One of the first Black women to earn an architecture license in the state of California
Norma Merrick Sklarek was a pioneer in the field of architecture. In the1960’s, she became one of the first Black women to be licensed in California. Her brilliance, passion, and perseverance allowed her to overcome racism, uplifting and guiding other minorities and women in the industry.
Sklarek was born April 15, 1928 in New York City. In the 1940’s she attended an all-girls magnet high school in Manhattan. After graduation, she went on to receive a Bachelor of Architecture in 1950 from Columbia University, and was one of two women and the only Black American in her class.
Sklarek had many accomplishments throughout her life, including being the first Black woman member of the American Institute of Architecture (AIA). She also became the first Black woman along with two other women to own her own architectural firm, now one of the largest predominately female firms in United States history. She is most recognized for designing the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, and the Passenger Terminal 1 at the Los Angeles International Airport.
In 2003, Sklarek was appointed to the California Architects Board (CAB) and served on the Professional Qualifications and Regulatory Enforcement Committees. In 2007, she was honored by the California State Legislature. The following year, AIA honored her with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award which recognizes an architect or organization that embodies social responsibility.
Following decades of exceptional leadership and accomplishments, Sklarek died in 2012 at the age of 85. Her work undoubtedly shaped California and America.
To become a licensed California architect, or to find out more about the profession and its services, visit www.cab.ca.gov. If you are interested in hiring an architect, check out CAB’s “Consumer’s Guide to Hiring and Architect” and check the professional’s license at search.dca.ca.gov.