Norma Merrick Sklarek was the first Black woman to become a licensed architect in both New York (1954) and California (1962). She was also the first Black woman to become a fellow of the American Institute of Architecture (1966 FAIA). She has been called the “Rosa Parks of Architecture.” Her talent and tenacity allowed her to overcome racism and sexism and become a prominent architect and leader in her profession. As she said later, “The competition was keen. But I had a stick-to-it attitude and never gave up.”*

Sklarek loved big, complicated projects. Her architectural management skills ensured the successful completion of complex projects such as the Pacific Design Center in California and Terminal 1 at the Los Angeles International Airport and the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. Black female architects continue to turn to Sklarek as an inspiration and role model.

Awards and Honors

  • Fellow, American Institute of Architects, 1980, first African American woman
  • Association of Black Women Entrepreneurs’ Outstanding Business Role Model Award, 1987
  • Honored by the National Organization of Minority Architects
  • Honored by the Black Women in Sisterhood for Action
  • Honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, 1998
  • Norma Merrick Sklarek Architectural Scholarship Award established at Howard University
  • Resolution from California State Legislature honoring Norma Merrick Sklarek, 2007
  • AIA Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, 2008

*Jack Travis, African American Architects in Current Practice (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991), 66.