Celebrating Pioneering Women in Architecture, Town Planning and Environment


To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we decided to look back at some of the women who made significant contributions to the world of renewable energy, sustainability and the built environment. From ancient Egypt to modern day, here are some of the women we wanted to highlight for their efforts and innovative work which still affect how we live, work and travel today.

Mary Walton

A nineteenth century American inventor, Mary Walton lived in New York City during the Industrial Revolution, and was a key figure in reducing and managing air and noise pollution. Both of her inventions were awarded patents in 1879 and 1881 respectively.

Concerned about the rising levels of air pollution from city factories, Walton created a system for deflecting emissions from factory smokestacks into water tanks which would then be flushed into the city’s sewage system. Her second invention came about after hearing about Thomas Edison’s failed attempts to reduce the noise pollution from the city’s elevated railway. She discovered that the noise was amplified from the railways’ wooden support boxes and came up with the idea of modifying the interior of the boxes with cotton or linen and filling them with sand to dampen the sound. She famously discovered the source of the issue and came up with her solution by setting up a model railroad track in her basement.

Norma Merrick Sklarek

Norma Merrick Sklarek was the first African-American woman to become a fully licensed Architect in New York (1952) and California (1962).

Despite facing enormous amounts of discrimination throughout out her career, Sklarek designed the United States Embassy in Tokyo in 1976 and Los Angeles International Airport in 1984. In addition, she was also the first black woman to own her own architectural practice alongside Margot Siegel and Katherine Diamond which became the largest woman-owned firm in the 1980’s. After retiring, Sklarek was appointed governor on the California Architects Board and also served as chair on the AIA's National Ethics Council. She became known as the “Rosa Parks of Architecture,” and spent her career fighting for women’s rights in a number of industries.

Margaret Feilman

Born and raised in Australia, Margaret Feilman became the first female cadet for the public works department of Western Australia in 1948, a heavily male-dominated field, before going on to study art and architecture. 

After practising architecture and landscape design, in 1952, Feilman became Perth’s first ever female Town Planner and was the architect who planned the townsite of Kwinana, New Town, which housed 25,000 industry workers. In addition to this, she was the founding member of the Western Australian Town Planning Institute and has played a vital role in securing urban conservation and introduced Heritage Conservation studies into Australian universities. 

Queen Hatshepsut

Looking back to ancient Egypt, Queen Hatshepsut took to the throne circa 1478 BC making her the second historically confirmed female pharaoh. To date, she is considered one of Egypt’s most successful rulers.

Throughout her reign, Queen Hatshepsut had many accomplishments including the first recorded foreign tree transplantation attempt with 31 live myrrh trees. The voyage and transplantation of the trees was recorded on the walls of the Hatshepsut mortuary temple. She also commissioned a large number of construction projects throughout Egypt including the memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, which is considered to be one of the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt and still stands today.

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London Wildlife Trust.

We are proud partners of The London Wildlife Trust, a charity dedicated to protecting the wildlife and wild spaces of London by driving environmental projects throughout the city. Our team often get involved at ground level in Wild Workdays by helping to maintain and restore treasured spaces and land… we love to get our hands dirty! We also run multiple interactive workshops, providing their conservation trainees with invaluable career advice and insights into the environmental sector to prepare them for employment. Most recently, we worked with young people taking part in their Keeping it Wild programme, which engages young people from backgrounds currently under-represented in nature conservation.

Royal Town Planning Institute.

The RTPI represents planning professionals in the UK and Ireland and aims to encourage the development of vibrant and prosperous places and communities. Our Senior Consultant Freddie enthusiastically attends the annual Planning Convention, and we host several events throughout the year to show our support, including drinks networking and a literal pub quiz. We also keep in close contact with our friends down under, at the Planning Institute Australia and New Zealand Planning Institute. In addition, we sponsor the London Planning Summit, an event designed to address the biggest challenges facing the industry. This is our opportunity to stay on top of the latest changes in town planning by meeting with other key professionals in the sector, while celebrating our achievements.

Land Securities Group Plc.

One of our clients, LandSec, are the clever people behind Girls Can Do It Too, an initiative designed to encourage girls to consider a career in construction. Currently, only 11% of the construction workforce are female, and LandSec are attempting to increase this number by providing education and engagement projects and workshops for girls aged 11-13. Featuring workshops on demolition and tower building, as well as challenging the girls to design a planning project of their own (with a focus on budgeting and environmental considerations), LandSec have proven their dedication to addressing the need for diversity in this very male dominated industry. Ruth assists the project by sharing her fascinating insights into the industry and is even on the project judging panel!

Urban Land Institute.

In partnership with Urban Land Institute we are able to play an imperative role in creating a larger and more diverse pool of candidates within the planning & property professions. Working in schools we take part in the Urban Plan Educational workshops programme, which has now reached more than 2,500 pupils in 100 schools since its launch. Alongside more than 200 industry volunteers engaged across the country, we provide invaluable industry & careers advice to students while guiding them through their workshops and helping judge their presentations.

Carbon Footprint.

Carbon FootprintTM works to help organisations offset their CO2 through tree planting and community projects worldwide. By partnering with Carbon FootprintTM, we have planted native trees and shrubs such as Whitebeam, Hazel, Field Maple, Silver Birch, Rowan, Beech, Blackthorn, Holly and Dog Rose to create a Mattinson Forest that spreads across South East England. Carbon FootprintTM work in conjunction with the Florestal Santa Maria Project (FSM-Redd Project), designed to reduce deforestation in the Amazonian Rainforest. So, for every tree we plant in the UK we guarantee a tonne of CO₂ offset in Brazil too. Carbon FootprintTM have allowed us to not only do our bit for the environment but also commemorate moments of growth for our clients and candidates.