black architects

8 Seattle Works Designed by Black Architects

On the surface, Seattle’s architectural heritage can seem very, very white. But black architects have been contributing to Seattle’s urban fabric for decades.

Black Architects

A bit of history: Benjamin McAdoo founded Seattle’s first black-owned architecture firm in the middle of the last century, and gained renown for everything from churches to educational facilities to private homes. Leon Bridges founded the second in the early 1960s before moving to Baltimore and becoming the first registered black architect in Maryland.

Ben McAdoo

Of course, many would follow. Mel Streeter had an extremely prestigious career dating back to the 1950s which included having a hand in both Quest and Safeco Field as well as Seatac Airport.

Mel Streeter

Roderick Butler touched homes all across the region with N3 Architects. Many practicing Seattle architects are shaping our area—and the world, depending on the specialty—right this second, including Donald King, Weber Thompson’s Susan Frieson, and DLR Group’s Rico Quirindongo.

Susan Frieson


Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center

 black architects


Originally designed by Benjamin McAdoo in the early 1970s, the building was renovated in 2013 by two architects of color, including Mel Streeter protegee Sam Cameron.

3931 Brooklyn Ave NE Seattle, WA 98105

Mathews East Madison YMCA

This Central Area facility was the first area building designed by Leon Bridges.

King Street Station Sound Transit platforms


While the original structure was built in 1906, it was Donald King and DKA Architects (in conjunction with Otak) who created the side platforms for Sound Transit Sounder service—what the Daily Journal of Commercecalled “glass and steel wafers.”

Asian Counseling & Referral Service

Donald King was principal-in-charge of design for this LEED-certified community staple, which was, according to King, “inspired by a sense of Asian-Pacific Island culture in a contemporary northwest architecture.”

Northwest African American Museum


The original Colman School building went up in the early 1900s, its present use as the Northwest African American Museum has been shaped by Seattle’s black community, from the eight-year occupation by activistst hat eventually led to the museum’s founding to the adaptive reuse architecture that’s in play today.

Donald King and Rico Quirindongo designed the affordable housing above—Urban League Village—and the museum itself.

John Muir Elementary School

After buildings built in 1924 and 1910 were demolished, a 1971 addition designed by Mel Streeter became the focal building of this elementary school.

Van Asselt Elementary School

Mel Streeter designed this distinctive school building for the African American Academy in 2000; the program was shuttered by the district nine years later. It eventually became Van Asselt Elementary School.

Kenneth Ota residence

This midcentury modern home by Benjamin McAdoo is a Seattle historical site—not just for the McAdoo name and its exemplary example of the era’s design, but for the cultural heritage it represents.

“The commissioning of this house by the Otas is… consistent with the historic return of Japanese Americans to South Seattle after World War II, as well as the influx of residents who were employed by Boeing around this time period,” reads its designation.

“The house’s association with the Otas and [McAdoo] also reflects Seattle’s gradual move towards racial integration and the present-day ethnic diversity in Rainier Valley.”

Source: Seattle Curbed

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