Rendering of the Student Club at University of Miami. Designed by Marion Manley in collaboration with Robert Law Reed.
– Courtesy of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida


Marion Manley

This weeks featured architect is Marion Manley (1893-1984). Manley, Miami’s first female architect, became a registered architect in Florida in 1918, less than a year after her graduation at the University of Illinois. She also successfully maintained an independent architectural practice in South Florida for much of the twentieth century.

When the First World War disrupted the building boom in Florida, Manley accepted a temporary position designing ships for the Emergency Fleet Corporation of the U.S. Shipping Board in Philadelphia. Returning to Miami shortly after, Manley, now registered, began to design large-scale Mediterranean houses with a prominent Miami architect by the name of Gordon E. Mayer (who made her a partner in his firm). She then set up her own practice in Miami in 1924.

Manley is best known as one of the designers of the innovative University of Miami campus built just after the Second World War. Her residential work is modest and rational, with careful consideration of regional characteristics and construction appropriate to South Florida.

She spent her career battling for work and for the recognition she deserved for what was a very impressive body of work. Her works included work on Spanish-style houses in the 1920s; work on Miami’s U.S. Post Office and Federal Building in the 1930s; the master plan for Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami in the 1940s;  the University of Miami’s Ring Theater, the shell for the Asolo Theater at the Ringling Museum,  and many “tropical modern” houses in the 1950s.  Manley continued working through her 80’s and had forged a path for the next generations of women architects in Florida.



Courtyard of Manley’s Bell House in Coconut Grove, 1952 – Courtesy of University of Miami Libraries


Floor Plans of Manley’s Bell House – Courtesy of University of Miami Libraries