Skip to main content

While CAC docents, staff members and volunteers practice safe spatial distancing, we’re busy listening to, viewing, and reading various media to rediscover why design matters. This week we’re highlighting women of color in architecture.

by Hallie Rosen

When we think of women architects today, we may think first how few there are. Due to tokenism in the industry, we may think second of either sculptural skyscrapers or massive, futuristic civic projects. But there are many female architects leading projects around the globe that are innovative and unique in their ideas, and that address overlooked or pressing issues.

Below, we highlight just a few women architects—with a special focus on women of color—and their contributions to the field. We encourage readers to explore further and share some of their favorite women-led designs on social media. Be sure to tag us @chiarchitecture.

On the subject, check out this article from Women’s History Month 2019 about four very important, but lesser-known women trailblazers in the field. And be sure to register for these upcoming virtual tours on CAC Live in July: Women in Architecture Tour and Women of Influence Graceland Cemetery Tour.



Liz Ogbu, who trained as an architect at the Harvard School of Design, sees herself as a “designer, social innovator and urbanist.” She is an expert in sustainable design and has a long history of working on and advocating for issues of social and spatial justice—the idea that the space we live in has consequences for all areas of our lives. In this TED Talk, Ogbu proposes a new understanding of gentrification.



Mabel O. Wilson is an architect, designer and scholar. She is currently the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor of Architecture at the Columbia School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). The author of several books, including “Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” her academic career has widely enriched architecture’s scholarly narrative with a cross-disciplinary focus on race in architecture, political spaces and cultural memories of Black America. This interview from late 2019 was part of a series of conversations ArchDaily hosted with experimental architects exploring new forms of practice.



Four Chicago-based architects appear on this list published by Architizer, including two women of color: Chris-Annmarie Spencer and Kimberly Dowdell. Spencer is a principal at Wheeler Kearns Architects who is committed to elevating the next generation with her volunteer work with organizations like Architects in Schools. Dowdell is Director of Business Development at HOK Architects and the 2019−20 National President of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). View our May 2020 panel discussion including Dowdell on the CAC’s YouTube channel.