As we celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to highlight a few of the trailblazing African American architects that have designed some of the most iconic buildings in LA and throughout the country.
Robert Robinson Taylor
Robert Robinson Taylor (1868-1942) is widely considered to be the first academically trained and credentialed black architect in America as well as the first African American to graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Recruited by Booker T. Washington Tuskegee Institute in Alabama (now Tuskegee University), Taylor is responsible for dozens of campus buildings, including the Tuskegee Chapel that he regarded as his masterpiece. Later in his career, Taylor’s designs expanded beyond the Tuskegee campus as well, with an academic building at Selma University in Alabama and libraries in North Carolina and Texas. For more details about his life, click here.
Norma Merrick Sklarek
Norma Merrick Sklarek (1928-2012) was the first black woman to become a licensed architect in both New York (1954) and California (1962). She was also the first black woman to become a fellow of the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) in 1980 and cofounder of the nation’s largest woman-owned architecture firm (Siegel Sklarek Diamond) and the first black woman to co-own an architecture firm in 1985. She collaborated often with fellow architect Caesar Pelli on iconic structures such as the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, before co-founding her own practice with Margot Siegel and Katherine Diamond.
Paul R. Williams
Known as the ‘Architect to the Stars’, LA native Paul R. Williams (1894-1980), designed nearly 3,000 buildings in his 50-year career. Williams work was distinguished by a mix of styles, and included hotels, restaurants, churches and hospitals. Some of these iconic works in LA include the Crescent Wing at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the space-age Theme Building at LAX and the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Adams. In 2017, Williams was posthumously awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the AIA’s highest honor. Read more about Williams in our blog here.
Vertner Woodson Tandy
Beverly Lorraine Green
As the first black female to be registered as an architect in the United States Beverly Lorraine Greene would continue to push against barriers during her short life. Also a town planner and engineer she studied at the integrated University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne but would move to New York City after struggling to break through in Chicago. Greene was awarded a scholarship from Columbia University and she completed her Masters in 1945. Her career would see her work on the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the University Heights Campus at New York University. Sadly she would not see these completed as she passed away in 1957 at the age of 41 before work had finished.