The Bartlett


A unique legacy in architecture and planning: Beverly Lorraine Greene

Beverly Lorraine Green was the first African American woman to become a licensed architect in the United States.

Beverly Lorraine Greene
In Black History Month 2022 we highlight historic Black figures who have shaped the built environment field. 

Beverly Lorraine Greene (4 Oct 1915 – 22 August 1957) was a groundbreaking urban planner and architect with a unique and distinguished path in education and practice. She advocated for professional Black women throughout her 18-year career.

What was her background, and how did she come to work in this area?

She was born in Chicago, Illinois and was the only child of James and Vera Greene. She was the first African American woman to graduate from the recently integrated University of Illinois with a BSc in Architectural Engineering in 1936. This was followed a year later with a MSc in City Planning and Housing, once again being the first African American woman to do so. After graduation she started working at the Chicago Housing Department, but her new job was interrupted when she was offered a scholarship to study her MSc in Architecture at Colombia University in New York.  

What work did she do, and why was this so important for the built environment field at the time?

Her knowledge in both urban planning and architecture took her to jobs in notable firms and in local authorities, both in Chicago and New York and no matter where she found herself, she always used her platform as the first African American woman to be licensed as an architect in the United States, to advocate for professional black woman throughout her 18-year career. 

“I wish that young women would think about this field. Never did I have one bit of trouble because I was a Negro but there have been arguments about hiring a woman. However, the War has ended that, and Negro women in the post-war world will have a fertile field in architecture. I wish some others would try it.” - Beverly Lorraine Greene


View of large building from above, 3 long structures extending from central point next to shell shaped building (viewed from above)
UNESCO (United Nations Headquarters) designed by Beverly Lorraine Greene in partnership with Marcel Breuer.

How does her contribution impact the built environment field today? What does this mean for Black people around the world today?  

Greene’s work spans multiple projects but she is best known for her designs for the University of Arkansas, New York University and the UNESCO United Nations Headquarters in Paris and even though she died at the very young age of 41, her unique perspective and love of architecture is still an inspiration today.


Beverly Lorraine Greene - Pioneering Women of American Architecture

Celebrating Black History Month – African Americans in Construction - Cocoon

Beverly Lorraine Greene - Wikipedia entry

Discover more in Black History Month 2022

Paul Revere Williams

Shaping 20th century America: Paul Revere Williams

Despite difficulties and barriers that spanned his life, Paul Revere Williams was one of the leading architects of his time in 20th century America.
Abdul Mahamadu

Using new technologies to improve construction: Abdul-Majeed Mahamadu

The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction’s Dr Abdul-Majeed Mahamadu works to improve safety, emissions and productivity in construction through digital technologies and industrialised techniques.

Omoleye Ojuri

Impacting young people’s lives: Omoleye Ojuri

Omoleye Ojuri, honorary lecturer at The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction discusses her vocation to positively impact young people’s lives.

Samuel Cullers

Fighting racism through urban planning: Samuel J Cullers

Samuel J Cullers was instrumental in ending housing discrimination against Black families in the United States.