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Image based on the ‘Hertfordshire Primary Schools Group', 1952, Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections
Talks and lectures

Pioneering Modernist Women, in sisterhood with Part W

RIBA joins forces with the cross-disciplinary campaign group Part W, to highlight and celebrate the work of overlooked female designers of the Modernist movement in Britain.

As part of our season of events related to RIBA’s current Beyond Bauhaus exhibition, we are partnering with the campaign group Part W. This is to demonstrate the pioneering role that a number of key female architects played in the history of modern British architecture.

Taking the RIBA exhibition as a starting point, the event will use short presentations to highlight the stories of six key women: Elizabeth Denby, Margaret Justin Blanco White, Mary Crowley (Medd), Norah Aiton and Betty Scott, and Sadie Speight.

These will be delivered by a diverse panel of inspirational women working today, who will share their knowledge on these modernist pioneers and reflect on what we can learn from them. Contributors to the event include Abigail Patel, Claire Bennie, Elizabeth Darling, Lynne Walker, Stephanie Edwards, Yasmin Shariff and Yemi Aladerun.

The event has been curated in partnership with Part W and in sisterhood with their ‘Alternative Campaign’. This crowd-sourced list celebrates women who have consistently been overlooked and unrepresented in architecture. This resulted in over a hundred nominations for women who have made incredible contributions to the built environment over the past 171 years.

The event will begin with a champagne reception from 6.30pm, kindly supported by Taittinger.

Elizabeth Denby

Denby (1893-1965) was an enthusiastic committee member of the MARS Group despite having no formal architectural training. She had learnt of the practical problem and social implications of inferior housing through her work at the Kensington Housing Association, and championed the participation of tenants in the design process throughout her career.

Aiton & Scott

Norah Aiton (1903 – 88) and Betty Scott (1904 – 83) met at the Architectural Association in 1929 and became one of the first practices of women architects in Britain. Influenced by the Dutch design school 'de Stijl', their approach considered modernism as a more stylistic concern. They completed a number of commissions, including a print works and private houses.

Sadie Speight

Speight (1906 – 92) met Leslie Martin (1908-2000) while studying architecture at Manchester University and worked together during the 1930s. Speight became an associate member of the Design Research Unit, the first interdisciplinary design agency in Britain.

Mary Crowley (Medd)

Crowley (1907-2005) trained at the Architectural Association and was influenced by Scandinavian architecture in her formative years. Her impact on school design and planning in Britain was significant, maintaining always the central idea of child-centred education. She was awarded the OBE in 1963.

Margaret Justin Blanco White

Blanco White (1911 – 2001) completed a small number of private housing projects during the 1930s following her graduation from the AA. She worked in Middlesbrough during the war as consultant on plans for the city’s redevelopment before moving to the Scottish Department of Health to research new housing types and building methods.