Norma Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012), often referred to as the “Rosa Parks of architecture,” was a trailblazer for black women in architecture. She was not only the first black woman to be licensed as an architect in New York, but was also the first in California. She was the first black woman to gain membership in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and later became that Institute’s first black female Fellow. In 1985, she became the first black woman to co-own an architecture firm (Siegel Sklarek Diamond), which was, for its time, the nation’s largest women-owned architecture firm.

Sklarek died in her home in Pacific Palisades in 2012 at the age of 85, but not before being awarded the Whitney M Young Jr. Award by the AIA in recognition of her “embodiment of the profession’s responsibility to address social issues.” Her legacy lives on in her many architectural works, and in the generation of architects of color she inspired and fostered.

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