As Women’s History Month ended, Curbed Philly had sought out so many female-owned, Philly-based architectural and landscape architectural firms. From rising designers to big names who continue to leave their mark locally and beyond, these women all play leading roles in their respective businesses. We hope this is by no means an exhaustive list, so share more female-led design companies that we might have missed.
Did we miss a women-owned architecture or landscape architecture company? If so, please comment below with your recommendations and we’ll add it to the list.
This architectural firm has existed since its founding in 1983 in Princeton. Now, with another office in Philadelphia, 45 percent of its certified technical staff are women and a woman makes up the majority of the office staff. In fact, over 50 percent of the business is owned by women, who lead many educational and business-specific projects. One of the company’s most recent local projects was the Pennovation Center at Grays Ferry, for which they partnered with Hollwich Kushner.
Interior designer Karen Daroff founded Daroff Design Inc. in 1973. Today, she remains President and Chief Designer of the firm, which offers both interior design and architectural services. They’ve worked on everything from residential projects to large offices, including the interiors of the Comcast Tower.
From its inception, Olin has made a name for itself under the direction of renowned landscape architect Laurie Olin, who led the redesign of the Independence Mall, the Washington Monument grounds, Battery Park and the Barnes Foundation. These days, however, the company has entered a new era under the leadership of CEO Lucinda Sanders, who is behind major projects like the 30th Street Station District Plan.
This interior design and architecture firm has been around for decades and just celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016. The president of the sustainability-focused company is Rosemary Espanol, who has led projects such as home renovations. Aramark and PECO headquarters.
Voith & Mactavish Architects
Daniela Holt Voith is one of the main founders of this design firm, which offers architectural, preservation, landscaping and interior services and was founded in 1988. Voith’s work focuses on planning and design for educational institutions, and includes the St. Andrew’s Complex in Delaware (where Circle of Missing Poets was filmed). In a 2014 interview with Philly.com, she said she broke the glass ceiling playing basketball games in college. “You do that and you come to understand the mentality of a guy in competitive and teamwork situations. ”
Ramla Benaïssa Architects
Ramla Benaissa is the founder of her small business of the same name, which has to her credit interesting projects based on competition in Philadelphia and beyond. The firm is the first to point out that it does not adhere to a certain aesthetic. Its mission statement reads: “Rather than a recognizable aesthetic program, we maintain a strong commitment to anchoring each project in its program, site, historical and cultural context. “
CDA & I Architecture and Interiors
Cecelia Denegre founded CDA & I in 1992 as an interior design and architecture agency. Interestingly, however, architecture was not her first choice: she first studied psychology and fine arts in college. Today she runs the CDA & I with the director and her husband Joseph Denegre, overseeing the educational, residential and office projects of the small studio. Much of their work can be found on the Penn campus as well as scattered throughout the Philadelphia area.
This women-owned architecture-landscape-landscaping business is run by Danielle DiLeo Kim (architect) and Sylvia Palms (landscape architect). They take their women-run business to heart: At the same time as they founded Locus, they also created Philly Girls Do Good, a passionate project that brings together local women involved in design and community development. Their biggest project to date is the 10-acre Bridesburg Park construction master plan along the Delaware River.
After eight years working for James Corner Field Operations in New York City, landscape architect and urban planner Megan Born joined Port as a full partner in October 2016. Born, whose previous work includes the High Line and the Seattle Central Waterfront’s master plan and design, joined Port founders Christopher Marcinkoski and Andrew Moddrell in their Philly office as the only registered landscape architect. She currently runs the Quarry Lake project in Knoxville.
Salt design studio
Salt was founded by landscape architect Sara Schuh, who has played a leading role in the design of a number of local parks, schoolyards, and master plans across Philadelphia. Most recently, Salt’s design of the Lea Elementary School playground in West Philly won the 2016 GSI Award for Public Projects. It includes 3,000 perennials, 35 shrubs, 19 trees and 5,500 square feet of porous pavers.
Viridian landscape studio
Since the retirement of its co-founder Rolf Sauer, landscape architect Tavis Dockwiller has been leading the exhibition at the Viridian Landscape Studio. In his own words, Dockwiller says, “Viridian Landscape Studio heals ecological systems while creating beautiful places for people. We are owned by women and have been in business since 1999! She was behind the master plan for the Woodlands and Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo at the Philadelphia Zoo, which opened in 2013.
Landscape architect Anita Toby Lager founded what is today known as Ground Reconsidered with Peta Raabe in 1991. Although Lager recently retired from the practice and the civic design review committee of the city, the company is now owned and managed by Karen M. Skafte and Julie A. Buisson. You’ve seen their most recent work at Hawthorne Park, the first iteration of the Porch at 30th Street Station, and the recreation of the Ann Bartram Carr Garden at Bartram Garden.
A trio of women make up Tend Landscape, all playing lead roles. Julie Snell, Linda Walczak and Lisa McDonald Hanes act as landscape architects, horticultural consultants, while often leading the community engagement process when it comes to public spaces. One of their most recent projects was the redesign of the John H. Taggart School campus, which brought stormwater management, an outdoor theater and gardens to the schoolyard.
Meadow on the roofs
This landscape architecture and civil engineering firm has been in existence for two decades and is now headed by President Melissa Muroff and Director of Design Laura Hansplant. Perhaps one of Roofmeadow’s most recognizable projects in Philadelphia is Cira Green, the city’s very first rooftop public park that opened in late 2016. Fun fact: although these are the views downtown areas that really impress, under the cobblestones of the park is a “which holds 20,000 gallons of rainwater.”
Purdy O’Gwynn, Inc.
Purdy O’Gwynn is a small architectural firm founded by Linda O’Gwynn in 1994. Although the team consisted only of O’Gwynn, Tom Purdy and two others, the duo worked on recognizable projects in the area, including the Chemical The Heritage Foundation’s headquarters in Old Town, as well as residences across Philly and the Main Line.
Continuum Architecture + Design
Judy Robinson runs the vessel at Continuum as the principal and owner. The company, which was founded in 2005, has initiated many mixed-use, residential and adaptive reuse projects around Philadelphia, including a number of well-known projects in Fishtown and Kensington: the Ice House development. , La Colombe and the ongoing adaptive reuse project of St. Laurentius Church.
Formerly known as Schade and Bolender Architects, Bolender Architects is now managed by Kiki Bolender, owner and principal designer. Women Business Enterprise has a number of interesting residential, institutional and commercial projects to its credit, including Dock Street Brewery on Baltimore Avenue. Outside of Philly, SBA has also played a significant role in the restoration of Asbury Boardwalk.
Cigale Architecture / Planning, Inc.
Architect Mary Holland founded Cicada in 1995, and today women make up 60 percent of the company’s professional workforce. In addition to working on projects for cultural institutions like the Pennypack Sustainable Environmental Center, Cicada has designed a number of affordable housing and residential home developments throughout the city.
Impossible to conceive
Gabrielle Canno is the founder and partner of Canno Design, which has undertaken a number of interesting mixed-use and single-family residential projects around Philly. She led the design of the recently completed Fairmount 1720, and Canno also counts the smaller but very luxurious 3rd Street Estates among her favorites.
Behind this one-person architecture / interior design / planning firm is Janice Woodcock, former president of AIA Philadelphia and executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. More recently, Woodcock Design was the architect of the new Fillmore in Fishtown, but some of his smaller projects are also noteworthy, like the restoration of the building at the 13th and in Sansom, where we like to refer to ‘the one with whom the fire escape epic.
Interface Studio Architects (ISA)
Deb Katz is no stranger to the Philly-based architecture firm, Interface Studio Architects. But it wasn’t until last year that she returned to ISA as a director after a few years of working in Boston. Today she heads the company’s Cambridge office, but her previous work in Philadelphia involved founding projects like the Granary, which envisioned turning the city’s old grain elevators into a 12-story mixed-use development. and 100 apartments.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated from a previous version.