"As an African American architect you are a rare breed."
Harvey Gantt to NOMA Conferees; Atlanta 1991
When we began this project to develop a directory of African American architects, we set as our first goal the documentation of all those who were professionally registered . We suspected that even the estimated numbers that we had turned up in various statistics might be slightly exaggerated. We also aimed at using this document as a data base for further research intended at profiling more closely the different roles that African Americans play in education and in practice, including those who are owners of their firms; those who are partners in firms; those who are employees in both the public and private sectors; and those who are educators.
By now both Whitney M. Young's admonition to the architects attending the AIA's national convention in Portland, Oregon in 1968 and the Kerner Commission's 1968 report on the urban riots have been relegated to historical documents. Both of these events were cited by Robert Traynham Coles in a Progressive Architecture editorial entitled "An Endangered Species."1 In this editorial he was voicing concern for the dismal growth in the number of African Americans who were entering the profession of architecture. Coles, who is presently a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Architecture at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, quoted both Young, who said that architects must share in the responsibility for creating ".... the white noose around the central city," where many of the urban riots of the late 1960's occurred, and the Kerner Report's conclusion that the nation was rapidly developing into two societies, one black and one white. These factors as well as the dismantling of federally supported housing programs, a reduction in federal spending for mass transit and the unconstitutional ruling by the Supreme Court of Richmond, Virginia's set aside program aimed at minority contractors were also listed by Coles as additional causes leading to a reduction in the "bread and butter" work of many minority architectural firms. Furthermore, major reductions in grants, scholarships and guaranteed loans for disadvantaged minority students led to his conclusion that the African American architect was an endangered species. Coles concluded by noting that, "the number of black architects has grown from about 1000 to about 2000, remaining at about two percent of the total (of all architects)." This, in spite of the fact that African Americans represent more than twelve percent of the population. Even Coles' estimate of two percent, we have discovered, turns out to be very optimistic.
Additional articles in the architectural media2 continue to note the lack of representation of African Americans in the architectural profession. This is true not only for the practice end of the profession but also for the educational end. This lack of representation is also noted to be even worse for the few number of African American women practitioners.
We also recognized that African Americans have had a lengthy tradition in the building of this country beginning with architects Benjamin Banneker, who assisted Pierre Charles L'Enfant in the planning of Washington D.C.3, Julian Abele, who designed the Widener Library at Harvard University and Paul Revere Williams, who designed Hollywood homes for a number of movie stars. Even today, architects like J. Max Bond, who is also the Dean of the School of Architecture at New York's City College, has been honored for his award winning design of the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta (1984) and Donald Stull and David Lee, partners in their own firm in Boston, have been recognized for their many award winning designs.
So we are determined to find out why there are so few African American architects and why the number of African American students has not increased at the same rate as women entering architectural school. Does there need to be greater visibility of role models for young men and women who might choose a career in architecture? Do new partnerships need to be forged between schools of architecture, practicing African American architects and agencies capable of providing support for college education for disadvantaged students? Is more public attention and exposure needed for African American architects who are producing high quality work?
These questions and more are expected to be answered in the next phase of our research.
Background to Preparation of this Directory:
Many of the estimates of the number of African American architects have been drawn from data supplied by either the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the third quarter report of 1990 lists 130,000 architects of whom 2,000 are African American) or the American Institute of Architects (the AIA estimates that there are between 80,000 and 84,000 registered architects of whom 1.1 percent are African American). But there are problems with both of these estimates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics requires no certification from those who claim to be architects that they are legally registered to practice and the AIA includes both registered and non-registered architects in their figures. This seems to make both estimates rather suspect. To legally practice architecture and to use the title "Architect" a person must be registered to practice in one of the fifty states in the United States or one of its territories. So what was required for this directory was to identify all the professionally registered African American architects. This became more difficult than we anticipated.
Additional research into the other articles listed above has shown that their authors used techniques to estimate the number of African American architects by extrapolating a total from the percentage of AIA regular members who are African American. The March 1991 AIA Minority Resources Committee Report lists 389 registered African American AIA members from a total of 57,098 registered AIA members, or 0.7 percent). Based on the total number of registered architects (using AIA statistics) that there are in the USA, it follows that the same percentage who belong to the AIA (0.7 percent) would be African American. Thus by using the AIA's total of 84,000 architects, we would be led to conclude that there are approximately 588 African American architects.
So at the high end we have the Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing 2000 African American architects and at the low end we have the AIA statistics estimating approximately 588 African American architects. But how do we determine if either figure is correct? Or if neither figure is correct, what is the most accurate total?
First, we need to establish our definition of who shall qualify as an "architect" for this directory.
Determining how many registered architects there are in the United States turns out to be a rather difficult task. Being registered to practice and being currently licensed to practice are two entirely different facts. When someone is registered, they have met all the requirements ( by education, by internship and by examination) of a state board to practice architecture. On the other hand, when an architect's license is "in force," they are both registered and current with their state dues and other requirements. Some architects, although registered, are delinquent with their dues; and, therefore, their licenses lapse. But having a lapsed license does not necessarily mean that you lose your architectural registration. By paying past obligations, licenses are renewed and those licenses again become current. Consequently, the total number of architects legally practicing at any one time depends on whether you mean currently licensed or registered. For our directory, we accepted those who were registered.
There are presently two primary sources for estimating the total number of registered architects. One is the AIA and the other is the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). As we have noted above the AIA has estimated that there are currently 80,000 to 84,000 registered architects (there are approximately 57,000 registered and non-registered AIA members). NCARB has estimated that there are 100,000 registered architects. Since an architect is neither required to be an AIA member nor to hold a NCARB certificate, these organizations are unable to provide an accurate total.
It might seem conceivable to determine a grand total by adding up the registrations in each and every state. But this would not be very accurate either because many architects are registered to practice in more than one state. Adding up only the resident architects in each state would provide a more accurate total, but most states do not break their directories down by resident and non-resident. Only by tediously logging in each name from each state directory could an accurate total be reached. And that total would only reflect those currently licensed, not necessarily all those registered to practice; in other words, those who have allowed their licenses to lapse.
Other Estimates of African American Architects:
J. Max Bond was quoted by the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 1990) as saying that African Americans represent only one percent of all registered architects. Architecture, the AIA's house journal, more recently discussed minority firms in an article entitled "Invisible Architects" (April 1991)4 . In this article Robert Traynham Coles, AIA, was quoted as saying that while African Americans represent 12 percent of America's population, they comprise only 1.1 percent of the AIA's total membership (total membership consists of both registered architects and non-registered associate members). This makes African Americans one of the most under-represented groups practicing architecture today. But this percentage is inaccurate because Coles has included both regular members and associate members of the AIA in his total (associate members do not have to be registered architects or even be architects at all, while regular members must be registered).
Therefore if we use Bond's 1 percent, we could conclude that there would be between 840 and 1000 registered African American architects (using both AIA and NCARB estimates).
Criteria for Listing:
One of the purposes in putting this directory together was to determine as closely as possible the total number of African Americans who are registered to practice architecture. Our goal was to gather the names of as many of these architects as possible into one comprehensive list. At the time of this printing our directory showed 881 names. We believe that this represents approximately 95 percent of the total.
To be included in this directory one must be legally registered to practice architecture. Therefore, all those listed are registered architects although some may not be current with their state requirements.
This directory also includes, under separate sub-sections, African American Women Architects, African American Faculty in Departments of Architecture and a State by State listing of architects. We are presently at work on a directory of African Americans holding professional degrees in architecture but not yet registered to practice.
Process for Compiling This Directory:
Putting all the techniques for making estimates aside, we realized that the best method would be to patiently assemble a list by using an expanded network of mass mailings, telephone calls and follow up letters to those who had been identified in a preliminary project begun by Vashti Swan, Assistant to the Dean in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati. We learned that Robert Coles and Dean Harry Robinson of Howard University had begun similar projects in the past.
The procedure for compiling this directory consisted of two basic steps. The first step began with a "chain letter/mass mailing." We started with a list of 55 names of African American architects and sent each a letter describing our project and soliciting names of colleagues. Their replies provided us with more names and the list grew incrementally. Additional mailings generated still more names. A number of important African American educators as well as prominent practitioners were interested in our project and supplied us with still more names and additional contacts. The AIA Minority Resources Committee graciously provided us with current and prior membership directories. Directories also came from the Robert Taylor Society of Black Architects in Boston; the Directory of African American Design firms, compiled annually by the San Francisco Redevelopment Authority; Black Architects and Designers in the Los Angeles area; Colorado Blacks in Architecture; the New York Coalition of Black Architects; Black Architects on the Pacific Rim; African American Architects of Detroit; a number of National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) chapter lists and numerous private listings from architects and architectural educators around the country. This process rapidly generated a large number of names.
The second step required that each name on our master list be confirmed as "registered" by examining state board of architect's directories. In some cases, when a name did not appear on a directory, but we had information that the person was a registered architect, we called the state board in order to confirm registration. This, of course, was simple if someone was currently residing in the same state in which they were registered. But in some cases a person is registered in one state while they reside in another. This made confirmation more difficult. We have yet to confirm registration for a number of people who are likely to be registered, but we have been unable to find their states of registration. This is an ongoing process, and we apologize to those who inadvertently have been omitted or to those for whom we have not yet located their states of registration.
The present list does not represent 100 percent of the African Americans registered to practice architecture in the United States. We do feel that it represents a vast majority. Of course, any directory of this nature is in a constant state of flux. People change careers, relocate, retire or pass away, while others become newly registered. We intend to continually update our files as we get names of those whom we have overlooked and those who have recently become registered. We expect to be able to publish a directory every two years with occasional addenda being sent to our regular subscribers.
The present list also represents the most current address that has been made available to us. In some cases the address listed is a place of residence, and in other cases it is a place of employment. In most cases our information came from state directories or from addresses sent to us. We realize that people move and that people change jobs. Later publications of this directory will reflect those changes. We also realize that many of those listed are registered to practice in more than one state. Our directory, however, will only list one state, usually the state of residence when and if they are the same.
Use of This Directory and Its Importance:
We expect that this directory will have many uses. We expect that it will increase networks for those on the list and perhaps make available opportunities for joint professional ventures. We also hope that the directory might create additional opportunities for architects within regions to join together to encourage and advise young men and women at various stages in their lives, whether they are contemplating a career in the field of architecture or preparing for their registration examination. We also expect that it might allow people to share a wide range of professional experiences. At the very least, it might reunite people who may have lost contact with one another. In the end we hope that it might contribute to increasing the number of African Americans who make architecture their career choice.
To quote a recent Progressive Architecture editorial : "One of the critical problems discussed (at the National NOMA Conference in Detroit in October 1990) among the conferees this year was visibility. If black students and their families hardly ever hear of a black architect, the most promising young people are unlikely to look to architecture as a career; if the designs and writings of black faculty members are rarely published, their chances for advancement or influence are reduced; if clients rarely see or hear of a black architect, black architects are not going to have the credibility they need."5
This directory will be available for the modest cost of production and mailing. The Center for the Study of the Practice of Architecture will not use it for any commercial purposes. We plan to use it as a data base for ongoing research, designed to benefit members of the African American architectural community as well as the architectural community as a whole. This research is part of the charge to "develop a deeper and richer understanding of the nature of architectural practice" that the Center has undertaken.
The contributors to this directory were extensive. We are grateful to those who sent us complete lists of the local African American organizations mentioned above and to others who sent us names of classmates and colleagues.
Noteworthy for their contributions are Jean Barber, Director of the Minority Resources Committee at the AIA headquarters in Washington, DC; Dean Harry J. Robinson, III, Howard University; Dean J. Max Bond, Jr., City College of CUNY; Professor John Spencer, Hampton University, Professor Henry L. Thurman, Jr., Southern University and A & M College; John S. Chase; Robert T. Coles; Robert Arthur King; Robert P. Madison; Roger Margerum; Norma Sklarek and Jack Travis. Many, many more people responded to our queries for additional names. We thank each and every one of them.
|1.||Robert Traynham Coles, Progressive Architecture, "An Endangered Species", July 1989, p. 7 or see the more complete version in The Journal of Architectural Education, Fall 1989, 43/1, p. 60-62|
|2.||See for instance Architecture, "Invisible Architects", April 1991, p. 106-113; Progressive Architecture, "Practice: Minorities in Practice", June 1991, p. 59-62; Black Enterprise,, "Blueprints For Success", February 1991, p. 81-90; Architecture, "The Plight of Minority Architects", April 1985, p. 58-61|
|3.||Progressive Architecture, "Perspectives: A Legacy of Shadows", February 1991, p.|
|4.||Architecture, "Invisible Architects", op. cit. p.106|
|5.||Progressive Architecture, Editorial, Dec. 1990, p.|