Raising the Roof: Stunning Homes Designed by Women


Hearst Castle (The Neptune pool at Hearst Castle, the legendary home built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst in San S
Dan Steinberg/The Associated Press

Though Frank Lloyd Wright famously called architecture "the mother art," it might be the one that's been least welcoming to women. When Wright apprentice Eleanor K. Pettersen received a Certificate in Architecture from the American Institute of Architects in 1941, she was a rarity. And nearly two decades later, little had changed. In 1958, women made up only 1 percent of the AIA's registered architects, and by 1988, only 4 percent.

But they've come a long way in the past 25 years, now comprising nearly a quarter of the AIA-recognized architects. Before women even had the right to vote in the U.S., though, they were already making an impact in architecture, despite being mostly unrecognized. At the turn of the 20th century, architect and radical feminist Alice Constance Austin was planning utopian socialist communities with "kitchenless" designs intended to reduce the domestic workload of women. At the other end of the social spectrum, Julia Morgan spent most of the first half of that century designing and overseeing the construction of one of the most magnificent private homes in America, the Hearst Castle (its Neptune Pool is pictured above) in San Simeon, Calif.

Along with their growing numbers, some see more acceptance of women in the past few decades. "I constantly had to be on guard with contractors (and to a much less extent -- clients) to make sure they took my office seriously and implemented all my directions," New York City residential architect Julie Kalberer told AOL Real Estate.

"As I have been in the business now for 28 years, and have raised a family in the meantime, these problems no longer exist for me," Kalberer, the co-owner of Turino Kalberer Architects, added. "Part of that is the confidence and credibility that long-term experience gives, and part of it is also the fact that the older contractors who were more typically in business when I was younger are now retired and have been replaced by a breed of contractors who have been brought up with educated, professional women."

In honor of International Day of the Girl Child, AOL Real Estate spoke with several American women architects across the country -- with an emphasis on those who design homes -- to see what inspires them, as well as what still challenges them. Some argue that when it comes to designing homes, women architects might even have an edge over their male colleagues. But that doesn't mean that girls aspiring to emulate them will necessarily have an easy time.

"Architecture is absolutely a male-dominated field," warns one of them, who adds, "If you know how to stand up for yourself, stand your ground, and not be pushed around by anyone, you'll do great." See the slideshow below for examples of their work and more of their insights.


In sharing this story and others we hope you are inspired to Raise Your Hand for girls' education, helping us spread the word on this crucial effort.

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