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Skyscrapers: 8 Inspiring projects designed by Women

By Oluwadara Bobade & Selin Mehmed.

Be Inspired by a few women who have boldly designed skyscraper projects globally.

You'll likely be thinking 'What is a Skyscraper?', you're probable already familiar with them as it's hard to not notice them within your city! Simply put - A skyscraper is a tall continuously habitable building having multiple floors.

The tallest Skyscraper in the world designed by a woman is called ‘St Regis’ (bet you didn’t know that!). Since the birth of skyscrapers in 1885, skyscrapers are found in almost every city in the world and some women have built impeccable and complex skyscrapers.

Whether you’re an aspiring or current Engineer, Architect or Site Manager, here's our list of some beautiful skyscrapers designed by women for you to be inspired by:

1. The Aqua Tower - Jeanne Gang & Studio Gang Chicago, Illinois.

As a talented Architect, Jeanne Gang alongside her team at Studio Gang designed The Aqua Tower which is a great example of beautiful design. The Aqua Tower was completed in 2009 and has 82 floors in total! The exterior of the building was inspired by nature and has been imagined as a vertical landscape made up of hills, valleys and pools.

The façade itself uses the shape of a stone as a strategy to even extend the views and maximise solar shading! "We are not afraid to think about other elements of architecture, such as the issues affecting our cities, climate change, inequality, that our practice should be more diverse…" The building accommodates 215 hotel rooms, 5,100 square metre rental & office spaces, 739 residential units, 6 level underground car park, terraces and one of the largest green roofs.

Jeanne is also a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is very strict when it comes to respecting the work of women and their opinions. "I have no idea why our profession decided to leave out half the talent when it comes to making tall buildings. I think there is a benefit in having a diverse approach to construction. I'm interested in doing social skyscrapers, bringing people closer to the outside with balconies, creating communication... It's something I've brought to the table because I have a fresh vision."

She works in the integration of people and constructions, creating comfortable spaces for minorities. More skyscrapers designed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang include St Regis (365m) mentioned in our introduction, One Hundred above the Park (117m), MIRA(129m), 40 Tenth Avenue(58m) and so many others.

2. The Trump Towers - Ar Sonali Rastogi & Morphogenesis Gurugram, North India

The Trump Towers is a residential skyscraper that is set to be the tallest twin towers in Gurugram! The building has not been completed, however It is designed by Ar Sonali Rostagi (alongside Manit Rastogi).

“In those days, it was extremely acceptable for a woman to start her interior design practice, but not so much when it came to architecture and construction. That is why we have consciously made efforts since the beginning to have more than 50 per cent women in Morphogenesis. And I feel since Morphogenesis is one of the very few firms in India working across typologies, it has helped increase acceptability of women in architecture where we make sure all teams—whether they are working on a commercial building, a boutique hotel or an industrial project—have more than 50 per cent women.”

The building's external features hope to redefine the luxury housing typology in India by infusing the essence of bungalow living into a vertical format. The site determined the building's form and design morphology. As shown, the rectilinear form of the building is broken down into 2 tower blocks, which are further articulated to create a six-tower form. The internal design of the building conveys panoramic views of the city, double heighted free-flowing spaces and pravit lift lobbies.

”There are fewer women in leadership positions because our work protocols are entirely designed around a man— they are just not flexible or sensitive to the life cycle of a woman.”

3. The Leonardo - Malika Walele & Co-Arc International Architects Johannesburg, South Africa

The Leonardo is the third tallest building in Africa and it was designed by South African woman Malika Walele alongside her team at Co-Arc International Architects. It was completed in April 2019 and has 55 floors including 3 floor penthouse apartments, 11 floors for commercial office and 232 Luxury Apartments.

The Leonardo has street level shops with an above ground podium where a swimming pool, restaurant and several other facilities are located. For Walele, the Co-Arc team "is proof that women can change cities and create buildings that will be the tallest in Africa."

Alongside being an Architect, Malika Walele works as an in-house photographer for the company. 9 out of 11 members of the team that designed The Leonardo were women! "The thought of an all-woman architect team doesn't sound ground-breaking until you consider only 21% of South Africa’s registered architectural professionals are women, according to the SA Institute of Architects in the Eastern Cape."

4. Montevideo - Francine Houben & Mecanoo Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Montevideo is a 43 story residential building completed in 2005. At the time of completion, Montevideo was the highest residential building in the Netherlands. The building is a composition of interlocking volumes and the structure is hybrid featuring American style steel, typical Dutch concrete structure and a steel structure top. The balconies, loggias are arranged in rhythmic patterns.

"Architecture must appeal to all the senses. Architecture is never a purely intellectual, conceptual, or visual game alone. Architecture is about combining the individual elements into a single concept. What counts in the end is the arrangement of form and emotion."

Тhe letter ‘M’ on the top of the building is a 8m by 8m giant weathervane , representing Rotterdam’s maritime tradition, the River Maas, and the building’s name!

The Montevideo building Internal design features include diversity in the floor heights and floor plans. It has 192 apartment units, 6,050 square metres of office space and 1,933 square metres of retail space.

Francine Houben is also known for the design of libraries including the famous Library of Birmingham60m(200ft).

”The future is looking toward basic values. I think also with the coronavirus crisis, you can see the needs of people, they’re very simple needs that we as architects and urbanists can provide in the public space- walkable cities, bikeable cities, being connected to the food, connected to each other and creating community”.

5. Leeza SOHO - Zaha Hadid & Zaha Hadid Architects Beijing, China

Leeza SOHO is a 46 (+4 underground) story office tower completed in 2019. The building is a mix of shops and offices. It is the third skyscraper of the SOHO buildings developed by SOHO China. The building is also called Li Ze Tower. The late Zaha Hadid - founder of Zaha Hadid Architects - designed Leeza SOHO.

“There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”

The building is positioned on a site adjacent to the business district’s rail station. The design is very strategic as elements such as glass panels on the façade are angled to aid ventilation. The tower is fitted with heat recovery from exhaust air and high-efficiency pumps to maintain an indoor climate and it also seats water-collection facilities, grey water flushing and an insulating green roof with photovoltaic panels! (cool right??).

The building is also divided in 2 halves, containing convex openings either side of the tower to allow natural light into the interiors and provide vows over the city from each floor. The 2 halves are connected by elevated walkways projecting across the void from four different levels, while externally connected by a glass curtain façade.

Zaha Hadid, also known as the Queen of Curve is the most famous female architect. Zaha Hadid has also taught in different schools.She adopted painting as a design tool and abstraction as an investigation principle to reinvestigate the aborted and untested experiments of Modernism to unveil new fields of building.

"I used to not like being called a 'woman architect.' I'm an architect, not just a woman architect. The guys used to tap me on the head and say 'you're OK for a girl.' But I see an incredible amount of need from other women for reassurance that it can be done, so I don't mind anymore."

Zaha Hadid has designed many complex skyscrapers: Galaxy SOHO,Wajang SOHO Tower 1,2 and 3, Morpheus,Generali Tower and many more skyscrapers that are listed as few of the tallest skyscrapers designed by women . Zaha Hadid died on 31 March 2016 and her works are still very much relevant.

6. The Emerald - Julia Nagele & Design at Hewitt Architects Seattle, Washington USA

The Emerald was designed by Julia Nagele, Principal and the Director of Design at Hewitt Architects. It is a 40 story mixed use skyscraper with a height of 120m(400ft). The project was constructed in 2017 and completed in 2020. Amongst many features it has two amenity areas (located on the rooftop and on the third floor), a fitness centre, pet spa, yoga studio and outdoor balconies with views of mountains! It also has 262 condominiums and 63 parking spaces.

The building's irregular shape, rooftop amenity spaces, two story glass podiums and materials all echo the natural landscape surrounding the building. The key internal design for The Emerald was dictated by the views, weather and environment.

"It’s clear to me that women are equally as capable, talented and skilled as men to lead design teams."

Julia Nagele is a Designer, Educator and Director of Design at HEWITT Architects - a Seattle based architecture firm. She is also an affiliate professor at the University of Washington in the architecture department.

"... It’s okay to have a path that’s different than people that are maybe doing similar things where they have a different circumstances. And I think ultimately you’ll have a different path and having a longer path than some others. There’s nothing wrong with that at all…"

7. Kilbourn Tower - Grace La & LADALLMAN Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA

Kilbourn Tower is a 33 floors residential building with luxury condominiums that is 120m(380ft) high. The project was designed by Grace La, Principal at LADALLMAN and was completed in 2005.

The building incorporates various geometries of the site through gentle angling of the primary prismatic volume and crystalline massing expressing a spiralling progression upwards per floor. The Key internal design features an interlocking plan and core configuration maximising light and view for each unit.

Grace La is also a Professor of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, She co-founded the company LADALLMAN with James Dallman.

8. Equitable Building - Natalie de Blois & Skidmore, Owings and Merrill(SOM)

Chicago, Illinois, USA

The Equitable Building (now called 401 North Michigan) is a 35 story office tower completed in 1965. It was designed by the late Natalie de Blois - Former Partner of Skidmore,Owings and Merrrill (SOM).

"Drawing was something that I liked to do and so I’m sure it had a great deal to do with him possibly putting it in my head. But also I liked buildings, houses, and plans. In junior high, girls studied sewing and cooking, while boys took shop or mechanical drawing. My father went to the principal and insisted that I be allowed to take mechanical drawing. And so I did, with all the boys"

The Building has a box shape design in international style, large columns, spandrel beams and large windows on all 4 sides of the building. Although it's a successful office tower, the building no longer maintains offices and now accommodates a flagship store for Apple.

Natalie de Blois entered the field of architecture in the 1900s and she was one of the earliest prominent women in the profession. She also taught architecture at the University of Texas in the 1980s and 1900s. She died on July 22 2013.

"Well, I think probably, it’s in being an architect who actually worked on buildings, and as a mentor for other women. I think that’s the biggest contribution I’ve made."

Instagram: @GirlsUnderConstruction

Check out our website below to find out What construction is, the various roles involved!


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