clock menu more-arrow no yes
The Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, designed by Caples Jefferson.
Photo: Nic Lehoux/View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

13 notable NYC projects designed by black architects

From museums to apartment buildings

View as Map
The Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, designed by Caples Jefferson.
| Photo: Nic Lehoux/View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

Black architects have long been underrepresented not just in the national conversation on design and architecture, but here in New York City as well. According to NYCOBA|NOMA, a coalition formed between New York Coalition of Black Architects and The New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, black designers account for only two percent of the total licensed architects working in the United States.

But in recent years, groups like NYCOBA|NOMA have worked to shine a spotlight on these pioneering creatives, and this map hopes to do the same: to showcase the work of black architects who’ve left an indelible mark on New York’s built environment.

The projects here run the gamut from museums to memorials to apartment buildings—take a look, and if we missed a particularly noteworthy project, sound off in the comments.

Read More

1. 130 William

Copy Link
130 William St
New York, NY 10038

David Adjaye

British starchitect David Adjaye designed 130 William Street, a 66-story tower in the Financial District—his first NYC skyscraper—which topped out in May 2019 and launched sales in August 2018. “I sought to celebrate New York City’s heritage of masonry architecture, referencing the historical architecture once pervasive upon one of the city’s earliest streets,” Adjaye said in a statement at the time of the topping out.

Bynian Studios

2. National September 11 Memorial and Museum

Copy Link
180 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10007
(212) 312-8800
Visit Website

J. Max Bond, Jr.

J. Max Bond Jr. was, during his career, considered the most influential black architect in New York City, and played an instrumental role in the design of several notable structures—none more famous than the National September 11 Museum. Bond was part of the well-known architecture firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas at the time of his death in 2009, and oversaw the museum’s design as part of his tenure there. The museum opened in 2014.

PitK/Shutterstock

3. African Burial Ground National Monument

Copy Link
290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
(212) 637-2019
Visit Website

Rodney Leon

In 2004, architect Rodney Leon won a competition to design this national monument, which is located on the site of the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for enslaved and free Africans. Dating back to the 17th century, the burial ground was only discovered in 1991 in the midst of construction work on an office tower. Leon’s design features a 25-foot granite monument and is made with stone from South Africa and North America to symbolize the two worlds coming together.

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

4. 1400 Fifth Avenue

Copy Link
1400 5th Ave
New York, NY 10026

Roberta Washington

When Roberta Washington established her namesake firm in 1983, it was one of the few architectural practices owned by an African-American woman in the entire country. This particular project on Fifth Avenue was also pioneering in that it was Harlem’s first “green” building, with more than 60 percent of the structure made up of recyclable or renewable materials.

Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

5. The Studio Museum in Harlem

Copy Link
144 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027
(212) 864-4500
Visit Website

J. Max Bond, Jr.

Though the Studio Museum is now closed—a new facility, designed by David Adjaye, is forthcoming—its former 125th Street HQ was renovated by J. Max Bond, Jr., and opened to the public in the 1980s.

6. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building

Copy Link
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027

Ifill Johnson Hanchard

Black architecture firm Ifill Johnson Hanchard, led by Percy C. Ifill, designed several noteworthy New York buildings, the best-known of which is the the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, located on 125th Street in Harlem. The building, which opened in 1973, faced criticism for its African mask-inspired facade, and was met with mixed reviews upon its completion. It was renamed for Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who represented Harlem for decades first in the New York City council and then in Congress, in 1983.

Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

7. Astor Row Porches

Copy Link

Roberta Washington

Astor Row refers to a group of 28 houses on the south side of West 130th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues. They were built in the late 19th century by the Astor family. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated them NYC landmarks in 1981, particularly for their unique wooden porches. Roberta Washington’s firm worked to restore 20 of these porches in the 1990s and made a big effort to replicate the original materials.

8. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

Copy Link
204 W 134th St
New York, NY 10030

Vertner Woodson Tandy

In addition to the Ivey Delph Apartments, Tandy was responsible, along with fellow black architect George Washington Foster, for designing Harlem’s St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. The Neo-Geothic building was constructed around 1911 as a replacement for the Free African Church of St. Philip that was previously located in lower Manhattan. The church is the city’s oldest black Episcopal parish and the second oldest in the country. It achieved landmark status in 1993 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Google Maps.

9. Ivey Delph Apartments

Copy Link
13 Hamilton Terrace
New York, NY 10031

Vertner Woodson Tandy

Architect Vertner Woodson Tandy holds the distinction of being the first registered African American architect in the state of New York. His most famous work, the Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York, was designed for Madame C.J. Walker. But Woodson also left his imprint on New York City: Around 1948, Tandy designed the Ivey Delph Apartments, a six-story rental building in Hamilton Heights that is distinguished by its expansive balconies with curved iron railings. The building has retained its original facade and in 2005, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Americasroof via Wikimedia Commons.

10. Harlem River Houses

Copy Link
Harlem River Houses
New York, NY 10039

John Lewis Wilson, Jr.

Architect John Lewis Wilson, Jr. was the only black architect on the seven-man team appointed to design the Harlem River Houses. The complex was constructed in 1937 and was one of the city’s first two housing projects that were funded by the federal government in an effort to provide black New Yorkers with better-quality housing. In 1975, the 574-apartment campus became a New York City landmark and in 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

By Beyond My Ken, via Wikimedia Commons

11. Sugar Hill Apartments

Copy Link
404 W 155th St
New York, NY 10032

David Adjaye

Before working on high-profile commissions like the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., David Adjaye designed a comparatively low-key development in Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood. The futuristic building at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 155th Street is home to 124 affordable apartments, a preschool, and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling.

Via Adjaye Associates

12. Weeksville Heritage Center

Copy Link
158 Buffalo Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11213
(718) 756-5250
Visit Website

Caples Jefferson

The husband-and-wife team of Sarah Caples and Everardo Jefferson (who is African American and Hispanic) designed the modern addition to Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center, which commemorates the first village settled by free blacks in New York City. The new building is meant to “not only to preserve the history, stories, and artifacts of this exceptional neighborhood, but activate its beleaguered current reality,” as Julie Baumgardner wrote for Curbed in 2017.

Photo by: Nic Lehoux/View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

13. Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts

Copy Link
80 Hanson Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 230-0492
Visit Website

Yolande Daniels

Architecture firm StudioSUMO, of which Yolande Daniels is a founding partner, worked on this museum between 2004-2006. It occupies the lower floors of 80 Hanson Place in Fort Greene, which is also home to local arts non-profits. One of the most notable design features of the museum is the reception area, featuring thousands of stacked pieces of wood that create a map of 24 time zones, representing cities that are important to the African Diaspora.

Loading comments...

1. 130 William

130 William St, New York, NY 10038
Bynian Studios

David Adjaye

British starchitect David Adjaye designed 130 William Street, a 66-story tower in the Financial District—his first NYC skyscraper—which topped out in May 2019 and launched sales in August 2018. “I sought to celebrate New York City’s heritage of masonry architecture, referencing the historical architecture once pervasive upon one of the city’s earliest streets,” Adjaye said in a statement at the time of the topping out.

130 William St
New York, NY 10038

2. National September 11 Memorial and Museum

180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
PitK/Shutterstock

J. Max Bond, Jr.

J. Max Bond Jr. was, during his career, considered the most influential black architect in New York City, and played an instrumental role in the design of several notable structures—none more famous than the National September 11 Museum. Bond was part of the well-known architecture firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas at the time of his death in 2009, and oversaw the museum’s design as part of his tenure there. The museum opened in 2014.

180 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10007

3. African Burial Ground National Monument

290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Rodney Leon

In 2004, architect Rodney Leon won a competition to design this national monument, which is located on the site of the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for enslaved and free Africans. Dating back to the 17th century, the burial ground was only discovered in 1991 in the midst of construction work on an office tower. Leon’s design features a 25-foot granite monument and is made with stone from South Africa and North America to symbolize the two worlds coming together.

290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

4. 1400 Fifth Avenue

1400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10026
Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

Roberta Washington

When Roberta Washington established her namesake firm in 1983, it was one of the few architectural practices owned by an African-American woman in the entire country. This particular project on Fifth Avenue was also pioneering in that it was Harlem’s first “green” building, with more than 60 percent of the structure made up of recyclable or renewable materials.

1400 5th Ave
New York, NY 10026

5. The Studio Museum in Harlem

144 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027

J. Max Bond, Jr.

Though the Studio Museum is now closed—a new facility, designed by David Adjaye, is forthcoming—its former 125th Street HQ was renovated by J. Max Bond, Jr., and opened to the public in the 1980s.

144 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027

6. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

Ifill Johnson Hanchard

Black architecture firm Ifill Johnson Hanchard, led by Percy C. Ifill, designed several noteworthy New York buildings, the best-known of which is the the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, located on 125th Street in Harlem. The building, which opened in 1973, faced criticism for its African mask-inspired facade, and was met with mixed reviews upon its completion. It was renamed for Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who represented Harlem for decades first in the New York City council and then in Congress, in 1983.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027

7. Astor Row Porches

New York, NY 10037

Roberta Washington

Astor Row refers to a group of 28 houses on the south side of West 130th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues. They were built in the late 19th century by the Astor family. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated them NYC landmarks in 1981, particularly for their unique wooden porches. Roberta Washington’s firm worked to restore 20 of these porches in the 1990s and made a big effort to replicate the original materials.

8. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

204 W 134th St, New York, NY 10030
Google Maps.

Vertner Woodson Tandy

In addition to the Ivey Delph Apartments, Tandy was responsible, along with fellow black architect George Washington Foster, for designing Harlem’s St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. The Neo-Geothic building was constructed around 1911 as a replacement for the Free African Church of St. Philip that was previously located in lower Manhattan. The church is the city’s oldest black Episcopal parish and the second oldest in the country. It achieved landmark status in 1993 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

204 W 134th St
New York, NY 10030

9. Ivey Delph Apartments

13 Hamilton Terrace, New York, NY 10031
Americasroof via Wikimedia Commons.

Vertner Woodson Tandy

Architect Vertner Woodson Tandy holds the distinction of being the first registered African American architect in the state of New York. His most famous work, the Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York, was designed for Madame C.J. Walker. But Woodson also left his imprint on New York City: Around 1948, Tandy designed the Ivey Delph Apartments, a six-story rental building in Hamilton Heights that is distinguished by its expansive balconies with curved iron railings. The building has retained its original facade and in 2005, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

13 Hamilton Terrace
New York, NY 10031

10. Harlem River Houses

Harlem River Houses, New York, NY 10039
By Beyond My Ken, via Wikimedia Commons

John Lewis Wilson, Jr.

Architect John Lewis Wilson, Jr. was the only black architect on the seven-man team appointed to design the Harlem River Houses. The complex was constructed in 1937 and was one of the city’s first two housing projects that were funded by the federal government in an effort to provide black New Yorkers with better-quality housing. In 1975, the 574-apartment campus became a New York City landmark and in 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Harlem River Houses
New York, NY 10039

11. Sugar Hill Apartments

404 W 155th St, New York, NY 10032
Via Adjaye Associates

David Adjaye

Before working on high-profile commissions like the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., David Adjaye designed a comparatively low-key development in Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood. The futuristic building at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 155th Street is home to 124 affordable apartments, a preschool, and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling.

404 W 155th St
New York, NY 10032

12. Weeksville Heritage Center

158 Buffalo Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
Photo by: Nic Lehoux/View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

Caples Jefferson

The husband-and-wife team of Sarah Caples and Everardo Jefferson (who is African American and Hispanic) designed the modern addition to Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center, which commemorates the first village settled by free blacks in New York City. The new building is meant to “not only to preserve the history, stories, and artifacts of this exceptional neighborhood, but activate its beleaguered current reality,” as Julie Baumgardner wrote for Curbed in 2017.

158 Buffalo Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11213

13. Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts

80 Hanson Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Yolande Daniels

Architecture firm StudioSUMO, of which Yolande Daniels is a founding partner, worked on this museum between 2004-2006. It occupies the lower floors of 80 Hanson Place in Fort Greene, which is also home to local arts non-profits. One of the most notable design features of the museum is the reception area, featuring thousands of stacked pieces of wood that create a map of 24 time zones, representing cities that are important to the African Diaspora.

80 Hanson Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11217