collage_women_social_designIf there’s one thing we can learn from International Women’s Day which took place last week on March 8th, it’s that we shouldn’t limit our celebration of women to one day a year. Still, on that day, we thought it fitting to note that in a field dominated by men (architecture), our master program consistently attracts predominantly female students year after year, most of them architects. Whether that is specifically due to the social and humanitarian focus of our program, we’re not sure; all of our students, both men and women, gravitate toward our program because of it. What’s certain is that they are poised to join the already large number of female architects and planners out there committed to the social causes that their practice has the potential to address. Here are just a few of them.

1. Ananya Roy

Born in Calcutta, Roy was trained as an urban planner and is a scholar of international development and global urbanism.  She focuses on urban poverty and transformations in the Global South and promotes participatory planning and collective social movements to contest inequality.

2. Anna Heringer


Heringer is a German architect known for her use of traditional building techniques and materials like mud and bamboo to build facilities like the Handmade School with rural communities in developing countries.

3. Anne LacatonAnne_Lacaton

Lacaton is cofounder of Lacaton & Vassal, a Paris-based architectural studio that advocates against demolition and for the transformation of social housing to counter the displacement of vulnerable communities by gentrification, grounding their practice in sustainable principles such as readaptation and reuse. Listen to their Social Design Insights interview here.

4. Anupama KundooAnupama-Kundoo-credit-Marta-San-Vicente

Born in Pune, India, Kundoo made her mark in the visionary spiritual city of Auroville, India where she developed her low-cost, low-impact approach to architecture through the use of waste materials and vernacular techniques as solutions toward affordability of construction and sustainability.

5. Chelina OdbertChelina_Odbert

Odbert is co-founder of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a non-profit design practice that partners with low income communities in both developed and developing contexts to improve physical, economic, and social quality of life through low-cost design interventions.

6. Clara IrazabalClara_Irazabal_1

Caracas-born Irazábal is a go-to reference for her planning research in Latinx communities and the informal city, which is motivated by her concern for understanding social justice struggles as displayed in the transformation of urban space. We’re proud to call her a long-standing member of our visiting faculty.

7. Ermínia Maricato

A Brazilian urbanist and influential writer on the urban struggles of Brazilian cities, Maricato led São Paulo’s Housing and Urban Development department between 1989 and 2002 and more recently served as the advisor for the United Nation’s Habitat human settlements program. She was also the founder of the Laboratory for Housing and Human Settlements at the University of São Paulo.

8. Fonna Forman

Also a professor of our program, Forman applies her expertise as a political theorist to issues of equitable urban development. She is the Founding Director of the Center on Global Justice at the University of California, San Diego and works closely with Teddy Cruz in reshaping urban policies that benefit marginalized communities on the San Diego-Tijuana border.

9. Hollmén Reuter Sandman Architects

This Finnish trio started their collaboration in 1995 with the Women’s Centre project in Senegal. Today, their activities span from interiors to urban planning in Finland as well as with vulnerable communities (especially among women and victims of domestic violence), including projects such as the Shelter House.

10. Isabelle AnguelovskiIsabelle_Anguelovski

A social scientist with PhD in Urban Studies and Planning from MIT, Anguelovski is an expert in environmental justice, and through her research examines how environmental policies and revitalization efforts in cities affects low-income and minority neighborhoods in the Global North and South. She is a member of our faculty and directs the BCNUEJ research lab founded in partnership with ICTA-UAB.

11. Julia KingJulia_King

Based in London and New Delhi, this young Venezuelan-British architect and urban researcher specialized in sanitation systems designed a sewer for 322 low-income houses in New Delhi, and is regenerating the Taj East drain, which runs through slums near the Taj Mahal.

12. Maggie Stephenson

Maggie Stephenson is an architect and planner who has been working in the development and crisis recovery fields for over 20 years and is now based in University College London. It is worth reading her critiques of past reconstruction efforts such as in Pakistan and Haiti. She also  joined our faculty as a guest professor this year.

13. Marie AquilinoMarie Aquilino

Marie specializes in contemporary urban redevelopment, post-disaster reconstruction, risk mitigation and recovery. She is co-author of Beyond Shelter: Architecture and Human Dignity and author of the free ebook Abiding Architecture, which documents her experience working in post-earthquake Haiti. Marie has participated in our program as a guest lecturer and guest jury member.

14. Marwa Al-SabouniMarwa_al_Sabouni

Syrian architect Marwa Al-Sabouni watched her hometown of Homs be torn apart by war over the last seven years. Through her memoir, writings for global magazines and newspapers, and a TED talk (link in her name), Al-Sabouni has become an outspoken advocate of rebuilding her battered city.

15. Mona KhechenMona_Khechen

Mona Khechen is a Lebanese urban planning and development expert with extensive experience in developing and post-conflict country contexts, working mainly on cultural heritage, urban policy-oriented research, and strategic planning. She has participated in our program as a guest lecturer on the topic of architecture and war.

16. Paloma StrelitzPaloma_Strelitz_AJ

Strelitz is a member of the Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble know for their community-focused approach to architecture and urban regeneration.

17. Paola Berenstein JacquesPaola_Berenstein_Jacques

A Brazilian architect and professor at the Architecture and Urbanism as well as the Visual Arts graduate programs at the Federal University of Bahia, she has contributed greatly to the development of theory and the study of informal settlements, with writings such as The Aesthetics of the Favela.

18. Patama RoonrakwitPatama_Roonrawkwit

As an activist and architect, Roonrakwit heads Community Architects for Shelter and Environment, a design firm focused on developing housing for Thailand’s poor. She’s worked on more than 40 such development projects across the country and in 2015 was a finalist for the arcVision Prize, a social award for women architects and designers.

19. Raquel RolnikRaquel-Rolnik

Raquel Rolnik is an architect and urban planner with over 30 years experience in planning and urban land management. She is Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo and was appointed second United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.  She is the author of several books and articles on urban and housing issues, including Guerra dos Lugares: A colonização da terra e da moradia na era das finanças.

20. Reena TiwariReena_Tiwari_UIC

A professor of planning and architecture at Curtin University of Technology Perth, Australia, Tiwari’s focus on democratic architecture and development is informed by an ethnographic, collaborative and trans-disciplinary methods, which she employs across diverse community projects in her native India. She is a guest professor of our program.

21. Sheela Patel

Patel is a chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and founding director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC),  a Mumbai-based NGO that has pioneered housing and infrastructure rights for the urban poor for since 1984 and continues to play a major role in the politics of slum development in India and throughout the Third World. SPARC has been a close collaborator of our program, having hosted many of our students during their internships over the years. (Read what our students wrote about it here, here and here.)

22. Sandra d’Urzo

D’Urzo is an architect working in the humanitarian sector, a Senior Officer at the Shelter Programme of the IFRC Secretariat in Geneva.

23. Sharon DavisSharon_Davis_1

The firm she founded in 2007 is based in New York City, but works primarily with communities in places like Nepal and Rwanda on projects that support social justice and women’s rights in particular. 

24. Tatiana BilbaoTatiana_Bilbao

Nominated for the Woman Architect of the Year, Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao is known just as much for designing high-end residences as she is for her concern to house the country’s poorest. She was previously an advisor to Mexico City’s housing department, and has used that experience to develop proposals such as this adaptable low-cost housing solution.

25. Zaida MuxíZaida_Muxi

A frequent collaborator of our program in our local socio-spatial workshops, Argentine urbanist and architect Zaida Muxí is a professor of urbanism at the Barcelona School of Architecture and specializes in the role of gender in urban design. She is the author of La arquitectura de ciudad global (The architecture of a global city, 2004).

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments! See even more wonderful women designers over at Dezeen.

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