in Tartu, Narva College of the University of Tartu and the visitors’ centre for the Estonian Open Air Museum. Their works are published internationally and they have won several awards, including best young architect award in 2009 for Siiri Vallner and State Culture award for Narva College in 2013.


Shimul studied architecture in Mumbai at the Academy of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. After she returned to India from the US in 1990, she set up her own architecture firm, SJK Architects. Her interest in an architecture that is meaningful for the India of today, drawing from historical wisdom, but relevant and exciting for the vibrant Indian market, has led to a practice that has commissions as varied as hotels for religious tourism, to a museum for Jainism, to an automobile design studio for Mahindra’s. Shimul is invited as a speaker to numerous architectural institutions while she also serves as a Trustee for Save the Children India where she has been actively steering education and women’s projects and is also on the Board of Directors of Akshara, a Women’s resource Centre. In 2014 she received a jury mention of the arcVision Prize for her design of the Nirvana office complex of an ad film production firm.




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