AIA National Associates Committee (NAC)

The May 6, 2004 report by the AIA National Associates Committee (NAC) on "Diversity in the Architecture Profession."

The AIA National Associates Committee (NAC), representing the associate members of the Institute, believes that diversity in the field of architecture is a topic that must be seriously addressed at all levels of the profession. To this end, we encourage discussion, thought, and action in the schools of architecture, in architecture firms, at all levels of the AIA, and among individual architects, both in traditional and nontraditional roles, to help move us forward in an increasingly diverse direction.

For the full report see http://www.aia.org/SiteObjects/files/NACDiversityWhitePaper.pdf


Walter T. Bailey

Walter T. Bailey (1882-1941) became the first African-American to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering at UIUC in 1904 (Fig. 3). In 1910 he received an honorary Master’s Degree in architecture from UIUC. Bailey hailed from Kewanee, Illinois, where he attended Kewanee High School. He arrived on campus in 1900. Following his graduation, he worked briefly for Harry Eckland, an architect in Kewanee, and for Spencer & Temple, an architectural firm in Champaign. During that time he assisted in planning Colonel Wolfe School in Champaign (1905). That same year, he was appointed Head of the Mechanical Industries Department at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he also supervised the planning, design, and construction supervision of all new campus buildings. While at Tuskegee he designed White Hall (1908), a girls’ dormitory, as well as two churches in Montgomery, Alabama (1910, 1912). He remained at Tuskegee until 1916 when he opened an office on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, a street nicknamed “a main street of Negro America.”

The Knights of Pythian, a large national fraternal order of African-Americans formed in the post-Civil War era, comprised a significant clientele for Bailey. It provided programs for recreation, racial and social advancement, life insurance, and death benefits; as well as aid to the sick, persons with disabilities, elderly, orphans, and widows. During Bailey’s career in Memphis, he designed the Mosaic State Temple Building (1922) and the Pythian Theater Building (1922-23), both in Little Rock, Arkansas. He also designed the Pythian Bath House and Sanitarium in Hot Springs, Arkansas (1923), a recreational facility exclusively for African-Americans (Figs. 4-5). Ironically, although many African-Americans served as laborers in Hot Springs’ elaborate bath houses, they were prohibited from using them. The Pythian Bath House provided a respite from the oppressive world of Jim Crowe.

In 1924 Bailey moved his practice to Chicago, site of two of his major projects: The National Pythian Temple (1927), and the First Church of Deliverance (1939). Both served as icons of African-American achievement and power on Chicago’s South Side, a region then commonly referred to as Bronzeville or Black Metropolis and a destination for those escaping the South during the Great Migration. When it was completed, the National Pythian Temple, an eight-story building with a steel frame, yellow brick facing, and decorative terra cotta reliefs, was one of the tallest buildings in the area. It provided an auditorium for large gatherings, commercial and office space for African-American businesses, as well as residential apartment units. Bailey’s design for the First Church of Deliverance expansion, also on Chicago’s South Side, became an Art Moderne landmark. The church was known for its gospel music and radio broadcast ministries, and its architectural style was a reflection of these new religious mediums. In response to its radio broadcasts, the congregation swelled and needed expansion.

Bailey died of pneumonia in 1941. Although his work was overlooked for decades, he was rediscovered as the subject of a 2002 Masters’ thesis as well as one of two UIUC African-American architecture alumni featured in the 2004 publication, African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945 .


Bey, Lee, “Black Designer All But Forgotten,” Chicago Sun-Times (February 9, 1998), p. D13.

Kriz, Mikael David. Walter T. Bailey and the African American Patron. Master’s Thesis, Art History Program, School of Art and Design, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002.

Lee, George Washington. “Poetic Memories of Beale Street,” West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 28 (1969), p. 65.


Building a Legacy : John Chase

In a sea of white faces, John Saunders Chase waited patiently amid the stares and glares of the swarm of humanity surrounding him. Cameras flashed as reporters hurled questions at him and jotted down his responses.

It was June 7, 1950. Chase, an African American, was smartly dressed in a double-breasted coat and tie, as he stood in line in Gregory Gym at The University of Texas at Austin. Only vaguely aware of the name Heman Marion Sweatt, Chase wasn’t standing in line with the intention of making history. Nor was he purposefully making a statement about social injustice. He, like the thousands of other students in the gym, waited in line for a basic rite of passage on a university campus. He was waiting to enroll.

Just two days prior, the United States Supreme Court had ruled in favor of desegregation in three separate civil rights cases. Two of the cases, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State and Henderson v. United States, focused on banning separate facilities at a university and prohibiting segregated seating arrangements on railroad cars, respectively.

The third case, Sweatt v. Painter, concerned equal education opportunities—specifically, the right of African Americans to enroll in the School of Law at The University of Texas at Austin. The court voted in favor of desegregation of graduate and professional schools (the undergraduate level did not desegregate until the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954) and The University of Texas at Austin became the first major public university in the south to open its doors to African Americans.

Chase, born in Annapolis, Md., was 25 years old at the time. Although nervous, he recalls being befuddled at the fanfare that greeted his arrival.

“I remember, specifically, a photographer who talked non-stop to me about making history and getting the ‘right moment’ on film,” Chase said. “He told me that I wasn’t officially accepted into the university until it became a ‘contract’—in other words, until the university took my money. He was right there next to me at that moment to snap a photo.”



Black Boxes: Enigmas of Space and Race

Black Boxes: Enigmas of Space and Race was a two-day symposium on race and its role in the built environment that will be held Jan. 16 and 17 at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut. The event was organized by Ms. Newsom, a second-year graduate student at the School.

An article by Jennifer Newsom is posted at http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=63
The article closes with the following
The goal of Black Boxes is not to validate one opinion or put forth an ideological stance: it is simply to speak, reveal, and contribute verbally and openly. After all, we must acknowledge that what we make is not neutral. We must demystify the other and render difference commonplace rather than exotic. We must move beyond binaries, into a sort of enmeshed existence.
In order for us to fill the silence and surpass a cursory tokenism, we need to communicate. Black Boxes will provide the stage for this discussion. And it will continue to be an important discussion, for, as the scholar Cornel West notes, “the struggle with difference is what is and will be taking place in cultural architectural practices for the next 10, 20, 30 years.”


Twisted: African-American Architects and Signature Commissions

Craig Wilkins, PhD
University of Michigan College of Architecture + Urban Planning

Recently several choice, culturally specific museum commissions were awarded to equally choice, culturally specific architects. In and of itself, this is not unusual or even particularly noteworthy. Although choice commissions are not the most frequent of commissions awarded to architects, they come regularly enough to keep several professional magazines, critics, authors, and even a cultural institutions or two turning a profit. However, the recent commissions for the Museum of African American Music in Newark; the National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Va.; and the Museum for African Art in New York City are indeed noteworthy, primarily for two reasons. The first is that the material culture that authorizes these institutions is quintessentially African American, which as a raison d’etre for architecture is still rare, and the second is that the authors chosen to shape those culturally specific elements are still neither rare nor African American.

Despite the exchanges—or more accurately, lack thereof—emerging in architectural and African-American communities surrounding the recent awarding of the Museum of African American Music to the Hillier Group, the National Slavery Museum to Chien Chung Pei, and the Museum for African Art to Robert A.M. Stern, with the development of similar projects on the horizon, it is not unreasonable to expect at least the African-American community to grow concerned about these choices. It is also not unreasonable to expect the architectural community to remain unconcerned about the same. So, situated as I am in both the architectural and African American communities, I feel somewhat compelled to address the selection of architects charged with communicating African-American history, particularly since I see the awarding of these commissions going beyond a concern about a particular edifice and indicative of one much broader. That broader concern—which by the way, isn’t only a cultural one, but also a professional one as well—is centered on the fact that African-American architects, historically and presently, are routinely denied serious consideration for commissions of substantial size, scope, and symbolic importance.

Given this state of affairs, in the context of current and future projects designated to represent aspects of African-American life, art, history, and culture, I think it a worthwhile project not only to make visible this transparent condition, but also to examine reasons why these omissions persist. I submit they persist primary due to archaic conflations of race and ability and thus, I will take the opportunity presented by these commissions to look closer into the ways in which race subtly shapes the study and practice of architecture. For brevity’s sake, I’ll specifically concentrate on three of the most frequently provided and commonly accepted reasons for the dearth of African-American architects invited to compete for high profile projects: existence, experience, and aesthetics.

the full essay can be seen at