Norma Sklarek, a pioneer in the field of architecture, was the first licensed African-American female architect and the first black female fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1962. After a year at Barnard College she enrolled at Columbia University's School of Architecture, an accomplishment all on its own considering that Columbia only accepted a handful of women each year. Unable to find a position with an architecture firm, she went to work for the New York Department of Public Works. In 1954 she passed the grueling four-day New York licensing exam, becoming one of the first African American women to be a licensed architect in the U.S. In 1955 she was offered a position with the prestigious architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. She stayed there for five years, also serving on the architecture faculty at New York City College. From 1960 to 1980 she was director of architecture at Gruen Associates in Los Angeles, passing her California license in 1962, the first black woman to do so. In 1967 she married fellow Gruen architect Rolf Sklarek.
Much has changed since Sklarek first started working. Of the nearly 250,000 working architects in the U.S., nearly 10,000 of them are African-American. For obvious reasons, Sklarek has helped foster that change both as an example, and through her own direct efforts to make a difference. In 1990 she became the only black woman elected to the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) College of Fellows. Among many prominent designs, her best known projects are Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the U. S. Embassy building in Tokyo, Japan.
All our texts and many of our images appear under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License (CC BY-SA). All our content is written and edited by our community.