We’ve rounded up some of the standout female minds whose designs played a hand in shaping mid-century architecture.
Mid-century Modern design has remained prominent in contemporary life despite three-quarters of a century of additional styles making their way into the architectural vernacular. For most of human history, men have dominated the field of architecture, but as more women architects came onto the scene, a number of them played a role in shaping the mid-century Modern landscape.
When most think of mid-century Modern woman architects, Ray Eames tends to come to mind—a Northern California native, she and her husband Charles Eames need little introduction, for their contributions to the fields of architecture and furniture design were profound in their longevity. But beyond the work of Ray Eames, other women architects played influential roles in the history of MCM design. Here, we’ve spotlighted four female architects who have helped shape Seattle’s built environment, and whose legacies as pioneers in the sector of design have impacted the careers of many aspiring young professionals today.
Mary Lund Davis (1922 – 2008)
Mary Lund Davis was born in 1922 in Sacramento, California. In 1945, she graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, having spent time as an intern at the architectural firms of Chiarelli & Kirk, Moore & Massar and Thomas, Grainger & Thomas, all of which influenced her appreciation for modernist design. Notably, Davis was the first female architect in Washington state to become licensed after WWII, receiving her license in 1946.
Davis’s career spanned both residential and commercial design, with such standout projects as the award-winning Tacoma Millwork Supply company office (1962); the James Reynolds house in Lakewood (ca. 1958); her own home in Fircrest, Washington (1954), a modest 800-square-foot dwelling called the “Fantastic Model Home” which received the 1966 AIA-Sunset Western Home Award; and an impressive hexagon-shaped lakefront house on Wollochet Bay outside of Gig Harbor (1970).
L. Jane Hastings (1928 – )
L. Jane Hastings is a stalwart designer of the midcentury, having started her career studies in the mid-1940s before becoming one of the first women to be licensed as an architect in Washington State. Hastings graduated from the University of Washington School of Architecture program with honors in 1952—the only female in her class of 200. Seven years later, Hastings was named principal of Washington’s oldest women-owned architecture firm, and became an influential member of the International Union of Women Architects in its foundational years. Hastings became the first woman president of the Seattle Chapter of the AIA, in 1975 and by 1992 was named the first woman Chancellor of the AIA’s prestigious national honorary society, the College of Fellows.
In the mid-1970s, Hastings founded her own firm, The Hastings Group, which has produced more than 500 residential projects as well as churches, small commercial projects, university buildings and airport structures. In addition to her architectural work, Hastings was a part-time instructor at Seattle Community College until 1980, and also lectured in design studios at the University of Washington. In 2002, Hastings retired and today lives in Seattle.
Audrey Van Horne (1924 – )
Audrey Van Horne began School of Architecture at the University of Michigan before transferring to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she completed her master’s degree in architecture. After graduating, she and John Van Horne began working for New York–based architecture firm Nemeny & Geller, the start of her 50-year career in design.
In 1947, the duo married, embarking together into a rich future that would be populated by the creative frontiers of design, painting and photography. A year after marrying, the couple moved to Seattle, and in 1956, Audrey joined the architecture firm that John had founded five years earlier. While working at Van Horne & Van Horne Architects, Audrey has been credited with designing residences across the greater Seattle area, including homes on Whidbey Island, Bellevue and Bremerton.
Elizabeth Ayer (1897 – 1987)
Elizabeth Ayer is best known in the Pacific Northwest for being the first female to graduate from the University of Washington’s architecture program in 1921. (Ayer was awarded the university’s Kellogg Prize twice, earning a third place honor in 1920 and the first place award in 1921.)
Her career as an architect started with architect Andrew Willatsen before a year later taking the first step in a longer career working with Seattle architect Edwin Ivey, with whom she designed a number of residential projects. Ayer became a licensed architect in 1930 and is remembered primarily for her affiliation with Ayer and Lamping, Architects and Elizabeth Ayer Associates, Architects.