Norma Merrick Sklarek

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Norma Merrick Sklarek (April 15, 1928 – February 6, 2012) was an African-American architect who accomplished many firsts for black women in architecture.


Born in Harlem, New York, to Trinidadian parents, she attended Hunter College High School, then went to Barnard College, and acquired her architecture degree in 1950 from Columbia University School of Architecture. She was one of the first black women to be licensed as an architect in the United States, and the first to be licensed in the state of New York in 1954 and in the state of California in 1962.[1]

After receiving her degree, Sklarek was unable to find work at an architecture firm, so she took a job at the New York Department of Public Works. Later she spent four years at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. She became the first African-American director of architecture at Gruen and Associates in Los Angeles, CA, in 1966, and she also worked with the Jon Jerde Partnership.[2] Sklarek became the first black woman to be elected Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980. In 1985, she became the first African-American female architect to form her own architectural firm: Siegel, Sklarek, Diamond, which was the largest woman-owned and mostly woman-staffed architectural firm in the United States.

Among Sklarek's designs are the San Bernardino City Hall in San Bernardino, California, the Fox Plaza in San Francisco, Terminal One at the Los Angeles International Airport and the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo, Japan.[3]

Following her retirement, she served on the California Architects Board. She also served for several years as Chair of the AIA National Ethics Council.[3] In her honor, Howard University offers the Norma Merrick Sklarek Architectural Scholarship Award. Norma Merrick Sklarek is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Additional awards[edit]

  • A resolution from the California State Legislature honoring her (2007).
  • Appointment to the California Architects Board by the governor of California (2003).
  • The Association of Black Women Entrepreneurs’ Outstanding Business Role Model Award (1987).
  • The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ Leadership and Assistance as a Master Juror (1987)


  • I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America. Edited by Barbara Summers; Photos and Interviews by Brian Lanker, Workman Publishing, 1989.

External links[edit]