Search Our Website


Black History Month: Celebrating Groundbreaker Norma Merrick Sklarek

February 23 2024
Associations, TAUC News

In the world of architecture, Norma Merrick Sklarek stands as an exemplary trailblazer. Born in Harlem on April 15, 1928, she etched her name as the first registered black female architect in New York and, in 1962, the first licensed black female architect in California.

Norma’s architectural journey began at Columbia University’s Barnard College, where she earned her degree in 1950. Faced with challenges securing a position in an architecture firm, she joined the New York Department of Public Works. In 1954, she achieved a groundbreaking milestone by becoming one of the first African American women to pass the rigorous New York licensing exam.

Her transition to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1955 marked the first of many milestones. In 1960, she moved to Los Angeles, joining Gruen Associates, where she became the director of architecture and secured her California license in 1962.

Norma’s architectural prowess found expression in iconic projects. She played a crucial role in designing Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), leaving an enduring mark on the city’s landscape. Additionally, her contributions to the U.S. Embassy building in Tokyo, Japan, showcased her innovative design thinking. Despite her significant role in the embassy’s design, recognition often eluded her, with the work often being credited solely to César Pelli.

Norma continued to break barriers, becoming the first female African American member of the American Institute of Architects in 1966. In 1980, she achieved another historic milestone as the first black woman elected into its College of Fellows.

Norma faced personal challenges, including the loss of her husband Rolf in 1984. The AIA recognized her with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award in 2008, highlighting her positive force of change in the architectural profession.

Norma Merrick Sklarek’s impact extends beyond accolades. The architectural scholarship awarded in her name by Howard University reflects her commitment to fostering the next generation of architects. Her passing on February 6, 2012, marked the end of an era, but her pioneering spirit and contributions to architecture endure as an inspiration for generations.

Share Online:
© Copyright 2024 TAUC. All Rights Reserved.
Site created by Top Shelf Design