10 women architects of the first half of the 20th century that you should know

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Lina BO BARDI

Achillina Bo was born on December 5, 1914 in Rome, Italy. Lina was the oldest child of Enrico and Giovana Bo, who later had another daughter named Graziella. In 1939, she graduated from the Rome College of Architecture at the age of 25 with her final piece, "The Maternity and Infancy Care Centre". She then moved to Milan to begin working with architect Carlo Pagani in the Studio Bo e Pagani, No 12, Via Gesù. Bo Bardi collaborated (until 1943) with architect and designer Giò Ponti on the magazine Lo Stile – nella casa e nell’arredamento. In 1942, at the age of 28, she opened her own architectural studio on Via Gesù, but the lack of work during wartime soon led Bardi to take up illustration for newspapers and magazines such as Stile, Grazia, Belleza, Tempo, Vetrina and Illustrazione Italiana. Her office was destroyed by an aerial bombing in 1943. From 1944-5 Bardi was the Deputy Director of Domus magazine.

The event prompted her deeper involvement in the Italian Communist Party. In 1945, Domus commissioned Bo Bardi to travel around Italy with Carlo Pagani and photographer Federico Patellani to document and evaluate the situation of the destroyed country. Bo Bardi, Pagani and Bruno Zevi established the weekly magazine A – Attualità, Architettura, Abitazione, Arte in Milan (A Cultura della Vita).[4] She also collaborated on the daily newspaper Milano Sera, directed by Elio Vittorini. Bo Bardi took part in the First National Meeting for Reconstruction in Milan, alerting people to the indifference of public opinion on the subject, which for her covered both the physical and moral reconstruction of the country.

In 1946, Bo Bardi moved to Rome and married the art critic and journalist Pietro Maria Bardi.

In Brazil, Bo Bardi expanded his ideas influenced by a recent and overflowing culture different from the European situation. Along with her husband, they decided to live in Rio de Janeiro, delighted with the nature of the city and its modernist buildings, like the current Gustavo Capanema Palace, known as the Ministry of Education and Culture, designed by Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, Lucio Costa, Roberto Burle Marx and a group of young Brazilian architects. Pietro Bardi was commissioned by a museum from Sao Paulo city where they established their permanent residence.

There they began a collection of Brazilian popular art (its main influence) and his work took on the dimension of the dialogue between the modern and the Popular. Bo Bardi spoke of a space to be built by living people, an unfinished space that would be completed by the popular and everyday use.

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray (1878-1976) is an architect and furniture designer born in Ireland. She is considered one of the most influential women of the 20s in those fields.

In 1901 she enrolled in drawing at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London, and during his visits to the Victoria and Alberto Museum he developed her admiration for the Asian works of lacquer and in 1902 she settled temporarily in Paris to continue her studies in drawing at the École Colarossi. Gray settled permanently in Paris in 1906. She practiced little as an architect due to the restrictions that women had at that time in the architecture profession. Among his scarce projects are Villa E-1027 and Villa Tempe á Pailla, on the Costa Azul.

She obtained more fame as an interior designer and furniture designer. Although after the Second World War was losing this reputation little by little. Only in her last years of life did she return to that fame when the designer Zeev Aram took control of the rights of her work and rediscovered it to the world.

Florence Knoll Basset

Florence Knoll Basset b. Michigan, USA, 1917-2019. Born to a baker, and orphaned at age twelve, Florence Schust grew up Saginaw, Michigan. Schust demonstrated an early interest in architecture and was enrolled at the Kingswood School for Girls, adjacent to the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

While at Kingswood, Florence befriended Eilel Saarinen, whom she would later study under at Cranbrook. Warmly embraced by the Saarinen family, Florence vacationed with them in Finland, enjoyed the company of their accomplished friends, and formed a very close relationship with Eliel’s son, Eero. The connections she made and the skills she developed while at Cranbrook were the foundations of Florence Schust’s incredible design education and pioneering career. With recommendations from Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto, Florence went on to study under some of the greatest 20th century architects, including Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

In 1941 Florence moved to New York where she met Hans Knoll who was establishing his furniture company. With Florence’s design skills and Hans’ business acumen and salesmanship, the pair, who married in 1946, grew the nascent company into an international arbiter of style and design. Florence also seeded contributions with her friends Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and Mies van der Rohe.

In creating the revolutionary Knoll Planning Unit, Florence Knoll defined the standard for the modern corporate interiors of post-war America. Drawing on her background in architecture, she introduced modern notions of efficiency, space planning, and comprehensive design to office planning. Florence ardently maintained that she did not merely decorate space. She created it. The Planning Unit rigorously researched and surveyed each client — assessing their needs, defining patterns of use and understanding company hierarchies — before presenting a comprehensive design, informed by the principles of modernism and beautifully executed in signature Knoll style. Florence and the Planning Unit were responsible for the interiors of some of America’s largest corporations, including IBM, GM and CBS.

As part of her work with the Planning Unit, Florence frequently contributed furniture designs to the Knoll catalog. She humbly referred to her furniture designs as the “meat and potatoes,” filler among the standout pieces of Bertoia, Mies, and Saarinen. However, with her attention to detail, eye for proportion, and command of the modern aesthetic, many of her designs have become as revered and celebrated as those of her colleagues.

After the tragic death of Hans Knoll in 1955, Florence Knoll led the company as president through uncertain times. In 1960 she resigned the presidency to focus on directing design and development and, in 1965 after pioneering an industry and defining the landscape and aesthetic of the corporate office, Florence Knoll Bassett (she remarried in 1957) retired from the company. Her contributions to Knoll, and to the rise of modernism in America, are immeasurable.

Marianne Brandt

Marianne Brandt. (1893-1983), born in Chemnitz in Germany, was a Bauhaus trained designer and artist. She studied painting and sculpture at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst Weimar (now the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar). In 1924 she attended the preliminary course at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar. There, she worked with László Moholy-Nagy in the metal workshop, which she eventually became director of in 1928. By this point, she had already designed the first lighting fixtures for the Bauhaus Building in Dessau. Brandt left the Bauhaus at the end of 1929, having worked at the architecture office of Walter Gropius, collaborated with Hin Bredendieck, as well the companies Kandem in Leipzig and Schwintzer & Gräff in Berlin. She lectured at the HfBK Dresden and worked at the University of Applied Art in Berlin until 1954.

Charles-Ray Kaiser EAMES

The Eameses are best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, industrial design and manufacturing, and the photographic arts.

Charles Eames was born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri.  He attended school there and developed an interest in engineering and architecture.  After attending Washington University in St. Louis on scholarship for two years and being thrown out for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, he began working in an architectural office.  In 1929, he married his first wife, Catherine Woermann (they divorced in 1941), and a year later Charles’s only child, Lucia was born.  In 1930, Charles started his own architectural office.  He began extending his design ideas beyond architecture and received a fellowship to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he eventually became head of the design department.

Ray Kaiser Eames was born in 1912 in Sacramento, California.  She studied painting with Hans Hofmann in New York before moving on to Cranbrook Academy where she met and assisted Charles and Eero Saarinen in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition.  Charles and Eero’s designs, created by molding plywood into complex curves, won them the two first prizes.

Charles and Ray married in 1941 and moved to California where they continued their furniture design work with molding plywood.  During World War II they were commissioned by the United States Navy to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells.  In 1946, Evans Products began producing the Eameses’ molded plywood furniture.  Their molded plywood chair was called “the chair of the century” by the influential architectural critic Esther McCoy.  Soon production was taken over by Herman Miller, Inc., who continues to produce the furniture in the United States today.  Another partner, Vitra International, manufactures the furniture in Europe.

In 1949, Charles and Ray designed and built their own home in Pacific Palisades, California, as part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine.  Their design and innovative use of materials made the House a mecca for architects and designers from both near and far.  Today, it is considered one of the most important post-war residences anywhere in the world.

Wera Meyer-Waldeck

Wera Meyer-Waldeck (Dresden, Germany, May 1906 - Bonn, Germany, April 1964). She began her studies in 1921 as an educator at the Dresden Women's School, graduating in 1924. Between 1924 and 1927 she studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Dresden. In 1927 she entered the Bauhaus in Dessau. In her beginnings she studied with Marcel Breuer in the carpentry workshop making stools, sunbeds, folding tables... In 1928 she studied in the construction department with Hannes Meyer. In 1929, Wera worked on the design of furniture for the ADGB school in Bernau, near Berlin. In 1930 she interrupted her studies at the Bauhaus due to the death of her father. In 1931, she resumed her studies at school with Ludwig Hilberseimer and Mies van der Rohe. The following year, she finished her studies at the Bauhaus with a thesis on "elementary school and kindergarten of eight grades".

In 1934 she began working in Dessau as a draftsman for the construction of aircraft in the Junkers. From 1937 she will work in places such as the Supreme Construction Management of the Reichsautobahn, the Reichsbahn Construction Management in Berlin and the mining and metallurgical company Darwin-Thzynietz.

In 1939 she began her professional career as an architect, working for the National Railway Construction Authority. Between 1946-1948, she began working as a professor of interior design at the State University of Applied Arts in Dresden.

In 1948 she presented herself as an independent architect in Walldorf (Germany). The following year, she worked for Hans Schwippert in projects such as the interior design of the German Parliament office in Bonn, the interior design of two ministries, the Viktorshöhe guest house of the Federal Government and the Federal Chancellery. Notable Meyer-Waldeck projects include: the reconstruction of a hotel in Koblenz, several secondary schools, four collective housing units (Laubenganghäuser) for refugees from the East, the Catholic Foreign Relations Mission and a student residence in Bonn. In addition, Wera was a member of the Association of German Architects, of the Women's Federation of Germany and was the author of numerous articles in journals. Her last project is a dormitory of students in Bonn, in 1962.

Wera Meyer-Waldeck died of diabetes on April 25, 1964 in Bonn.

Margarete Lihotzky

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) was the first female Austrian architect, known primarily for the design of the Frankfurt' Kitchen in 1927.

She was born on January 23, 1897 in Vienna. From 1915 to 1919, she studied as the first woman at the School of Applied Arts Architecture in Vienna with Oskar Strnad and Heinrich Tessenow. This was followed by several assignments for the construction of houses, gardens and kindergartens. In 1926 she was transferred by Ernst May to Frankfurt, where she displayed her famous Frankfurt kitchen in 1927. From 1930 to 1937, she was part of the May group as a specialist in buildings for children in Russia, after which she went into exile in Istanbul. When she entered Austria in 1940 as a member of a resistance movement, she was arrested and imprisoned until the end of the war. In 1945/46, he directed the Department of Institutions for Children of the Sofia Baudirektion. In the following years she received several commissionings in Austria, Cuba and Berlin.

'Every thinking woman must be aware of the delay that domestic methods still have, and she must recognize that they hinder her own development, and, therefore, also that of her family'. (Die Frankfurter Küche, page 16)

With these words, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky presents her Frankfurt kitchen in 1927. Guided by the question of how to improve a woman's work by making suitable housing, she presents the model for our modern and equipped kitchen. Her kitchen would be installed in more than 10,000 apartments. A year earlier, Ernst May invited her to Frankfurt to work in the Construction Department, as a typist. In 1930, she followed a call to Moscow, again together with Ernst May and many other German architects, to plan the construction of new Russian industrial cities. Among other things, the German team was commissioned to build the city of Magnitogorsk. Schütte-Lihotzky herself was employed as an expert in buildings for children. In addition, she is represented in the Werkbundsiedlung in Vienna since 1932 with two houses.

In 1937 she left Russia and spent the next three years in Istanbul, where she became a member of an anti-fascist resistance movement and continued to design buildings for children.

In 1940 she was arrested in Austria and imprisoned until the end of the war. In 1947 she participated in the first CIAM conference in Zurich. Subsequently, she develops other facilities for children, including the famous but never executed modular system, a prefabricated system that can be combined in any configuration, for the city of Vienna. In 1956 she made study trips to China and in 1961 to Cuba.

She published "One million cities in China" in 1958, "Study area in life" in 1970 and  her "Memories of the resistance 1938-45" in 1981/82. In 1989 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Graz and received the first prize at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam for her contribution to "allowing the majority of the population to have a better daily life" (Die Frankfurter Küche, page 58). In 1993, the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna dedicated a large exhibition to her.

In 1977 she was awarded the Joliot Curie Medal for her achievements in the World Peace Movement, and in 1980 she received the Architecture Prize of the City of Vienna. In 1988 she was offered the Austrian Medal for Science and Art, but she rejected it, as it would have been presented by the then Austrian president, Kurt Waldheim, who had been accused of hiding his Nazi past. Years later, she accepted it.

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky died on January 18, 2000 in Vienna.

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis

Friedl Dicker (Vienna, July 30, 1898-Auschwitz, October 9, 1944). She began her studies in 1914 in photography and printing techniques at the Graphic Arts Research Institute. The following year, she became interested in the textile world entering the Faculty of textiles of the Royal School of Applied Arts in Vienna. In 1916 she entered the private art school of Johannes Itten, who will be one of the protagonists of the future Bauhaus.

Three years later, she entered the Bauhaus school in Weimar where she continued his apprenticeship. There she carried out works of textile design, binding and participated in typography workshops. She designed the costumes and sets for important plays like "The Merchant of Venice" by William Shakespeare.

After finishing his studies in 1923, she founded the Werkstätten Bildender Kunst or "Workshops of Visual Arts" in Berlin together with Franz Singer, former partner of the Bauhaus.

In 1926 she returned to her hometown, Vienna, and there she founded a new studio, the Singer & Dicker, together with Franz Singer. Despite not having obtained any degree of architecture, in the new studio they developed building projects, interior design and furniture, with which they won several awards.

In 1931, the Singer & Dicker studio fell apart and they began their solo careers. Friedl Dicker began to practice as an educator in Vienna and joined the anti-fascist movement. In 1934, she was arrested for developing activities related to communism.

After being released. She moved to Prague where Nazism was at its peak, something that would change the course of Friedl's life. She started with her textile works at the Spiegler & Sons factory and she, as a designer, received the award at the Vystava 38 Nachod exhibition.

In 1942, she received an order of deportation and in that same year she was transferred to Terezín, a town in the Czech Republic known for the concentration camp installed during her term during the Second World War and in 1944 she was deported. Finally, Frield died at the age of 46, the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Lotte Stam-Beese

Lotte Stam-Beese (Reisicht, Poland, January 28, 1903 - Krimpen, The Netherlands, November 18, 1988). Architect and urban planner born in the city of Reisicht, which before World War II belonged to Germany and is currently part of Poland. Between 1926 and 1929 she studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau (Germany). She was the first woman to study architecture in this school, with Hannes Meyer and later with Hans Wittwer. Meanwhile, between 1926 and 1928 she devoted himself to photography. The works made in those years can be found in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard and the Getty Museum in California. In early 1929 Beese had to leave school because of his relationship with the then-married, Hannes Meyer.

After finishing at the Bauhaus, she moved to Berlin. There she began working in the architecture studio of Hugo Häring, to finally finish working in the office of Hannes Meyer in Berlin. She will also work with different architects, such as: Bohuslav Fuchs in Brno, Mart Stam in Siberia, etc.

Between 1929 and 1933 Lotte Stam-Beese will live in different cities: Dessau, Vienna, Berlin, Brno, Prague, Moscow and finally in Kharkiv (Ukraine). In this last city, Lotte starts working with her former Bauhaus partner, Ernst May, in the May Brigades studio designing the new cities of the Soviet Union.

In 1934 she moved to Holland and a year later he began to be part of the avant-garde circles in Amsterdam. She wrote several articles in the journals 8 and Opbouw, talking about subjects such as Dutch art, the Bauhaus work culture or the construction of schools in Russia.

In 1940 she began her studies at the School of Architecture in Amsterdam. Five years later she finished his studies and moved to Rotterdam. There she will begin his activity in the Department of Urbanism, being director between 1946 and 1968. In 1948, begins the project of Pendrecht (Rotterman) in which she defends the neighborhood as an extension of the city and not as an isolated suburb. In 1947 he built the first street without cars in the Netherlands. In addition, she was a professor at the Academy of Architecture and Urban Design in Amsterdam.

Lotte Stam-Beese finally died on November 18, 1988 in Krimpen (The Netherlands).

Gunta Stölzl

Gunta Stölzl (Munich, 1897 - Switzerland, 1983). Gunta began her studies at the School of Decorative Arts in Munich between 1914 and 1916, studying decorative painting, glass painting, ceramics, art history and style. At 17, she interrupted her studies and started working at the Red Cross as a volunteer nurse of the First World War. Upon her return, she joined the Student Reform Commission, where she had the opportunity to read the "Manifesto of the Bauhaus" written by Walter Gropius. This manifesto was the reason for Gunta to visit Weimar and would like to finally join the Bauhaus as a student. In 1919 she made the preliminary course of the Weimar Bauhaus by Johannes Itten and in 1920 she entered the German school, where she studied for six years. Stölzl trained in the weaving workshop with Georg Muche and attended classes taught by Johannes Itten and Paul Klee.

In 1924, Johannes Itten took Gunta to Zurich to reorganize the structure of the Ontos textile workshops. In 1925, the Bauhaus in Weimar moved to Dessau, and it was at that time that Stölzl became a teacher of the textile workshop thanks to the fact that some groups of students caused her to rise by acclaiming her as a leader. In 1927 she assumed the direction of the section of fabrics without having any teaching experience, with the help of Kart Wanke enhancing only the practical side.

In the new Bauhaus of Dessau, architecture was the most important discipline of the school, so the fabrics had to adapt to the contemporary constuctive style and were used as decoration for the architectural space. For this reason, in this period, the artisan pieces were scarce.

Gunta Stölzl lost her job at the Bauhaus in a similar way as she won it. A group of dissatisfied students with Gunta Stölzl after the separation of the marriage with the Jewish architect Arieh Sharon, supported by teachers sympathetic to the right, launched a campaign against her. Finally, the then director of the school, Mies Van der Rohe, requested his resignation.

In 1931, she moved to Switzerland. In Zurich she teamed up with two former students of the Bauhaus school, Gertrud Preiswerk and Heinrich-Otto Hürlimann, and opened a small craft workshop, S-P-H-Stoffe, which was soon abandoned due to financial problems. Despite the economic and political situation that was at that time so hard, Stölzl managed to carry out a small workshop, S-H-Stoffe until 1937. In that same year, she was awarded the Diplôme Commémoratif of the World Exhibition in Paris. In addition, she participated in several exhibitions and trade fairs, making fabrics for furniture and carpets for different companies and worked for Germanische National Museum in Nuremberg and some architects like Hans Fishli, for whose buildings he made tapestries. During the seventies, she devoted himself solely to the production of Gobelins, which led to an internal fame. Her works are shown in several major museums such as the MoMA in New York or the Victoria and Albert in London.

Gunta Stölzl died in Küsnacht, Zurich, in 1983 with 86 years.
JUNG METALOCUS

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