Clarence Wesley "Cap" Wigington (1883-1967) was an African-American architect who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. After winning three first prizes in charcoal, pencil, and pen and ink at an art competition during the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in 1899, Wigington went on to become a renowned architect across the Midwestern United States. It was a time when there were few African-American architects in the entire United States. Wigington was the nation's first black municipal architect, serving as senior designer for the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota's architectural office for 34 years when the city had an ambitious building program. Sixty of his buildings still stand in Saint Paul, with several recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. His architectural legacy constitutes one of the most significant bodies of work by an African-American architect.
Diversity in architecture can be achieved, Sharon Sutton, PhD, FAIA, told 2006 Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference attendees in her February 9 keynote address. But despite many steps forward, she said it is clear that the profession and the society that it serves have not realized that potential. “Only through a candid and honest examination of the structural inequities embedded in our past and present can we move toward a brighter and more inclusive future,” Sutton said. “Our 150-year celebration demands no less than a fundamental metamorphosis.”
Culling evidence from four recent research studies, Sutton said, “In a nutshell, the field has made insufficient progress on diversity, has a white macho culture framed by educational experiences, engages in discriminatory employment practices, suffers from a glass-ceiling phenomenon and attrition, and socially isolates underrepresented individuals.” Sutton challenged the audience: “What is the relevance of these findings? Why should you as leaders in architecture who have spent your day hobnobbing with important politicians worry about these problems?”
Sutton had a ready answer: “Diversity in architecture is not only an ethical imperative, it is vital to the continued creativity, competitiveness, and survival of the field.”