5 Women Leading Renowned Architectural Firms in Catalonia
We are going through times of great change and we are all aware of that. The role of women in the field of architecture is becoming more and more relevant and, unlike other times, such as in the 20th century, the female figure is no longer hidden behind the male figure, as happened to Anne Tyng with Louis Kahn or Lilly Reich with Mies van der Rohe, just to mention a few examples.
In Catalonia, many of the young studios are led by women. Their figures and contributions resonate, in terms of the design of built or unbuilt projects, creativity, architectural representation or photography, theory, and teaching, among others.
Below we present the trajectory of some of these professionals and show you some of the projects carried out by their studios.
- Anna Puigjaner and María Charneco
Both are, together with Alfredo Lérida and Guillermo López, founders of the architectural firm MAIO.
MAIO is an architectural practice based in Barcelona and New York, working on spatial systems that allow for variation and change over time. MAIO’s projects embrace the constant transformation of everyday life while providing a resilient, engaged, and clear architectural response. The studio has developed a broad and diverse typology of projects, ranging from furniture and exhibition design to residential buildings and urban spaces.
Anna Puigjaner holds a PhD in architecture. Her research work tries to unveil alternative realities and architecture of resistance from the emergence of the first industrial processes to the current digital revolution. In addition, she focuses on domestic architecture that dismantles gender stereotypes and prejudices, understanding that architecture has played a fundamental role within heteropatriarchal societies in the establishment of social norms and behaviors, and in the definition under the umbrella of a supposed “normality”, of a disciplinary system that is profoundly unequal.
She currently teaches at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation GSAPP – Columbia University. She was editor of the journal Quaderns d’Arquitectura i Urbanisme (2011-2016) and received the 2016 Wheelwright Prize with her research “Kitchenless City”, awarded by the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
María Charneco is an architect and PhD student. She combines research with professional and teaching activities and has been a content consultant in the documentary field, as well as a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is currently writing her doctoral thesis on Josep Lluis Sert and teaches at Elisava, Escola Universitària de Disseny i Enginyeria of Barcelona.
Among the projects built by the MAIO studio, the art gallery they built in Barcelona, on Trafalgar Street, stands out.
This project consists of the transformation of a pre-existing space into an exhibition gallery, which understands the space as a place of memory where all the elements act as reversible and mutable superimpositions in time. Thus, the project is conceived as a process of transformation open over time.
The expressiveness of the space and its identity are presented as a response to the existing regulations and the necessary construction processes.
- Meritxell Inaraja i Genís
This Catalan architect founded her own studio in the main square of Vic in 1995, shortly after graduating in Architecture at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona, Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, in 1994.
For many years she worked in parallel combining personal commissions with joint projects with the architect Jordi Garcés. She worked with him until 2011. An outstanding project they did together was the extension of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.
Her style is characterized by a permanent search for functionality, a deep respect for the environment, and the constant presence of light. Although her new buildings and renovation projects present clear differences, there is a common denominator between them: the research and use of materials linked to the project or the environment, or that simply complement or improve it. In the rehabilitation projects, she always opts for interiors that respect the history of the building but provide contemporary elements that give the space maximum comfort.
Among her projects carried out in Catalonia, the Garraf Regional Historical Archive stands out.
Located on a corner plot in an industrial estate in Vilanova i la Geltrú, the project consists of a building for documenting storage with a small classification and documentation section.
The building consists of four externally opaque modules, aligned and distributed in a repetitive and uniform manner over the entire surface of the plot, whose size responds to the functional and regulatory needs of document repositories, and the free spaces between them are used to create light entrances in the circulation areas, ventilation courtyards and generous spaces for facilities and maintenance.
Laura Bonell, born in 1987, founded the architecture studio Bonell+Dòriga based in Barcelona in 2014, together with Daniel López-Dòriga, where they work on projects at different scales: from small private commissions to public building competitions.
The work of this studio has been the target of several publications in different media, for example, in the Italian magazine Casabella – in its 85th anniversary issue dedicated to emerging architects – or the German magazine Bauwelt, which distinguished the project of the Gallery in the Eixample in its awards for First Works.
In addition to devoting herself to practice, the architect, together with her partner, writes about architecture and public space, and in 2016 they initiated the platform “A Series of Rooms”: an extensive and multidisciplinary study about the spaces of domestic architecture. This work led them to win the Début Prize at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale in 2019.
Among their built projects, the renovation of a house in the Walden-7 building in Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona, designed by the architectural firm Ricardo Bofill, stands out.
Nowadays, the rehabilitation of existing buildings is an essential measure for the sustainable balance of our planet’s resources. This renovation project of one of the 446 apartments of the Walden-7, presents the added value of how to deal with contemporary architectural heritage.
The house consists of 4 modules developed on two levels, on the 12th and 13th floors of the building. The first floor becomes a large open space, the second floor contains the bedrooms. Each of its windows frames fragments of the Walden-7 and the light filters in slightly changing its color depending on the orientation of the windows.
Anna Bach, born in Nummi, Finland, in 1973, is an architect from the Helsinki University of Technology, having graduated in 2001. She then obtained her Master’s degree in Theory and Practice of Architectural Design from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona, UPC, in 2014.
She is currently an assistant professor at the Vertical Workshop at ESARQ UIC, Barcelona, directed by Duncan Lewis, and also a PDI professor of Final Project Workshop at EINA – Centro Universitario de Diseño y Arte de Barcelona, Universitat Autónoma de Bellaterra, Barcelona.
Together with Eugeni Bach, she founded the Anna & Eugeni Bach studio, which operates in a broad spectrum of design, from urban planning and architecture to interior and object design. Her work is based on four branches: professional, teaching, research, and cultural activity. Through innovation and research, the studio tries to find new solutions and alternatives for each project by optimizing both natural and economic resources, working as a team with the end user to ensure the best synthesis of concept, functionality, and beauty.
Anna has been awarded, among others, the FAD International Award, the FAD Ephemeral Work Award and the FAD Opinion Award on four occasions. Her work has also been exhibited in venues such as the Cité de l’Architecture in Paris and the Spanish Pavilion at the XV Venice Biennale.
A recognized project carried out with her studio in Barcelona is the Seven Lives Housing.
The project consists of a small block of three minimal dwellings on a plot between party walls in the old center of the Horta neighborhood and, responding to the urban environment, the studio developed a proposal that belongs to the neighborhood and retains the character of this characteristic area of the city, but with a contemporary language.
Thus, the facade facing the street is made up of elements and proportions that are common in the neighborhood: balconies, shutters, baseboards, stucco, etc.
The small plot only allowed for the development of one 40m2 dwelling per floor, and in response to this shortage of surface area, the proposal was to add value to the dwellings by generating a central space that concentrates stairs, kitchens, and bathrooms. This frees up two exactly equal spaces on both facades, one facing the street and the other the inner courtyard of the block so that the dwellings can be used either in a traditional situation or by inverting these pieces on the opposite facades, or by presenting the opportunity to establish a shared dwelling, as a student apartment, with two symmetrical situations.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we are going through times of big changes in the role of women in architecture and in many other professions. These are just a few examples among many other professional women architects who contribute day by day to the growth of our discipline and to know their contributions are not to be missed.