Meet Norma Merrick Sklarek The First African American Woman Architect Licensed In U.S.

Norma Merrick Sklarek

Meet Norma Merrick Sklarek The First African American Woman Architect Licensed In U.S.

She was the first woman to become a licensed architect in the states of New York (1954) and later the first woman to be licensed in the state of California (1962)

Norma Merrick was born on April 15, 1926 in Harlem, New York. Her Parents are from Barbados. She remembered that her parents told her “things that are worthwhile and from which one receives great satisfaction are never easy, but require perseverance and hard work”

Merrick went on to become an architect, 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 from 1950 to 1954.

After graduating from Columbia, Sklarek faced discrimination in her search for work as an architect, applying to and being rejected by nineteen firms. “They weren’t hiring women or African Americans, and I didn’t know which it was [working against me],” she told a local newspaper in 2004

In 1955, Sklarek was offered a position in the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. At SOM, she was given more responsibility on increasingly large-scale projects, and she also taught evening architecture courses at the New York City Community College.

In 1959, she became the first African American woman member of the American Institute of Architects.

In 1980, Sklarek was the first African American woman elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects for her outstanding contributions to the profession, the first woman in the Los Angeles AIA chapter to be awarded this honor. That same year, she joined the Los Angeles firm Welton Becket Associates as a vice president, where she was responsible for Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), a $50 million project that she completed before the start of the 1984 Olympic Games.

On February 6, 2012, after a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishments and leadership in architecture, Sklarek died of heart failure at her home in Pacific Palisades, California, at age 85.

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