Norma Merrick Sklarek (April 15, 1926 in New York City) is an African American architect who earned B. Arch. from Barnard College at Columbia University. Born in Harlem, New York to Trinidadian parents, she was the first black woman to be licensed as an architect in the United States with certification in the state of New York in 1954 and then in the state of California in 1962. She was the first black woman to be elected Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980. Another first, she was the first African-American director of architecture at Gruen and Associates in Los Angeles, CA and she also worked with the Jon Jerde Partnership.
In 1985, she became the first African-American woman 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.
Semi-retired today, she currently serves on the California Architects Board. She also formerly served for several years as Chair of the AIA National Ethics Council. 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.
Norma Merrick Sklarek attended Hunter College High School, an all-girls magnate school, then went to Barnard College and acquired her architecture degree in 1950 from, Columbia University School of Architecture. After receiving her degree, Sklarek was unable to find work at an architecture firm. Sklarek took a job at the New York Department of Public Works and later spent four years at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. In 1966 she became Gruen and Associates’ first female architecture director then became a Vice President at Welton Becket Associates.
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)
Norma Merrick Sklarek died Monday at her home in Pacific Palisades. She was 85.