Black Friday: Norma Merrick Sklarek [1926-2012] – Architect

 Hello, loves!  It’s the first Black Friday post of the year, and am I ever excited about today’s featured designer.

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Norma Merrick Sklarek in the 1970s

I usually focus on fashion, interior, and event design, but this week, I want to share someone that has inspired me to be courageous and follow my heart’s authentic desires. There are so many times we look up to others to inspire us…but in reality, we should be measuring ourselves by the person we are today and the person we can be tomorrow.

“The schools had a quota and it was obvious, a quota against women and a quota against blacks. In architecture, I absolutely had no role model. I am happy today to be a role model for others that follow.”

Born on April 15, 1926, Norma Merrick Sklarek was one of the first African-American women to receive an architectural degree, and owned one of the largest women-owned design firms (Siegel, Sklarek, Diamond) in America during the 1980s.

1986 staff file photo of architects from left: Margot Siegel, Norma Sklarek and Katherine Diamond (all A.T.A.)

She was a graduate of Columbia University, but had much difficulty finding a job in the field upon graduation.  Landing a position at the New York City Public Works, she worked there for a while before taking the state test and receiving her architect’s license.  Skidmore, Owings, Merrill then hired her, but she still faced barriers because of her race and gender.  Moving to Gruen Associates in the 1960s and climbing the corporate ladder, she became the leading technical architect for designing the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the Pacific Design Center, and the Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport.

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US Embassy in Tokyo, Japan

As a “highly visible” employee, Sklarek held herself to a noteworthy standard; she was described by colleagues as punctual, and was “mentally the strongest person” Marshall Purnell knew in the field.  Her incredible production management skills and ability to “see in 3D” landed Sigel, Sklarek, Diamond $50 million deals, and she was known for coming in under budget and on time. The autonomous woman she was, Sklarek knew that her passion for megaprojects was where her skills were best used, so she left her firm after three years.

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Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, CA

Because of the era’s racial tension, Sklarek did not always receive honor when honor was due.  But today, Mrs. Sklarek, we salute your passion, ingenuity, skill, and legacy.

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Norma Merrick Sklarek, April 15, 1926-February 6, 2012

References

Inc.comLA TimesNorthStar News

 

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