Oral Histories

Interview of Norma Merrick Sklarek

African American architect and educator who designed large scale projects such as LAX Terminal One, San Bernardino City Hall, and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. First African American woman to become a licensed architect in the U.S.
African-American Architects of Los Angeles: Norma Merrick Sklarek
African American Architects of Los Angeles
African American History
Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Design
Henderson, Wesley H.
Sklarek, Norma Merrick
Persons Present:
Sklarek and Henderson.
Place Conducted:
Sklarek's office in Venice, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Wesley Henderson, B.S., Art & Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Master of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ph.D., Architecture, UCLA. Henderson prepared for the interview by having a pre-interview with Williams, interviewing his associates, and relying on the background research for his UCLA doctoral dissertation, "Two Case Studies of African American Architects' Careers in Los Angeles, 1890-1945: Paul R. Williams, FAIA, and James H. Garrott, AIA."
Processing of Interview:
Alex Cline, editor, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. Sklarek reviewed the transcript. She verified proper names and made minor corrections and additions. Cline prepared the biographical summary. Steven J. Novak, editor, prepared the table of contents, interview history, and index.
6 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This project documents the work of selected African American architects who have enhanced the built environment, principally in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Influenced by earlier pioneers such as Paul R. Williams, these individuals overcame bias and discrimination to create structures which have become emblematic of the uniqueness of local architecture.
Family background and childhood in Harlem; attends Hunter High School; housing discrimination; decides to study architecture; attends Barnard College; attends Columbia University School of Architecture; works for the New York City Department of Public Works; hired by Katz, Waisman, Bloominkrantz, Stein, and Weber; Joyce Gildersleeve; Robert Schwartz; joins the American Institute of Architects; joins Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill; moves to California; becomes director of architecture at Victor Gruen and Associates; African Americans and women at Gruen and Associates; designs medical centers; joins Welton Becket and Associates; work on Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport; forms partnership of Siegel-Sklarek-Diamond; Sklarek's design style; teaching in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UCLA; involvement in American Institute of Architects; work on parking structures; opportunities for women and minorities in architecture.