Celebrating Diverse Voices in Architecture

Celebrating Diverse Voices in Architecture

In the field of architecture in the United States, architects are familiar with two main organizations: the AIA and NCARB. These organizations are powerful tools of networking and continuing education in the field of architecture. The most important organization though, albeit overlooked by the white male majority that still has a hold on the field, is NOMA or the National Organization of Minority Architects. As the field becomes more diverse each year, it’s important to remember and honor the people who started this organization to give voice, support, and camaraderie to the people underrepresented in the field: William Brown, Leroy Campbell, Wendell Campbell, James C. Dodd, Kenneth G. Groggs, Nelson Harris, Jeh Johnson, E.H. McDowell, Robert J. Nash, Harold Williams, Robert Wilson, Pedro F. Lopez, and Louis Fry Sr. This group of black architects founded NOMA in 1971 at the AIA conference. Their main goal is to address and confront discrimination in the practice as well as support the advancement of minority architects. The work put in by these men has empowered young professionals to challenge and change the architectural institution and even AIA itself. While NOMA exists to represent minority voices, the AIA has been responding by creating new subcategories within the organization (the LGBT+ branch emerging in 2022/2023). In honor of Black History Month, let’s celebrate the black architects that have propelled the industry forward for the better as NOMA continues to foster diversity in the field.


Julian Abele (1881-1950) Designed more than 30 buildings for Duke University including its chapel, library, indoor stadium, medical school, and more.


Beverly Loraine Green (1915-1957) The first woman to graduate with a degree in architectural engineering and masters of city planning and the First African American woman registered as an architect. Her notable works include the theater at the University of Arkansas,the arts complex at Sarah Lawrence, and the UNESCO UN Headquarters in Paris.


Clarence Wesley ‘Cap’ Wigington (1883-1967) became the Senior Architectural Designer for the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1917. Designed a broad range of civic projects that make the city what it is today such as the Harriet Island Pavilion, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and the Highland Park Tower.


Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012) the first registered african american woman architect in the state of New York and among the first african american women registered architects in California. She helped in designing the Pacific Design Center and the US embassy in Tokyo.


Pascale Sablin (1983-) The Global President of NOMA and principal at Adjaye Associates. Activist and architect, she work to advance women and BIPOC voices in the world of architecture to stake their claim and contribution to the built environment.


Germaine Barnes (1986-) Founder of Studio Barnes and recipient of the 2021 Rome Prize.  Director of the Community Housing Identity Lab at the University of Miami which studies architecture’s social and political resiliency. He champions storytelling as an integral part of architecture.


By Kay Kriegel