Last year, Docomomo US and our chapters focused our attention on the work of diverse designers through our annual advocacy theme "The Diversity of Modernism." Since then, we have continued to document and represent architects and designers of color and women who made significant contributions to the Modern Movement. This Special Edition newsletter is dedicated to highlighting some of these designers. Thank you to our chapters and partners for their continued efforts with this, and a special thank you to Jerome A. Robinson for his contributions.
Amaza Lee Meredith
Amaza Lee Meredith was a trailblazing African American architect, educator, and artist. Prohibited from receiving formal training as a professional architect, because of "both her race and her sex," Meredith worked around those societal restrictions. She founded the art department at Virginia State College for Negroes [now Virginia State University] and designed many of the houses of her family and friends. Her resilience came to fruition in 1938 when she designed her most renowned structure, Azurest South.
Robert P. Madison
Robert (Bob) Prince Madison is the first registered African American architect in Ohio and established his firm on July 17, 1954, two months to the day after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision where the U.S. Supreme court unanimously ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Madison’s enduring designs have become a part of the state’s iconography and the city of Cleveland’s best expressions of itself.
Yasuo Matsui was born and raised in Japan. He immigrated to the United States in 1902 and attended M.I.T. and the University of California, Berkeley. He became a registered architect and worked as a draftsman for several prominent New York firms. He acted as an associate or consulting architect on many significant buildings including the Empire State Building, Starrett-Lehigh, and the Japanese Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Matsui was held at an internment camp for two months and was required to report to the federal government monthly until October 1945, a month after World War II ended.
Anne Griswold Tyng devoted her career to achieving a synthesis of geometric order and human consciousness within architecture. Since the 1950s, when she worked closely with Louis I. Kahn and independently pioneered habitable space-frame architecture, Tyng applied natural and numeric systems to built forms on all scales, from urban plans to domestic spaces. Her work and ideas pushed the spatial potential of architecture.
Nathan Johnson was born in 1926 in Herington, Kansas. He came to Detroit to work as a draftsman for White and Griffin before forming his own firm in 1956. He pursued an adventurous modern style in church architecture with some of Detroit’s most historic black faith communities. By 1963, an article in the Detroit Free Press reported that he “has built or is planning a dozen churches.” Articulating the modernist underpinning of his work, Johnson says in the same article, “We try to be honest. If we want to decorate a church, we let the structure do it instead of applying ornaments.”
Georgia Louise Harris Brown
Georgia Louise Harris Brown was born in Kansas in 1918. She excelled in school and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1944. She also attended classes at IIT. She worked in the office of black architect and structural engineer Kenneth Roderick O’Neal and later for Kornacker Associates. In the 1950s, seeking to advance her career free of racism and sexism, she moved to Brazil, where she worked on a number of high profile public commissions as well as many private residences. Brown asserted that she never thought of herself as having been a black pioneer female architect, but simply an architect.
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