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Brilliant Black Architects That Were Part of the Journey

Feb 19, 2020 | Architect, Architecture, Featured Professional, Featured Projects, General News, Historic Architecture

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In honor of Black History Month, we would like to pay homage to the black architects who laid down the foundation for those who would succeed them. Every footstep that has been walked by these predecessors have paved a path for other black architects to take part in that journey that leads to the acknowledgment that they deserve. It is in that vein that this list was created.

First on our list is Robert R. Taylor, who wasn’t just another brilliant architect, he was the first African-American architect, academically trained at MIT and their first African-American student. This was at a time in history when black Americans weren’t given fair opportunities in academia. 

Robert R. Taylor was born in 1868 in North Carolina to former slaves. His talent was inherited from his father, who taught Taylor carpentry and construction. Taylor then went on to work as a construction foreman before he enrolled at MIT. After graduation, Booker T. Washington contracted Taylor to work at the Tuskegee Institute as an educator developing the architecture and construction trade program. Taylor also designed and built many campus structures that are still standing today. He also built and designed The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s home at the Tuskegee Institute in 1899. Taylor left a legacy of future architects because of his teachings at the Tuskegee Institute.

Vertner Woodson Tandy was born in 1885 in Lexington, Kentucky. Tandy attended the Tuskegee Institute, where he studied architectural drawing. In 1907, Tandy graduated from Cornell University with a degree in architecture. Tandy went on to become New York state’s first registered black architect. Tandy’s most noted commission was Villa Lewaro, which was the mansion of Harlem millionairess Madam C.J. Walker. Among his other commissions were churches, apartment buildings, and other structures. One such structure is known as the six-story Ivey Delph Apartments, which went into the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Tandy also held many military honors. 

Paul R. Williams is another brilliant architect, who designed the Theme Building at LAX, the building that looks like something out of the Jetsons. He later became known as the architect to the stars.  Williams designed many celebrities’ homes, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Lon Chaney, Barbara Stanwyck, and Charles Correll, just to name a few. He also designed the Los Angeles Courthouse, the Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, and the list goes on… 

From the Factory Floor

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting