12 July 1930(Birth)
18 January 2008(Death)
Arthur Silvers was born in 1930 in South Central Los Angeles. Educated in the Los Angeles public schools, he graduated from the School of Architecture of the University of Southern California (USC) in 1959, and practiced architecture primarily in California for 30 years. He received a Master's degree in engineering in 1978 from California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo.
Silvers was a partner of Kennard and Silvers, the first Black architecture firm in Los Angeles. He was from a generation of post World War II architects whose work demonstrated a break from traditional European influences. Silvers and Kennard were modernists -- influenced by Richard Neutra and Victor Gruen. Silvers was the Historian and Parliamentarian for the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in the 1970s. He and Kennard were both members of Scarab (Architecture Fraternity) at USC. Later in Silvers' career, he worked for DMJM and taught architecture at Cal State Poly San Luis Obispo.
Examples of his work include the Mafundi Building in the Watts neighborhood of LA, the Thurgood Marshall College (College III) at the San Diego campus of the University of California, Temple Akiba in Culver City, the Strawflower Shopping Center at Half Moon Bay, and a bedroom addition to a 1948 John Lautner house - the Jules Salkin Residence – in 1966. He was also commissioned by the City and County of San Francisco to plan the redevelopment of a portion of the Fillmore District. Later in life he lived in San Miguel Allende, Texas, where he built an extraordinary hacienda for himself.
In addition to being a successful architect, Silvers was an artist concerned with social justice. He frequently spoke to students about his architectural work and gave speeches outlining the necessity for protests and civil disobedience, and sometimes got arrested. He was an active leader in the civil rights movement in Los Angeles and president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the 1960s. CORE helped to expose housing discrimination, red lining, and discrimination against Blacks in restaurants and was involved in the community of Watts. After retiring, Silvers lived in Santa Fe, NM, where he was president of the Santa Fe NAACP and was known for his activism to end the death penalty, reform drug policies, and end disparate sentencing and treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system. In 2007, Silvers returned to Los Angeles to be closer to his family and his roots.
"Architect fought against discrimination," Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2008.
Arthur Silvers, LA Conservancy, accessed July 17, 2021.
Arthur Silvers, Santa Fe New Mexican, February 3, 2008.
Watch Silvers speak around the 37:45 mark in this "Minorities in Architecture Panel" from 1976, via SCI-Arc.