5 Books for the Next Generation of Female Architects

“The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.”Mary McLeod Bethune

While the ratio of women to men in the field of architecture has been steadily (albeit slowly) increasing over the past few decades, only 20 percent of those in the field are female according to research referenced by the New York Times. Even more concerning, only 17 percent of partners or principals in the industry are female (although that number is greater than 50% here at IA Interior Architects).

Through efforts like IA’s Diversity in Design scholarship, we hope to inspire those already studying architecture and design to continue their education and develop careers in the field. That said, inspiring more women to take the first steps in that direction (in addition to making meaningful changes in how women are viewed and treated in the field) is critical.

Introducing more girls to the possibility of a career in architecture at a younger age might go far when it comes to cultivating a more equitable industry where women account for less than 31% of the population of architecture educators (which trails comparable fields such as law and medicine). We at IA like to think that one of the most effective tools for opening doors and expanding horizons is a good book, and with this in mind, we’ve curated a list of 5 books that might just be perfect for cultivating the next generation of female architects.

Little People, Big Dreams: Zaha Hadid
Little People, Big Dreams by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Asun Amar.

Little People Big Dreams: Zaha Hadid (2019)

The Little People, Big Dreams series introduces young readers (age 4-7 ) to a diverse selection of historical heroes and heroines ranging from the likes of Harriet Tubman to David Bowie and thus far has only one book devoted to the life of an architect. That architect is Zaha Hadid.

The 32-page book offers a charming portrait of the world-famous architect dubbed “Little Zaha” who would go on to become the first woman and the first Muslim to be awarded the Pritzker Prize. Written just as much for the enjoyment of children as for the adults likely to be reading it to them, the book’s illustrations are simple and beautiful, a wonderful addition to author Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara’s series of books that show children that big ideas and big accomplishments can come from anywhere.

Boxtects, by Kim Smith.
Boxitects, by Kim Smith.

Boxitects (2020)

Meg is a boxitect. Using cardboard boxes, she creates castles, armor, tunnels, houses and more, and eventually is enrolled in Maker School so she can work alongside other creatives her age. There, Meg gets the opportunity to work alongside blanketeers, tin-foilers, and egg-cartoneers, and learns about the value of teamwork and how it can be such an important part of the creative process.

Written and illustrated by Kim Smith (the illustrator behind the Sofia Martinez series, and Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook), Boxitect looks beautiful and feels familiar. Smith’s style is reminiscent of the work of illustrator Brigette Barrager and in 40 pages tells a heartwarming story centered around a potential female architect now a boxitect.

Written for ages four to seven, Boxitects doesn’t go out of its way to make diversity its mission. It simply happens to feature a diverse set of characters and a narrative where a female protagonist emerges as a hero after the power of embracing different perspectives saves the day.

Need A House Call Ms Mouse by George Mendoza
Need A House Call Ms Mouse by George Mendoza and Doris Susan Smith

Need A House? Call Ms. Mouse (1981)

Great for newish readers between the ages of 6 and 8, Need A House? Call Ms. Mouse is a fantastic tool for acquainting children with the challenges and thrills of interior architecture, design, and decoration.

Over the course of the story, Ms. Mouse is asked to take on successively more difficult commissions, and in the end, thanks to tenacity and a positive attitude, is able to create an equitable solution for a wide variety of parties. The book has become hard to find since its publication in 1981, but library cardholders and thrift store frequenters may just get the chance to take a copy home and appreciate the architectural drawings that make this 40-page book such a gem.

Someone Builds the Dream, by Lisa Wheeler
Someone Builds the Dream, by Lisa Wheeler

Someone Builds the Dream (2021)

Taking on a familiar premise, Someone Builds the Dream takes a brief look at the many, many hands that go into creating houses, books, and bridges. Author Lisa Wheeler uses an enjoyable rhyming scheme to briefly describe the work of a female architect before quickly moving on to carpenters, foremen, etc.

While not written specifically for young girls (and not specifically about architects), female characters do have equal representation in a book that describes industries that have not historically been representative of all genders. The illustrator’s use of acrylics and colored pencils is as charming as author Lisa Wheeler’s easy rhyming structure for which she has come to be known.

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The World is Not a Rectangle, by Jeanette Winter
The World is Not a Rectangle, by Jeanette Winter

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid (2017)

A Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2017, and perhaps Jeanette Winter’s best work as a writer/illustrator, the longest book on our list uses bite-sized language to weave a story that focuses heavily on the inspirations behind Zaha Hadid’s work. By using language and illustrations to draw a strong connection between organic shapes and the buildings that Hadid designed over her illustrious career, this book hits the mark when it comes to inspiring the next generation of female architects.

This 56-page biography uses more easily digested language than some of the other books listed here, and as a result, is a surprisingly quick read about a not-so-surprisingly interesting architect and trailblazer.


IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists. We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.



IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists. We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.



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