In October 2020, Dean Amale Andraos announced that GSAPP will commit $1 million to establish the Norma Merrick Sklarek ’50 B.Arch Scholars Fund, intended to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity by breaking down barriers to access for graduate study.
Columbia alumna Norma Merrick Sklarek, born on April 15, 1928, in Harlem, New York, was a trailblazer. When she passed the New York state exam in 1954, she was among the first Black women to become a registered architect in the State of New York. Author Anna M. Lewis calls Sklarek the ‘Rosa Parks of Architecture' in her book Women of Steel and Stone (Chicago Review Press, 2014).
Following graduation from the Columbia University School of Architecture, Sklarek embarked on her career with a civil service job at the Department of Works for New York City. Committed to pursuing a career in architecture, she eventually accepted a position at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in New York before, four years later, relocating to Los Angeles for a position at Gruen Associates. It was here that Sklarek’s career accelerated; she was named the firm’s Director in 1966 before transferring to the firm Welton Becket as the company’s Vice President. Her influential oeuvre includes American Embassy in Tokyo, the fashion center California Mart, Fox Plaza in San Francisco, and Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport.
Sklarek became the first Black woman to receive a fellowship by the American Institute of Architects in 1980. Five years later, she founded Siegel, Sklarek, Diamond, together with Margot Siegal and Katherine Diamond, becoming one of the first African-American women to establish and manage an architectural firm.