Celebrating Black Architects

Date: Feb 23, 2024 2:00:00 PM

In the spirit of Black History Month, we would like to share and honor the stories of four black pioneers in the A/E/C industry to amplify the voices of entrepreneurship, creativity, and perseverance. 

Tiara Hughes - Commissioner - Chicago Landmarks Commission - City of  Chicago | LinkedIn

Image from LinkedIn

Tiara hughes

Tiara Hughes is an urban designer, a visionary, and entrepreneur. After working in design at firms like SOM, and Skidmore, Owings & Merril l, Hughes founded the FIRST 500 after seeing a gap in the community of Black women architects – a group who makes up less than 1% of all licensed architects. FIRST 500 provides resources, raises awareness, and serves as an inspiration for Black women looking to pursue (or currently in) architecture. With a lecture series and networking, Tiara Hughes discusses histories and works with communities to inspire women seeking the enter the industry.

Read about Tiara Hughes' work. 

Tiara Hughes shares her lecture, "Designing for Change", at the Illinois School of Architecture.

Click image to visit the FIRST 500 webpage.


Image from The Philadelphia Inquirer

emanuel kelly, faia

September 18, 1943 – January 12, 2024

80 years old

Emanuel Kelly was a ground-breaking architect and pioneer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Kelly had more than 40 years of experience in the field and taught at Temple University for 25 years before retiring. He established Kelly Maiello, Inc., in collaboration with Vincent Maiello, AIA, which was one of the first black-owned architectural firms in Philadelphia. His firm has worked on several projects for local and state governments, institutional, and social service organizations. Kelly was a long-time advocate for architecture driven by context and service, and for affordable housing.

Read more about Mr. Kelly's story. 


Emanuel Kelly shares his history in a video series by University City Historical Society. 

Project Highlight

The Presidents' Building 

Image from Kelly Maiello Architects. Photo credit to Halkin | Mason Photography

Click image to learn more about this project. 



Image from TedX


Liz Ogbu is a Nigerian-American designer, urbanist, and thought leader who works with community-based design. Through a focus on designing for impact, Ogbu makes an active decision to understand her clients needs and find solutions that are tailored specifically to each situation. By treating her clients as co-designers, she is able to identify the heart and nuances of a challenge to produce results that leave lasting and transformative impressions. Ogbu translates the needs of her clients into stories and conversations which many can empathize with and thus begin to understand the potential of each space and place beyond their limitations and perspectives.

Learn more about Liz Ogbu



Project Highlight

Day Labor Station

Image from LizOgbu.Com

Click image to learn more about this project. 


Tosin Oshinowo

Image from @tosin.oshinowo  on Instagram

Tosin Oshinowo

Tosin Oshinowo is a trailblazing Nigerian architect based in Lagos. After working for large firms such as OMA and SOM, Oshinowo moved back to Nigeria and eventually opened her own practice in search of fulfillment. To turn the narrative away from business-led architecture and towards experimentation and impact-driven design. Oshinowo is a furniture designer, an architect, a thought-leader, a curator, and a business woman who knows her strengths and exhibits her values. In 2023, Oshinowo opened the Sharjah Architecture Triennial focused on the celebration of places which thrive under conditions of scarcity. An exhibition led by experiences, Oshinowo wanted to highlight the importance of systemically changing our approach to consumption.

In Lagos, we experience the full complexities of a rapidly urbanizing continent. One of the new global, urban frontiers, the city affords us a unique insight into the metropolis of the future.” – Oshinowo Studio



Project Highlight



Image from Oshinowo Studio.

Click image to learn more about this project.


These stories highlight only a few of the inspirational achievements out there. As the FIRST 500 organization describes it, the number of these stories will increase indefinitely over time as resources and knowledge are shared, communities are created, and trailblazers continue to break the glass ceilings in the industry. 

Happy Black History Month!

Blog header from David Brossard on Flickr.