The architecture profession is one of many that is dominated by males, and has been that way for decades. In 1973, females made up just 1 percent of all licensed architects in the U.S., according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). But that number has grown, and continues to rise: As of 2015, women made up 35 percent of the profession, according to NCARB.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Curbed Philly took a look back at six Philadelphia-based buildings and spaces designed by locally-based female designers between 1890 and the early 2000s, carving a path for future female architects.
Hidden away in Somerton, Mill Rae was designed by Penn graduate Minerva Parker Nichols in 1890 for a leading suffragist Rachel Avery Foster. Nichols had only recently established herself as the first female in the country to practice architecture independently—with no man attached to her firm. In Nichols’ design, she emphasized the importance of light and air, evidenced by the front-and-back porches and large windows found throughout the three-story home. Mill Rae was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places in January 2017.
Elizabeth Fleisher got her start in architecture working for Edward P. Simon. But her biggest claim to fame is designing the Parkway House, a 14-story luxury apartment building on Pennsylvania Avenue. When it was built in 1953, it was became one of the first post-war apartment buildings in the city. It’s a standout, thanks to its modern and angular brick facade and circular bay windows.
Anne Tyng Residence
Visionary architect Anne Tyng, lived in this home on Waverly Street for five decades, during which she became a long-time professional and life-partner of Louis Kahn. While influencing many of Kahn’s significant works, Tyng also transformed this 19th-century corner rowhome into a midcentury modern abode, adding smart space-saving details like built-ins, a Murphy bed, and a compact kitchen. A New York Times article wrote of the home, “Tyng's architectural transformation beautifully displays her expansive ideas writ small.”
Kahn Korman House landscape
Harriet Pattison’s career spans 50 years, and many of her most well-known projects as a landscape architect took place while working for Louis Kahn. One of her most notable local works involved designing the landscape at the Kahn Korman house in nearby Fort Washington in 1971. “Pattison used curves and slopes to create contrast between the land and the house’s geometry,” notes the home’s website. Notably, she created a “ha-ha” moment between the in-ground pool and the home: a dry trench that forms a boundary, but is designed so that “the lawn appears to extend seamlessly from the house to the horizon.”
Franklin Court House
There’s no denying the legacy of Denise Scott Brown, who co-authored the game-changing Learning From Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form with husband Robert Venturi. Her list of works, both in Philly and beyond, appears to be never-ending, and include a mix of writings, master plans, and public spaces, including Franklin Court in Old City. Built in 1978, Scott Brown and Venturi placed the main exhibit area of Ben Franklin’s house underground and designed a steel “ghost” structure to represent the original house. In 2016, Scott Brown received the AIA Gold Medal Award along with her husband, and this year the was awarded the Jane Drew Prize for Women in Architecture. Many would argue that her recent recognitions have been a long overdue.
Schuylkill River Park
Schuylkill River Park continues to grow and change, but landscape architect Margie Ruddick and Synterra Partners are behind the master plan that dates back to 2002. Ruddick, who won the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in landscape architecture, said of the project, “We tried to humanize the experience of heavy infrastructure along the waterfront,” meshing the site’s ecology with new places to hang out along the once inaccessible river waterfront. Today, the Schuylkill River is arguably one of the most popular public spaces in the city.
Know of another important work of architecture in Philadelphia by a female designer? Let us know in the comments!
- 5 female architects who left lasting marks in Philly [Curbed Philly]
- Mill Rae, once a retreat for suffragists, earns its place in history [Curbed Philly]