Chloethiel Woodard Smith

Kathleen James-Chakraborty

In June 2023 Kathleen James-Chakraborty, Professor of Art History at University College Dublin, gave a talk about American modernist architect and urban planner Chloethiel Woodard Smith. Part of the series ‘Rethinking Architectural Legacies’ at the Zaha Hadid Foundation, the talk was titled ‘How to Succeed as a Woman: Chloethiel Woodard Smith and the Journalist who Promoted Her’. Based on her research, James-Chakraborty offered us this beautiful passage about Smith’s architectural practice.

Chloethiel Woodard Smith, the Washington D.C. based architect. Philip Harrington / Alamy Stock Photo GD7520.

 A 1989 Washington Post article celebrates Smith’s work and influence:

Though never one to talk all night, Smith wrote lyrically about architecture. In a speech she wrote to give in Raleigh [North Carolina] in 1962, she evoked the moment when the architect first walks ‘across the rubble of a demolished city block or through the honeysuckle mat in the country. . .’

‘This is followed,’ she wrote, ‘by the lovely, lonely days and nights in one’s own quiet room—with nothing to do but dream and draw black lines on their white paper and play with coloured pencils and blocks of wood and cardboard. And go back to the land at different times of the day to see how the lights go on at dusk across the river or the morning seen through long shadows from a spire and a great elm tree nearby and back to a cluttered room to draw more lines, to play with some more blocks, and to dream some more.’

‘Yet even though the completed structure falls so far away from that moment—the shreds of sun and shadow cling to it—even so imperfect in the completion, part of the dream will always be there. And another person cannot share that. He can only see the end—never the beginning.’[1]

Chloethiel Woodard Smith, the Washington, D.C. architect, at her office, November 1964. Philip Harrington / Alamy Stock Photo H9980J.

Professor James-Chakraborty’s research centres around women’s role in modern, international architecture and design through the project ‘Expanding Agency: Women, Race and the Global Dissemination of Modern Architecture’ funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


  1. Quoted in Conroy S. B., ‘Sketches of a Designing Woman’, Washington Post, 4 November 1989.