If you were asked to name the greatest American architects, who would you pick? Folks like Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and Philip Johnson usually spring to mind. However, alongside those men were many Black architects that also pioneered in the design world alongside their white colleagues while simultaneously facing major social barriers — all while never attaining the same level of recognition. In fact, Black people were still barred from studying architecture and design in many states until the 1950s and ‘60s.
Due to segregation, even the most successful and well-known Black architects — such as Paul R. Williams — famously could not live in the homes they designed. Still, not only did these architects break ground on the buildings they designed, but they also broke real-world racial barriers and proverbial glass ceilings.
The art and architecture that surrounds us can influence the way we live our lives, but they also reflect the times during which they were made. Design can be used as a way to bring people together, with public works projects like affordable housing, or be used to divide, such as in the case of racially motivated urban planning. Many major cities, Los Angeles included, remain starkly racially divided due to the redlining of yesteryear.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all impactful Black architects lived in the past — many are creating today. And while schools are no longer segregated and people of color are no longer barred from pursuing professional architecture, the design world is still often criticized for its lack of diversity.
The following 10 Black architects are just a few that have left their own legendary stamp on the world.