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Trailblazing Aussie female architects and designers

Trailblazing Aussie female architects and designers


ADR shines a light on some of the women who’ve been blazing a trail on the Australian design scene.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; simply a small snapshot of what is a great number of influential Australian female architects and designers.

Brit Andresen


As the first female recipient of the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2002, no list of leading ladies would be complete without a nod to Brit Andresen.

Born in Norway, Andresen spent time growing up in both Australia and in Norway. Going on to study architecture in Trondheim, she then took on a teaching position at Cambridge, UK. After moving to Australia she became the first female to be appointed a teaching role in the architecture department at the University of Queensland.


Mooloomba House by Andresen O’Gorman Architects, 1995. Photo by Michael Wee.

Andresen established Andresen O’Gorman Architects in 1980 with her partner in life and work, Peter O’Gorman. The practice works across residential with a penchant for timber. Notable projects include Mooloomba House on North Stradbroke Island, Ocean View Farmhouse and Rosebery House.

It’s this ongoing commitment to teaching and architectural work that earned her recognition by the Institute.

Kerry Phelan

With a career spanning more than 20 years, Kerry Phelan is one of Australia’s pre-eminent designers. Phelan founded Kerry Phelan Design Office (KPDO) in 2009 after departing as a founding director of Hecker Phelan Guthrie (now Hecker Guthrie).

KPDO works mostly on residential, multi-res and hospitality projects, including a lot of international projects. Always taking a site-specific approach, no two projects are alike or follow a ‘house style’, yet all have a distinctly polished and sophisticated aesthetic.

Phelan was awarded the 2016 Interior Design Excellence Awards Gold Medal for her outstanding contribution to the design industry and unwavering commitment to groundbreaking design.


Harbour House by KPDO. Photo by Richard Peters.

Kerstin Thompson


Kerstin Thompson founded her eponymous architecture practice Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA) in 1994. The studio works across architecture, landscape and urbanism, recently winning the Bundanon Trust redevelopment project. The 1100-hectare property will encompass a learning centre for school students, visitor hub, residential quarters and a new gallery to house the $37.5 million Arthur Boyd art collection.


TarraWarra Cellar Door by KTA was shortlisted in the Hospitality category at IDEA 2016. Photo by Derek Swalwell.

As well a notable and awarded work, Thompson holds teaching positions at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, RMIT University and Monash University.

With work that traverses large and small scales, along with teaching and advocacy, Thompson has established herself as a powerhouse within the profession.

Hero image: Kerry Phelan of KPDO. Photo by Anson Smart.

Click below to read more about other influential female designers and architects:

Adele Winteridge of Foolscap Studio
Sandra Kaji-O’Grady, architectural academic and educator
Justine Clark & Dr Karen Burns of Parlour
Jill Garner, Victorian Government Architect and co-founder and principal of Garner Davis Architects
Janne Faulkner, one of the first to open an interior design practice in Australia (Nexus Designs)
Helen Kontouris, industrial designer
Kate Stokes, founder of furniture and lighting design studio Coco Flip
Mary Featherston, interior designer and designer of child centred learning environments
Katy Svalbe and Yasmine Ghoniem, founders of design collective Amber Road

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