FEATURE PHOTOS: ERBE+BECKHAM TEAM | METROPOLIS MAGAZINE | ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST
In an industry where only 2.04% are African American, architects like Paul Revere Williams have made pioneering strides and achievements in the industry. Williams specifically was responsible for the prestigious Beverly Hills Hotel, his actual handwriting as the stylized moniker boasted on its turquoise wall to this day. Within a 60-year career, he became the first Black architect to join the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and designed over 2,500 buildings, most of them in Los Angeles. Despite concerns that whites wouldn't hire him and Blacks couldn't afford him, Williams became hugely responsible for glamorizing Southern California between 1920-1980 to the entire world. It could be said that Williams is why Los Angeles got such a reputation for high-class innovation and trendsetting style. In honor of his contribution to the world of architecture, Suite Life SoCal recognizes him and other Black architects who have influenced our Southern California landscape over the past 80 years.
Norma Merrick Sklarek was the first Black woman to be a licensed architect in New York in 1954 and in California in 1962. After officially moving to California, she designed and managed the Fox Plaza project in San Francisco, Fox Hills Mall, and the Terminal One expansion at LAX in the 80s. The iconic design is one of the most memorable airport structures in the country. Sklarek also broke barriers when she co-founded the largest woman-owned architectural firm in the United States, Siegel Sklarek Diamond, with Margot Siegel and Katherine Diamond.
The prestigious Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. is one of the most distinctive marks on Zena Howard’s architectural experience over the last 25 years. Her affinity for uplifting culture and equity graced Los Angeles streets in 2022 with Destination Crenshaw, a public art and cultural project in Los Angeles, California that compliments the LA Metro Rail extension connecting the airport to Central L.A. Howard’s outdoor gallery won 3 awards, one of which was from the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).
Gabrielle Bullock is also a Harlem native who dreamed of being an architect since youth and is now Principal Director of Global Diversity at the Los Angeles branch of Perkins & Will. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and the Camp Lakota Girl Scouts of Greater L.A. are a few of her highlighted projects.
Despite comprising a mere 2% of the architect demographic, Black architects have stood tall as trailblazers and visionaries, leaving an indelible mark on the architectural landscape for over eight decades. Through their talent, determination, and unwavering commitment to their craft, they have given life to historical structures that tell stories of innovation, cultural richness, and resilience. These architects have defied the odds, proving that diversity in the profession isn't just essential; it's an unending source of groundbreaking design and enduring inspiration.