International Women’s Day: leading female architects in their own words

International Women’s Day 2022 and Women’s History Month: Wallpaper* talks to four leading female architects about dreams, heroines and navigating the architecture world

 International Women’s Day 2022.
(Image credit: TBC)


To celebrate International Women’s Day, we recall conversations with some of our favourite architects to discuss dream projects, heroines and how to navigate the architecture world. Traversing video games to airports, successes to challenges, we hear about smashing the glass ceiling from Farshid Moussavi, Christina Seilern, Pernilla Ohrstedt and Design, Bitches. These quotes are an inspiration for us on International Women’s Day 2022.

Four leading architects for International Women’s Day

Farshid Moussavi

Moussavi's first museum commission and her first building in the United States

La Folie Divine, residential housing, Montpellier, designed by Farshid Moussavi

(Image credit: Farshid Moussavi)

Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi is principal of London-based Farshid Moussavi Architecture, which was founded in 2011 and has completed MOCA Cleveland (opens in new tab) – Moussavi's first museum commission and her first building in the United States – and the Victoria Beckham Flagship Store (opens in new tab) in London, with upcoming projects including 
the Ismaili Centre Houston. Prior to FMA, Moussavi co-founded Foreign Office Architects (FOA) which headed up projects such as the Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in Japan.

Wallpaper*: Career highlight to date?

Farshid Moussavi: 
Designing something which is twice as large as the QE2 cruise ship.

W*: Dream project?

FM: 
A project where its ambitions are far greater than its means.

W*: Who is your heroine?

FM:
 My mother.

W*: How to navigate the architecture world?

FM: 
Given the unpredictable nature of contemporary reality, it is necessary to research and practice architecture in tandem. In this way, processes of change can be harnessed to shape the future built environment.

Christina Seilern

Gota Dam Residence by Sforza Seilern

Gota Dam Residence by Sforza Seilern, an artistic collaboration between Muzia Sforza and Studio Seilern Architects, Angela Geddes

(Image credit: Angela Geddes)

Christina Seilern founded Studio Seilern Architects in 2006 and since then has built up a broad portfolio of work spanning typologies and geographies. The London-based practice has recently completed projects such as the Wellington College Performing Arts Centre (opens in new tab). Seilern worked as founding and design director of Rafael Viñoly Architects London before setting up her own practice.

Wallpaper*: Career highlight to date?

Christina Seilern: 
Every project seems to become a career highlight.  But I would say that my first project Gota Dam in Zimbabwe will always hold a special place in my heart. The clients became dear friends through the process and the project still takes my breath away. The site is spectacular. 

W*: Dream project?

CS: 
I have always wanted to do an airport.

W*: Who is your heroine?

CS: 
Jeanne d’Arc: Fearless and a risk taker. She ignored all conventions.

W*: How to navigate the architecture world?

CS: 
With a lot of humour. It is a very demanding job that requires a lot of focus and a thick skin. I try to make it fun...

Pernilla Ohrstedt

Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio's design for the Museum of London design competition

Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio's design for the Museum of London design competition

(Image credit: Pernilla Ohrstedt)

Pernilla Ohrstedt’s London-based architecture and design practice, Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio is known for its work creatively combining the disciplines from architecture, art, design and fashion. With collaborators such as Vitra, Coca-Cola – designing a bright pavilion in collaboration with Asif Khan for the Olympics in London (opens in new tab) – Colette, the Venice Architecture Biennale and Storefront for Art and Architecture. The studio recently received an honourable mention for its proposal for the new Museum of London.

Wallpaper*: Career highlight to date?

Pernilla Ohrstedt: 
Being shortlisted for the Museum of London competition with Lacaton & Vassal (opens in new tab), for which we received a special commendation. Working with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philipe Vassal was a true career highlight. I am hugely inspired by the work that they do – I believe we would have created a spectacular and important project for London.

W*: Dream project?

PO: 
At the moment we are working on an exciting exhibition about video game design for the V&A. These fantastic and increasingly diverse digital worlds will slowly merge with our physical world and will refine the essential qualities of physical space. A dream project would be one that explores this in a public space or building. 

W*: Who is your heroine?

PO: 
Anne Lacaton of course, but also Sejima who makes unbelievable projects become reality – I would love to understand how she makes that happen. And then Lina Bo Bardi who has been a heroine since I first started studying architecture – her projects are still hugely important to me. 

W*: How to navigate the architecture world?

PO: 
We have been fortunate to have worked with some truly inspired clients and collaborators. For the past five years we have been working with Vitra and its CEO Nora Fehlbaum on a series of projects exploring the hugely relevant topic of the future of work. Throughout these years we have developed a series of diverse projects from showrooms, events and publications, continually expanding our list of collaborators. Designer and writer Jonathan Olivares has been working with us on the project from the start and has become a very close friend and creative partner — and this year we are also working with Selgascano, Sevil Peach and Barber Osgerby. These creative relationships are what really matters.

Design, Bitches

The Superba Food Bread in Los Angeles

The Superba Food + Bread in Los Angeles, designed by Design, Bitches, Laure Joliet

(Image credit: Laure Joliet)

Co-founded by Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph in 2010, Design, Bitches is a Los Angeles-based firm that advocates for architecture that is strongly connected to everyday life. Featured in Wallpaper* magazine's Architects' Directory in 2016 (opens in new tab), the young American firm said: ‘Human interaction is key’. The office’s multidisciplinary team have set their sights on expanding their scope, scale and geographic span. Recent projects include Little Octopus in Nashville (opens in new tab), the Counter Culture Training Centre in Silverlake (opens in new tab), Los Angeles and Superba Food+Bread in Venice, Los Angeles.

Wallpaper*: Career highlight to date?

Design, Bitches: 
Receiving the Emerging Practice Award from the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles this year, and having completed over 40 built projects during our first five years in practice.

W*: Dream project?

DB: 
Public park with pavilions and performance spaces

W*: Who is your heroine?

DB: 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

W*: How to navigate the architecture world?

DB: 
Build it!

INFORMATION

farshidmoussavi.com (opens in new tab)

studioseilern.com (opens in new tab)

pernilla-ohrstedt.com (opens in new tab)

designbitches.com (opens in new tab)

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.