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Jackie Craven

Black and Female in the USA

By February 19, 2013

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Who was the first Black woman to become an architect in the United States?

Photo of long building, bluish glass curtain wall with a rounded front extension containing elevators Although not the first African-American woman to practice architecture, Norma Sklarek broke barriers in 1954 when she passed the New York State registration exams. In 1962 she also registered as an architect in California. She was the first Black woman to become a member of the AIA (1959) and the first Black woman to become a Fellow of the AIA (1980).

As California's first African-American woman to register as an architect, Sklarek made her professional mark as production director at firms such as Gruen and Associates. The Pacific Design Center (1975) in California was one of her projects. Sklarek led the tasks involved in constructing what became known as the Blue Whale, but the project's high-profile design architect, Cesar Pelli, received most of the credit.

During Black History Month, we honor Sklarek, who has been called the "Rosa Parks of architecture" by the AIA. Sklarek died last year at the age of 85.

What do FAIA and AIA mean? Learn more in our Glossary of Architecture Acronymns.

Learn More About Norma Sklarek and Other African-American Architects:

Photo of Pacific Design Center ©Sompop S, Californian Em on flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

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