The Black Americans who helped build the United States faced enormous social and economic barriers. In 1930, only about 60 Blacks were listed as registered architects, and many of their buildings have since been lost or radically changed. Although conditions have improved, many feel that Black architects today still lack the recognition they deserve.
This page honors some of America's most notable Black architects, beginning with contemporary architects and moving back through history. Be sure to visit page 2 to find the earliest formally trained Black architects in the USA.
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New York architect J. Max Bond, Jr. designed many office buildings, libraries, and university research facilities. With his firm, Davis Brody Bond Aedas, he helped flesh out and complete plans for the September 11 Memorial Museum
in New York City. A respected teacher at City College and Columbia University, Bond inspired a generation of minority architects.
Robert Traynham Coles is noted for designing on a grand scale. His works include the Frank Reeves Municipal Center in Washington DC, the Ambulatory Care Project for Harlem Hospital, the Frank E. Merriweather Library, the Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion in Buffalo and the Alumni Arena at the University of Buffalo. Founded in 1963, Coles' firm ranks as one of the oldest in the Northeast owned by an African American.
Norma Merrick Sklarek was the first Black woman to become a licensed architect in New York and California. She was also the first Black woman honored by Fellowship in AIA. Her many projects include the Pacific Design Center in California a new terminal for Los Angeles International Airport.
Albert I. Cassell shaped many academic communities in the United States. He designed buildings for Howard University in Washington D.C., Morgan State University in Baltimore, and Virginia Union University in Richmond. Cassell also designed and built civic structures for the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The first African American to become a professional architect in Buffalo New York, John E. Brent designed Buffalo's Michigan Avenue YMCA. The building became a cultural center for the black community in Buffalo.
For more than a quarter of a century, Louis Bellinger designed key buildings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, only a handful of his buildings have survived, and all have been altered.
Vertner Woodson Tandy was the first registered black architect in New York State and the first Afro-American to belong to the prestigious AIA (American Institute of Architects). Tandy designed landmark homes for some of the wealthiest residents of Harlem.
Image Courtesy of Ethnic Studies at USC
Paul Williams became renown for designing major buildings such the Los Angeles International Airport and over 2000 homes in Southern California. Many of the most beautiful residences in Hollywood were created by Paul Williams.
Cap Wigington was the first registered African American architect in Minnesota and the first African American municipal architect in the United States. He designed schools, fire stations, park structures, municipal buildings, and other important landmarks in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Who were America's first professionally trained Black architects? Continue reading