February 16, 2022

Celebrating Influential African American Architects

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

We want to recognize important Black figures who helped shape the architecture industry to celebrate Black History Month.

William Sidney Pittman

Black Architects Through History

William Sidney Pittman

William Sidney Pittman, Texas’ first Black architect, was well known for the Pythian Temple, which housed the city’s first Black dentist, surgeon, and other professionals. The Pythian Temple is now a part of the adaptive reuse project the Pittman Hotel, named after Mr. Pittman.

Paul Revere Williams

Paul R. Williams is one of the most well-known Black architects. He was known as the architect of the stars creating over 2,000 residences, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz. He learned to draw upside down to sit across from his White clients. Mr. Williams was the first African American Member of the AIA and was the first African-American elected a fellow of the AIA.

Norma Sklarek

Norma Sklarek

Norma Sklarek was one of the first African American women to become an Architect in the United States. She was the first Black woman to be elected to the AIA College of Fellows. She also became the first Black woman to own architectural practice in the U.S.

McKissack & McKissack

McKissack & McKissack is one of the first Black-owned architecture firms in the U.S. The brothers were the 1st and 2nd African American Architects in Tennessee despite many challenges. McKissack & McKissack is the oldest minority/women-owned design construction firm and has been in business for 115 years.

John Saunders Chase

John S. Chase was the first African American to enroll at a major university in the South and became the first licensed African American architect in Texas. John S. Chase was also one of the founding members of NOMA. The Chase Residence’s family home features before the time, including a fully enclosed courtyard and modernist forms.

Phil Freelon

Phil Freelon was the founder of the Freelon Group and later merged with Perkins & Wills. He was best known for leading the design team of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Inducted into the College of Fellows for his tremendous contributions to the field, Freelon was committed to advocating for equity and inclusion.

Moody Nolan

Moody Nolan

Moody Nolan is the largest African-American-owned firm in the country, with 11 offices nationwide. Curt Moody founded the award-winning firm, and its now led by Johnathan Moody. Moody Nolan won the 2021 AIA Architecture Firm Award.

Sir David Adjave

Sir David Adjave is a Ghanaian-British Architect and leads the world-renowned firm Adjaye Associates. He collaborated on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Phil Freelon. He was knighted in 2017 and received the Royal Gold Medal in 2021, making him the first African recipient and the youngest to receive the honor.

Pascale Sablan

Pascale Sablan is the 315th Black woman to become a licensed architect is also the youngest Black American to be elevated to the AIA College of Fellows. She is the founder of Beyond the Built Environment, a platform advocating and highlighting the field’s diverse backgrounds.

Where We Are Currently

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) partnered to develop the Baseline on Belonging Reports. These reports covered the Examination and Experience of underrepresented groups.

Among these reports were updated numbers regarding the number of licensed Black architects. Currently, Black architects make up 2% of 116,000 active, licensed architects, and of that, .4% are Black women.

Many organizations and programs invest in increasing these numbers by inspiring youth, creating opportunities, mentoring, and advocating for minorities in architecture, construction, and the design community.

Ways to Get Involved & Resources


Project Pipeline:

Beyond the Build Environment:

City Lab: