On March 8, International Women’s Day, the world takes a moment to honour women and women’s equality. A city known for its architecture, Chicago and its famous skyline boast a number of buildings to be celebrated from pioneering female architects within the male-dominated world of architecture.


The works from the female architects featured below can be viewed at the recently-opened Chicago Architecture Center (one of my fave Chicago discoveries), visited on tours by foot, Segway, bus or viewed from the river on one of Chicago’s famed architecture cruises. 

Aqua at Lakeshore East Apartments
[Aqua Tower]

Aqua at Lakeshore East Apartments

Founder of Studio Gang, an architecture and urban design practice, Jeanne Gang was named one of Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoans of the Year” in 2016.

The practice’s most notable contribution to the Chicago skyline was also its first: Aqua Tower (225 N Columbus Drive). Completed in 2009, the project was the largest ever awarded to a woman-led American architecture firm.

Vista Tower exterior
[Vista Tower exterior]

Other contributions from Studio Gang include Nature Boardwalk at the Lincoln Park Zoo (2121 North Stockton Drive) completed in 2010 and Solstice on the Park (1616 East 56th Street), a residential building in Hyde Park designed to maximize sunlight, completed in 2018.  

The studio’s latest project, Vista Tower (345 E Upper Wacker Drive, #100), is projected to be the third tallest building on the Chicago Skyline. When it opens in 2020, Vista Tower will define a new edge of the city in the Lakeshore East community.

Millennium Park Bike Station

Millennium Park Bicycle Commuter Station

As the Founder and Chief Business Manager of the architecture firm Muller + Muller, Cindy Muller was the primary architect on this project.

Located at the north end of Chicago’s Millennium Park, Muller + Muller’s Millennium Park Bicycle Commuter Station (239 East Randolph Street) utilizes light and greenery to create a welcoming entryway for Chicago cyclists.

Chicago Riverwalk
[Chicago Riverwalk; photo by Kate Joyce Studios]

The Chicago Riverwalk addition

In 1981, Carol Ross Barney founded Ross Barney Architects with the relentless belief that excellent design is a right, not a privilege. Countless locals and tourists alike experience her ethos in practice each day as they walk along the now iconic Chicago Riverwalk.

This 1.5-mile promenade running through the city center has become a must-visit spot with restaurants, cultural activities, public spaces and other amenities open to the public.

McDonald’s Chicago flagship
[McDonald’s Chicago flagship; photo by Hall+Merrick]

Carol Ross Barney’s firm can also boast the distinction of designing McDonald’s new Chicago flagship (600 North Clark Street). The newly renovated space celebrates the pure simplicity and enduring authenticity of McDonald’s, welcoming both residents and visitors to a playful and informal gathering place in the heart of the city.

The site is a full city block, just steps off Michigan Avenue, occupied since 1985 by the iconic “Rock ‘n Roll” McDonald’s that emphasized drive-through services.

The new design re-balances traffic with a focus on pedestrians, creating a city oasis where people can eat, drink and meet.

Equitable Building

Equitable Building

In 1962, architect Natalie Griffin de Blois transferred to the Chicago branch of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill SOM, where she developed a reputation as a pioneer in an industry long dominated by men.

During her career, she founded the Chicago Women in Architecture and designed the Equitable Building (401 North Michigan Avenue) in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, built on the site that was once home to Chicago’s first permanent resident, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable.

Rotunda Building at O’Hare Airport

Rotunda Building at O’Hare Airport

Gertrude Lempp Kerbis’ work on Chicago O’Hare Airport’s Rotunda Building (O’Hare Airport Terminal 3) was unique in its design in the 1960’s, serving as the linchpin between terminals at the then new, state-of-the-art international airport.

She later went on to start her own firm, Lempp Kerbis. In 1967, Kerbis became the first female president of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and was awarded AIA Chicago Chapter’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2008. We’re raising a glass to a lively, fabulous city with a female stamp on some of its architectural marvels!

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.