Women leaving their Mark on Architecture

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Although women are underrepresented in the architectural field, that hasn’t prevented them from having an outsized effect. Many female architects are creating eye-catching, innovative designs and leaving their mark on cityscapes across the world. While excellent female architects from the past may have been overlooked, contemporary female architect are finally being given their due. Zaha Hadid has already been accepted into the canon of architectural saints, and many talented, creative female architects continue to carry the torch. In this feature, Specifier looks at three great projects created by female architects.

21c Museum Hotel Louisville by Deborah Berke

The Victorian facade of the original warehouses is preserved in Burke’s redesign. Image: Deborah Berke Partners

Key Facts:

Architects: Deborah Berke, Stephen Brockman (Project Lead), Terrence Schroeder (Project Manager)
Design Architect and Interior Design: Deborah Berke Partners
Executive Architect: K. Norman Berry Associates Architects
Structural Engineering: Stanley D. Lindsey and Associates

In 2009, Deborah Berke and her team transformed five adjoining warehouses from the 1800s into an innovative fusion of art museum and hotel. The 21c Museum Hotel, located in the historic downtown district of Louisville, USA, combines both a luxury hotel and a contemporary art museum. Berke reimagined the space through the insertion of straightforward, modern additions to tie the five buildings together, such as a five-story atrium cut through the centre of the buildings. These additions complement and contrast the original buildings, and allow dramatic, large-scale contemporary art to be displayed. Conde Nast Traveler named this hotel the best in the USA and sixth best in the world.

The foyer of 21c Museum Hotel is decorated with contemporary art pieces. Image: Deborah Berke Partners

Deborah Berke has been working as an architect since 1982, and in that time she and her firm, Deborah Berke Partners, have made their mark on the world of architecture. In addition to the 21c Museum Hotel, Berke has also designed such inventive projects as the Yale University School of Art and the East End Compound in Bridgehampton, USA. Following on from the original in Louisville, Deborah Berke Partners have designed 21c Museum Hotels in Oklahoma City, Lexington, Durham, Cincinnati, Bentonville and Brooklyn. In 2013, Berke won the inaugural Berkeley-Rupp award, and last year, Berke became the first woman to be dean of the Yale School of Architecture.

David Zwirner Gallery 20th Street by Annabelle Selldorf

The minimalist concrete exterior of Selldorf’s design evokes the industrial history of the area. Image: Jason Schmidt.

Key Facts:

Architect: Annabelle Selldorf, Selldorf Architects
Structural Engineering: DeSimone Consulting Engineers
Sustainable Design Consultant: Atelier Ten
Environmental Engineering: Roux Associates
Terrace Garden Designer: Piet Oudolf
Green Roof Consultant: Goode Green
General Contractor: Eurostruct

Building off their already successful relationship, art dealer David Zwirner commissioned Annabelle Selldorf and Selldorf Architects to design his new gallery in West Chelsea in New York City. Completed in 2013, this innovative building was the first commercial gallery in the USA to achieve LEED certification. The design of this building is an example of Selldorf’s characteristic minimalism, from the exposed concrete facade inspired by the industrial history of the neighbourhood, to the simple, warm teak entrance which contrasts with the cold concrete. The 2800 m2 building contains several large and small exhibition spaces as well as a roof garden.

An exhibition space in David Zwirner’s new gallery. Image: Jason Schmidt.

Originally from Germany, Annabelle Selldorf founded her firm Selldorf Architects in 1988. Selldorf Architects has particular expertise in designing art galleries, working with Hauser & Wirth, Gladstone Gallery, Michael Werner and Acquavella Galleries, as well as David Zwirner. This is only natural given Selldorf’s view of architecture: “Architecture is art … As a matter of fact, it is the mother of all arts.” Selldorf Architects: Portfolio and Projects, a book all about the firm and its work, was published in 2016. Annabelle Selldorf is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Institute of Architects.

Aqua Tower by Jeanne Gang

The undulating terraces of Aqua Tower’s exterior create the illusion of a vertical landscape. Image: Hedrich Blessing.

Key Facts:

Architect: Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang Architects
Architect of Record: James Loewenberg, Loewenberg Architects
Structural Engineering: Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Civil Engineering: IE Consultants
Landscape Architect: Wolff Landscape Architecture
General Contractor: McHugh Construction

It’s hard to believe that Aqua Tower is Jeanne Gang’s first skyscraper. This 82-story building, located in Chicago’s CBD, manages a perfect balance of stunning aesthetics and innovative design. Aqua Tower makes a breathtaking first impression, with its rippling terraces forming an impression of hills, valleys and pools. Under this unforgettable face lies a sophisticated interior. The building, which contains a hotel, offices, rental apartments and condominiums, is LEED certified, and is topped with one of Chicago’s largest green roofs. Since its completion in 2010, Aqua Tower has won multiple awards, including Emporis Skyscraper of the Year in 2009.

Aqua Tower’s extensive terraces offer breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline. Image: Hedrich Blessing.

Before their move into skyscrapers, Jeanne Gang and her firm, Studio Gang Architects, designed many other award-winning buildings, such as the Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre and the Chinese American Service League Kam Liu Center. Following Aqua Tower, Studio Gang have several magnificent skyscrapers in the works, such as Solar Carve Tower in New York, Solstice on the Park in Chicago, and One Hundred in St. Louis, USA. Jeanne Gang has won multiple awards over her career, including the prestigious MacArthur Grant, and was named 2016 Architect of the Year by Architectural Review.

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