Recent Articles

History Guiding the Future: Celebrating Black History Month

This Black History Month, we’re taking extra time to recognize design trailblazers from our studio cities. These architects and engineers experienced pivotal life and career moments in the communities in which we live and work. Along the way, many overcame social obstacles to make their mark in our industry and inspire our teams today.

J. W. Robinson

  • Initially denied employment in architecture because of segregation, Robinson became a public school teacher and then in 1970 established his own design firm, J. W. Robinson & Associates, Inc.
  • One of his first projects, Fire Station #38 on Bankhead Highway, received an AIA award from the Atlanta chapter
  • In 1995 he was the first Black architect from Georgia distinguished as a Fellow by the American Institute of Architects (AIA)

William Sidney Pittman

  • First Black graduate from Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry, which is now Drexel University
  • First practicing Black architect in Texas
  • Designed the first historically Black YMCA to serve as a vital community center

Norma Merrick Sklarek

  • First Black woman to become a licensed architect in the states of New York (1954) and California (1962)
  • First Black woman to become a member of the American Institute of Architects (1959) and elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (1980)
  • Served as the project director of the $50-million construction for the Terminal One station at the Los Angeles International Airport
  • Co-founded Siegel Sklarek Diamond in 1985 which was the largest woman-owned design firm at the time

Paul Williams’ landmark LAX “The Theme Building” is one of the most recognizable iconic buildings in LA (and the world) as it greets millions of visitors each year. It is not only a spectacular building but also one that is unapologetically optimistic: just like LA. It elevates our spirits and I’m not sure how. It makes me smile every time I see it and I have Williams to thank for it.

Nicos Kastellis,
Director of Operations, Los Angeles

Paul Revere Williams

  • Studied architectural engineering from 1916 to 1919 and in 1923 he became the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • At age 25 he won a design competition and three years later opened his own office
  • Designed over 2,000 buildings in his career and developed Skylift Magi-Cab, a monorail-like system
  • Won the AIA Award of Merit in 1939 for his design of the MCA Building in Beverly Hills, now headquarters of the Paradigm Talent Agency
  • Designed homes for Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Correll and other celebrities

Julian Abele

  • Contributed to the design of more than 400 buildings, including the 1928 First Church of Christ in West Palm Beach, after graduating in Architecture in 1902
  • Credited with the design of the exterior terracing of Philadelphia Museum of Art, including the front steps highlighted in “Rocky”
  • Designed and constructed all his own furniture too as a gifted designer in many mediums

Clarence "Cap" Wigington

  • Won three 1st Place awards in charcoal, pencil, and pen and ink at an art competition during the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in 1898
  • In 1915, became the nation’s first Black municipal architect when hired as senior architectural draftsman in St. Paul
  • Listed as one of only 59 Black architects, artists and draftsmen in the country according to the 1910 U.S. Census report
  • Has three buildings on the National Historic Registry

Golden Zenon’s story amazes me. He had a teacher in Louisiana who recognized his talent and told him he wouldn’t be admitted to architecture school there, but would be able to pursue it in Nebraska. His talent was recognized and he rose to top levels as a designer at LEO A DALY and other firms before starting his own.

His design legacy lives on through his partners and associates. He had a large impact on their professional lives and leadership, and this was reflected in those of us influenced in turn by them

Doug Peters,
Senior Design Architect, Omaha

Golden J. Zenon, Jr.

  • Won the 1955 Lincoln Home Builders Association’s design contest for students at the University of Nebraska
  • Graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1955 and was employed by LEO A DALY
  • Helped design Swanson Branch Library with architect William Larson in 1966
  • Established Zenon Beringer & Associates (ZBA) with architect David Beringer in 1975
  • Named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1986

Ethel Furman

  • Earliest known Black female architect in Virginia
  • Late 1920s she was the only woman to attend the Hampton Institute’s annual builder’s conference
  • Designed 200+ residences and churches in VA

Albert Cassell

  • Accepted into Cornell University architecture program in 1915 and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha
  • Became University Architect and Head of the Architecture Department at Howard in 1922
  • In addition to developing an educational structure for young Black designers, Cassell also focused on upscale, affordable housing solutions for middle-income Black people

Martha Cassell Thompson

Alberta Jeannette Cassell

Martha Cassell Thompson and Alberta Jeannette Cassell

  • First two African American women to graduate with a bachelor of architecture from Cornell University’s School of Architecture, the alma mater of father Albert
  • Martha was Chief Restoration Architect for what would become the Washington National Cathedral
  • Alberta served more than 30 years as an architectural engineer, architectural draftswoman and naval architect for the Department of the Navy

Martha Cassell Thompson

Alberta Jeannette Cassell