6 Women Who Changed the Face of L.A. Architecture

With The Broad, Liz Diller becomes only the latest woman to influence the look of Los Angeles

The Broad is Los Angeles’s most architecturally-significant building to come along in more than a decade. And unlike other standouts like The Getty, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Emerson campus, or the Red Building, The Broad was designed by a woman—Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The Broad suffered through a complicated, long, and litigious design and build process, but in the end, it turned out to be a beautiful feather in Grand Avenue’s cultural cap. The novel honeycomb design is a new icon for Los Angeles, and a welcome contribution from a female architect. While big-ticket architecture largely remains a boy’s club, women have been breaking the glass ceiling of L.A. design for decades. Here are five with especially impressive resumes:

Julia Morgan:
Her most famous work, the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, is 230 miles northwest of City Hall, but Morgan’s vision is easily found in Los Angeles, too. Morgan, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in California, created the scrumptious Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building in 1915 (commissioned by Hearst, naturally). The gorgeous Beaux Arts building opened at Broadway and 11th a century ago and will soon be renovated into restaurants and creative office space.

Mia Lehrer:
Lehrer may be the woman who most defines present- and future-day Los Angeles. The landscape architect has helped the city add to its relatively paltry stock of public space, with iconic, forward-thinking projects like the Annenberg Community Beach House, Vista Hermosa Park, and the Silver Lake Reservoir Pedestrian Path.

Barbara Bestor:
The prolific designer has her hand in residential, retail, and office projects spread throughout the city. Just this summer, her Blackbirds project opened in Echo Park, taking advantage of the city’s small-lots ordinance by replacing five single-family homes with 18 handsome condos that maximize space while adding density gracefully. Bestor was also one of the minds behind the award-winning Culver City offices for Beats by Dre, which are both whimsical and professional; Inc. called it one of the “coolest offices in the world.”

Maya Lin:
This architect’s most famous creation—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—is in Washington, D.C., but Lin’s fingerprints are also on Venice, where she designed a beautiful two-structure home/studio for her art dealer friend Christine Nichols just a stone’s throw from the beach. Cement-colored stucco doesn’t sound inviting, but the finished project is both modern and warm, with redwood softening the grey palette. The work-life space even has room for an urban garden.

Cory Buckner:
This residential architect is a lover of L.A. history. Along with her late husband, Buckner beautifully restored one of the homes in the Crestwood Hills development, which was designed by A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith in the 1940s as a “utopian” Brentwood community. Her love of clean lines and breathtaking views is reflected in work that stretches from Malibu to Beverly Hills.