18 Calendar

February 4 – April 30, 2023

From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers

From ancient temples to soaring, modern skyscrapers, Black architects have had a strong presence throughout history. Today, the tradition of greatness continues.

On view at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) from February 4 through April 30, 2023, From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers explores the past, present, and future of architectural talent, while learning about Black pioneers in the field.

Originally created by the Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, with a local addition by curatorial consultant Hasaan Kirkland and co-developed with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, this exhibit celebrates the enduring innovation and impact of Black architects across the United States.

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About the Exhibit

From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers celebrates the enduring innovation and impact of Black architects across the United States. This traveling exhibit highlights individual architects and designers from the late 1800s to today who have broken barriers formed by racism and have created spaces and places that support communities and culture with projects ranging from public housing, to places of worship, museums and universities. Visitors will recognize iconic landmarks from across the country and experience stories of people who paved the way for future generations.

Visitors will also learn about historic and contemporary Black architects and designers from the Seattle-area who have had a local impact, such as Benjamin F. McAdoo Jr., the first Black architect registered in Washington.

Black architects continue to bring their designs to life as a creative response to ever-changing needs, and as a testimonial to a rich heritage. In this exhibit, learn about past and present influential Black architects, hear from Black leaders in the architecture and design fields in video interviews, and engage with tactile interactives. From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers encourages guests to discover how Black architects and designers respond to the ever-changing needs of humanity and not only make changes to their communities but the world.

Other architects highlighted in this exhibit include:

  • Georgia Louise H. Brown: First Black woman to earn a Bachelor of Science in architecture engineering by Kansas University and second to become a licensed architect in the U.S.
  • Philip G. Freelon: Founder of The Freelon Group and the first African American architect to join the U.S Commission of Fine Arts.
  • Roberta Washington: Founder/principal of Roberta Washington Architects and responsible for designing new and modernized public schools, housing projects, health care facilities and office buildings.

Additional Resources

Collage of books supporting black architecture.

Explore the themes presented in the exhibit in this list of books and films, compiled by librarians at the Seattle Public Library.

Book titles include:

  • Black Built by Paul Wellington
  • Adjaye: Africa: Architecture by David Adjaye
  • Living Black: Social Life in an African American Neighborhood by Mark S. Fleisher
  • Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles
  • And many more!

From the Exhibit

Explore Building Textures and Materials

Benjamin F. McAdoo Jr. in his Seattle Office

Working as an Architect

Norma Sklarek and Chuck Roberts at the Gruen Associates' Los Angeles Office

Black Architects in the Pacific Northwest

Profiles of Black Architects and Designers

Design and Build Your Own Structure

Architectural Artifacts and Tools

Pyramids to Skyscrapers - An Architectural Timeline

Related Events

Educator Resources

From the Ground Up Educational Activity Pack

From the Ground Up Education Guide

Educators are welcome to download and use this Educational Activity Guide created by the educators at the Museum of Science + Industry Chicago for use in their classrooms. Explore these engaging lesson plans which put students in the roles of architects, engineers, and designers.

These lesson plans include specific Next Generation Science Standards connections, ideas for differentiated instruction as well as all the information you need to run the lesson. Designed for ages 8-12, but can be easily enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

Black Heritage Society Of Washington State

MOHAI’s additions to From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers were co-developed with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and curatorial consultant Hasaan Kirkland of Kairos Industry LLC.

An institutional partnership formed between BHS and MOHAI more than 25 years ago. In collaboration with the museum, BHS is proud to support the selection of images by the community curators for the installation of Perspectives on Place: Photographs from Here.

Black Heritage Society Logo

BHS was founded in 1977 with a mission to collect, preserve, and share the history of African Americans from across the region. BHS manages and maintains a large public collection of memorabilia that documents the lives and legacies of Black people who helped and continue to contribute to the vitality of Washington State. The organization’s community engagement expands beyond collections to be advocates for saving historic places in Washington State.

Exhibit Accessibility

Digital labels that are screen reader compatible and will adjust to your preferred accessibility settings on your mobile device will be available for use in the exhibit as a resource for visitors who are blind or have low vision.

Exhibit Support

Generous support for this exhibit was provided by
Media support for this exhibit was provided by

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