“Everywhere she went she was first.” -Marshall Purnell, 2008 AIA President
Photographer: Rich Schmitt
Damn she looks good in blue! Hello to Norma Sklarek, a woman of serious firsts:
- First registered black female architect in the U.S.
- First black female Fellow of the AIA (1980)
- First black woman to form and manage an architecture firm – Siegel, Sklarek,
Diamond – the largest woman-owned / woman-staffed one in the U.S.
So inspiring! Ms. Sklarek was a pioneer, to say the least. After graduating from Columbia University in 1950 (with a kid!), the architect had trouble finding employment, obviously; not only was she a woman, she was also black and living in 1950. But our girl kept going!
“Women have a rough time in architecture and you have to be willing to stick with it.” -Norma Sklarek
Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill - the first firm to recognize Ms. Sklarek’s talent as an architect - brought her on, thoroughly impressed: our girl passed all seven parts of the four-day architect’s licensing exam the first time around. That’s what I’m talking about! Ms. Sklarek went on to eventually become a Principle Architect with the Jerde Partnership.
In 2008 she was honored with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for her extraordinary work in designing architecture for the social good – things like affordable housing and minority inclusiveness. These much-needed deeds have earned her the title as the “Rosa Parks of architecture.”
But FYI - According to the Directory of African American Architects, there are still only 262 black female architects in the U.S. And how many black men? 1,522. Come on, ladies!