The field of architecture has long been dominated by traditional narratives and a lack of diversity. However, a new generation of talented black women architects is breaking barriers, reshaping the industry, and leaving an indelible mark on the built environment. Here, we spotlight 10 remarkable black women who are challenging the status quo in the world of architecture and design.
1. Estelle Bailey-Babenzien
Estelle Bailey-Babenzien, a visionary leading her interior architecture and experiential design studio, Dream Awake, is a force to be reckoned with. She seamlessly blends brand development, sensory experiences, and custom furniture and lighting. Drawing inspiration from her Ghanaian heritage, she infuses her designs with the vibrant colors and patterns of African culture.
2. Malene Barnett
Malene Barnett, the founder of the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG), created a platform for black creatives seeking community and creative support. Her journey from studying textile design to transforming African print fabrics is an inspiring testament to her impact on contemporary design. Barnett’s work has not only changed the trajectory of African print fabric but also enriched the world of interior design. She focuses on creating products that honor her artistic background and heritage.
3. Hannah Beachler
Born into a family of architects and interior decorators, *Hannah Beachler* had design in her DNA. Her career as an Academy Award-winning production designer is nothing short of impressive. From bringing sets to life in films like “Moonlight,” “Creed,” and “Black Panther” to adding her touch to Beyoncé’s “LEMONADE” and JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s OTR II Interludes, Beachler’s attention to detail and her ability to turn scripts into immersive experiences set her apart. She’s not only a trailblazer but also a mentor shaping the next generation of designers. Expect to see more of Beachler’s influence on Broadway in the near future.
4. Elizabeth Graziolo
Elizabeth Graziolo discovered her passion for architecture during her first semester at Cooper Union’s architecture program. Her journey led her to work as a junior architect at Cicognani Kalla Architect, where she learned the essence of designing for the real world under the mentorship of Ann Kalla. Her career took her to Peter Pennoyer Architects, where she became a partner and delved into classical architecture and traditional design principles. In 2020, she launched her practice, Yellow House Architects, with a mission to blend contemporary design with traditional principles, all while prioritizing sustainability. Graziolo is currently working on projects like The Benson on the Upper East Side in New York City, making her mark in the world of architecture.
5. Tiara Hughes
Tiara Hughes discovered her love for drawing and architecture in elementary school, setting her on a path to becoming an architect. Her ability to read blueprints at a young age was uncommon, but it shaped her dream. After completing her master’s degree in architecture, Hughes wanted to be part of a diverse community in Chicago. Yet, she realized the lack of resources and networks for Black women in the industry. In response, she founded First500, a global platform that aims to promote equity and inclusivity in architecture. Hughes is committed to making the industry more equitable and diverse for future generations.
6. Mariam Kamara
Mariam Kamara, an AD100 architect, found her passion for architecture while growing up in Agadez, Niger. The centuries-old architecture of her surroundings deeply influenced her. After a career in software development, she decided to study architecture, driven by her belief in the power of architecture to influence our environment and our sense of self. In 2014, she established Atelier Masōmī in Niger’s capital, Niamey. Kamara’s firm focuses on community-minded projects with ecological solutions, emphasizing architecture as a tool for positive change.
7. Shannon Maldonado
Shannon Maldonado’s journey into design began with her mother’s creativity, igniting a lifelong passion. After nearly a decade as a designer, she left her job at American Eagle Outfitters to realize her dream. In 2016, Yowie was born, offering a unique vision. Maldonado has not only opened a successful brick-and-mortar store but also ventured into interior design, leaving an indelible mark on design projects. Her upcoming project involves expanding Yowie into a design-focused hotel, promising to further enrich the world of interiors.
8. Pascale Sablan
Pascale Sablan, known for her ability to draw straight lines freehand, embarked on an architectural career with a strong sense of responsibility to serve the community. Through her dedication, Sablan became a senior associate at Adjaye Associates. She also serves as the historian and northeast regional VP of the National Organization of Minority Architects. As the founder and executive director of Beyond the Build Environment, she strives to address disparities in architecture and promote diversity. Her Great Diverse Designers Library is a testament to her commitment to recognition for marginalized groups, further advancing equity in the industry.
9. Neffi Walker
Neffi Walker’s career as an interior designer began as a form of therapy after becoming a mother and moving to the suburbs. Her Afro-Latina heritage is central to her work, where she incorporates rich cultural elements. The Black Home, Walker’s flagship store in Newark, New Jersey, is a testament to her commitment to preserving the culture of Black cities. With another store on the horizon, she continues to make her mark in design, offering spaces where her community can find a sense of belonging.
10. Sara Zewde
Sara Zewde’s perspective on architecture shifted dramatically after witnessing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She studied urban planning and landscape architecture, eventually establishing her own practice, Studio Zewde, known for its multidisciplinary approach. The firm focuses on crafting enduring spaces where people truly belong. In 2021, they received the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voice award. Zewde’s dedication to fusing design with narratives of place and community makes her an influential figure in the world of architecture and design.
This article was culled from Architectural Digest