These renowned architects from the continent of Africa have made a world of difference to not only architecture but also to the world beyond their homes. They have overcome prejudice, shattered glass ceilings, worked on award-winning international projects and introduced sustainable and low-cost solutions in economically distressed areas. These six African architects are lauded for their outstanding work and design acumen…
Paul Revere Williams (1894- 1980):
Paul Revere Williams has designed over 3,000 buildings in his career spanning over five decades. He was also the first African American ever to be elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1957. The bitter irony of his situation was that he designed homes for whites in localities where blacks were barred from entering. Williams was an outstanding draftsman and had a unique ability to render drawings upside-down; it is said that he perfected the skill in order to make his white clients, who would sit opposite him, more comfortable. But despite the undercurrents of racism, he became well-known as the “Architect to Hollywood Stars.” His star clientele included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Groucho Marx, Lauren Bacall among others.
Paul Williams and Theme Building (top left) at Los Angeles International Airport, designed along with William Pereira and the Guardian Angel Cathedral Las Vegas
Norma Sklarek (1928- 2012):
She is the first licensed African-American female architect and the first black female fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Born in New York, Sklarek studied architecture at Columbia University. Despite being discouraged from joining a man’s profession, she was determined to work for an architecture firm. After a short stint at NYC Department of Works and Owings and Merrill, she moved to Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. At Gruen, she climbed the corporate ladder and became the firm’s director in 1966. She was also the vice president of the Welton Becket firm and is associated with landmark projects such as the Fox Plaza in San Franscisco, Terminal One of Los Angeles International Airport and the American Embassy in Tokyo.
Norma Sklarek and The Fox Plaza in San Francisco
David Adjaye (1966 – Present):
This multi-award winning ‘starchitect’ is the principal of his eponymous firm. Being born in Tanzania to a Ghanaian Diplomat, Adjaye travelled the world before finally settling down in Britain at the age of nine. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1993 and around the same time, bagged the RIBA Bronze Medal. His commissions include designing private residences, pavilions, major arts centers and important public buildings across Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Some of the well-known projects include the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management. In 2007, the Queen conferred the OBE (Order of British Empire) title on him for his services to British Architecture. In 2009, he was selected to design the $500 million National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of Smithsonian in Washington DC, which will be completed by 2015.
David Adjaye and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management
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