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A photo of a church with a white, tiled exterior. It has two pillars at the entrance and is a long horizontal building with a green roof covering the driveway.
First Church of Deliverance
Lee Bay / Flickr

10 notable Chicago projects designed by black architects

From parks to museums and schools

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First Church of Deliverance
| Lee Bay / Flickr

As an architect and urban planner, Wendell Campbell believed that people don’t buy homes, they buy communities. That philosophy showed up in Campbell’s work in Chicago and other cities, as he designed plans for urban renewal projects and affordable housing.

Campbell’s career began in 1950s and, at that time, he faced racial discrimination that made it difficult to grow in the architecture industry. Campbell struggled to join the American Institute of Architects when he couldn’t find any other architects to give him a recommendation. That experience left a mark on Campbell, who became one of the 12 black founders of the National Organization of Minority Architects and the organization’s first president.

Black architects are underrepresented, but in recent years organizations such as NOMA have prioritized spotlighting their great work. In that spirit, we’ve gathered a list that highlights some of Chicago’s projects by black architects.

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Johnson Publishing Building

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The Johnson Publishing building was one of the first and remains the only downtown high rise project designed by a black architect. Built in 1971 by John Warren Moutoussamy, it was originally the offices for Jet and Ebony magazines. The building was given a landmark designation in 2017 and, after being vacant for sometime, is now rental apartments.

Moutoussamy studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It’s easy to see van der Rohe’s influence in other projects Moutoussamy designed such as the Richard J. Daley College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S. Truman College and the Chicago Urban League building. These have the classic steel exterior, unlike the Johnson Publishing building which has a similar design in stone.

Ping Tom Memorial Park Boathouse

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The Ping Tom Memorial Park turned Chinatown’s riverfront from an unused industrial strip of land into a beautiful public space. The Johnson & Lee-designed boathouse was the first built along the Chicago River to promote recreation use. The project was a collaborative effort between Chris Lee, Jeanne Gang and students from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Other projects from Lee, a student of Helmut Jahn, include the transformation of Woodlawn’s Strand Hotel into a 63-unit apartment complex and the South Side’s first Mariano’s. His work on the South and West Sides is personal for Lee who grew up in Woodlawn. He and his firm are focused on filling in the architectural gaps in communities that need it most.

A post shared by ILASLA (@ilasla) on

Quinn Chapel

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Quinn Chapel is Chicago’s oldest black congregation, which was started in 1844 by a small prayer group. The original church was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, but in 1890 members had a structure rebuilt and designed by Henry F. Starbuck. An original pew of the church, which was visited by Martin Luther King Jr. and a stop on the underground railroad, was donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

When Quinn Chapel needed exterior renovations, John Gay of JAQ was recruited. He was mentored by John Moutoussamy, a well-known architect who studied under Mies van der Rohe. Gay developed a unique design philosophy using jazz music to inspire the texture, colors and materials in his projects.

31st Street Harbor Building

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The 31st Street Harbor building is made simply with concrete and steel and fits seamlessly into the landscape. Brook Architecture worked with landscape architects and focused on creating a public space to be used by more than just boaters. A playground, small park, and other outdoor spaces accompany the modern building where the harbor master oversees 1,000 boat slips.

The small firm, founded and led by RaMona Westbrook, is experienced in housing, education and recreation projects. Westbrook is an expert in affordable housing design and has built projects for Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Building Commission and the University of Illinois.

First Church of Deliverance

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This historic Art Moderne church was designed by Walter Bailey in 1939, who was the first black architect registered in Illinois. The pair of towers were later added in 1946 by Kocher Buss & DeKlerk. For the time period, the landmark church quite a design statement. Besides its architecture, gospel music was pioneered here by musicians like Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole.

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Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts

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In 2011 the city tried to phase out this high school due to low enrollment which served South Side neighborhoods. After outcries in the community and a hunger strike, that plan was reversed. Instead, Dyett reopened in 2016 as an arts-focused high school. Not only was this necessary for families but it also preserved a great piece of architecture. Largely credited to David Haid, this building was also designed in collaboration with Kenneth Childers.

DuSable Museum of African American History

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Wendell Campbell was responsible for designing and renovating a number of important community spaces. Most notably the remodel of and addition to the DuSable Museum of African American History, the expansion of McCormick Place convention center and King Drive Gateway, and the remodel of the New Bronzeville Military Academy.

Ingram House

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Roger Margerum became an influential architect and studied under modernists Bruce Graham, Walter Netsch, and Stanley Tigerman at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. He made a cold call to the firm while he was still a student at University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign which led to him getting a job there helping with the design of the U.S. Airforce Academy. Throughout his career, Margerum was known for “light-filled designs that avoided starkness by incorporating whimsy,” as seen in the Ingram house, according to his obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times. His Chicago projects include Libby Elementary and Middle School, the North Austin library and this Woodlawn single-family home.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Paideia Academy

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Dina Griffin, owner and president of Interactive Design Architects was awarded the commission for this Chicago Public School. Her firm has collaborated in designing research buildings at the University of Chicago and The Modern Wing and Alsdorf Gallery at the Art Institute. Her company also worked with The Portico Group on the Regenstein Macaque Forest at the Lincoln Park Zoo too. On top of all that, the firm serves as the associate architect on the Obama Presidential Center alongside Todd Williams and Billie Tsien. Griffin has big ambitions—her ideal project is to design a skyscraper in Chicago.

Public Building Commission

Chicago State University Library

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Andrew Heard founded his firm, Heard & Associates in 1967 and focused on the design of public facilities such as hospitals, transportation facilities, fire stations, and courtrooms. His firm is also responsible for the design of the Cook County morgue. His most notable piece of architecture though is a little more uplifting. In 2004, Heard designed Chicago State University’s library, a geometric four-story building at the entrance of the campus.

Chicago State University Library Building #savecsu Ourselves

A post shared by Dawan Sadrud-Din (@dawansd) on

Johnson Publishing Building

The Johnson Publishing building was one of the first and remains the only downtown high rise project designed by a black architect. Built in 1971 by John Warren Moutoussamy, it was originally the offices for Jet and Ebony magazines. The building was given a landmark designation in 2017 and, after being vacant for sometime, is now rental apartments.

Moutoussamy studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It’s easy to see van der Rohe’s influence in other projects Moutoussamy designed such as the Richard J. Daley College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S. Truman College and the Chicago Urban League building. These have the classic steel exterior, unlike the Johnson Publishing building which has a similar design in stone.

Ping Tom Memorial Park Boathouse

The Ping Tom Memorial Park turned Chinatown’s riverfront from an unused industrial strip of land into a beautiful public space. The Johnson & Lee-designed boathouse was the first built along the Chicago River to promote recreation use. The project was a collaborative effort between Chris Lee, Jeanne Gang and students from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Other projects from Lee, a student of Helmut Jahn, include the transformation of Woodlawn’s Strand Hotel into a 63-unit apartment complex and the South Side’s first Mariano’s. His work on the South and West Sides is personal for Lee who grew up in Woodlawn. He and his firm are focused on filling in the architectural gaps in communities that need it most.

A post shared by ILASLA (@ilasla) on

Quinn Chapel

Quinn Chapel is Chicago’s oldest black congregation, which was started in 1844 by a small prayer group. The original church was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, but in 1890 members had a structure rebuilt and designed by Henry F. Starbuck. An original pew of the church, which was visited by Martin Luther King Jr. and a stop on the underground railroad, was donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

When Quinn Chapel needed exterior renovations, John Gay of JAQ was recruited. He was mentored by John Moutoussamy, a well-known architect who studied under Mies van der Rohe. Gay developed a unique design philosophy using jazz music to inspire the texture, colors and materials in his projects.

31st Street Harbor Building

The 31st Street Harbor building is made simply with concrete and steel and fits seamlessly into the landscape. Brook Architecture worked with landscape architects and focused on creating a public space to be used by more than just boaters. A playground, small park, and other outdoor spaces accompany the modern building where the harbor master oversees 1,000 boat slips.

The small firm, founded and led by RaMona Westbrook, is experienced in housing, education and recreation projects. Westbrook is an expert in affordable housing design and has built projects for Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Building Commission and the University of Illinois.

First Church of Deliverance

This historic Art Moderne church was designed by Walter Bailey in 1939, who was the first black architect registered in Illinois. The pair of towers were later added in 1946 by Kocher Buss & DeKlerk. For the time period, the landmark church quite a design statement. Besides its architecture, gospel music was pioneered here by musicians like Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole.

A post shared by Adam Lucarelli (@adamlucarelli) on

Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts

In 2011 the city tried to phase out this high school due to low enrollment which served South Side neighborhoods. After outcries in the community and a hunger strike, that plan was reversed. Instead, Dyett reopened in 2016 as an arts-focused high school. Not only was this necessary for families but it also preserved a great piece of architecture. Largely credited to David Haid, this building was also designed in collaboration with Kenneth Childers.

DuSable Museum of African American History

Wendell Campbell was responsible for designing and renovating a number of important community spaces. Most notably the remodel of and addition to the DuSable Museum of African American History, the expansion of McCormick Place convention center and King Drive Gateway, and the remodel of the New Bronzeville Military Academy.

Ingram House

Roger Margerum became an influential architect and studied under modernists Bruce Graham, Walter Netsch, and Stanley Tigerman at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. He made a cold call to the firm while he was still a student at University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign which led to him getting a job there helping with the design of the U.S. Airforce Academy. Throughout his career, Margerum was known for “light-filled designs that avoided starkness by incorporating whimsy,” as seen in the Ingram house, according to his obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times. His Chicago projects include Libby Elementary and Middle School, the North Austin library and this Woodlawn single-family home.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Paideia Academy

Dina Griffin, owner and president of Interactive Design Architects was awarded the commission for this Chicago Public School. Her firm has collaborated in designing research buildings at the University of Chicago and The Modern Wing and Alsdorf Gallery at the Art Institute. Her company also worked with The Portico Group on the Regenstein Macaque Forest at the Lincoln Park Zoo too. On top of all that, the firm serves as the associate architect on the Obama Presidential Center alongside Todd Williams and Billie Tsien. Griffin has big ambitions—her ideal project is to design a skyscraper in Chicago.

Public Building Commission

Chicago State University Library

Andrew Heard founded his firm, Heard & Associates in 1967 and focused on the design of public facilities such as hospitals, transportation facilities, fire stations, and courtrooms. His firm is also responsible for the design of the Cook County morgue. His most notable piece of architecture though is a little more uplifting. In 2004, Heard designed Chicago State University’s library, a geometric four-story building at the entrance of the campus.

Chicago State University Library Building #savecsu Ourselves

A post shared by Dawan Sadrud-Din (@dawansd) on