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New MOHAI exhibit highlights local Black architects

Icons like Benjamin F. McAdoo helped build this city.

Architect Benjamin F. McAdoo wearing a suit, seen at his office in Seattle

Benjamin F. McAdoo was a staunch proponent of affordable housing during his career.

Photo via MOHAI

Look around and you can trace the influences of Black architects throughout Seattle, from King Street Station platforms to cultural institutions. At MOHAI, a lot of that history is now in one place.

The traveling exhibit “From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers” recently made its debut at the museum and runs through Sunday, April 30. While the displays cover works by many luminaries across the US, local architects — both past and present — are represented. How many names do you know?

Benjamin F. McAdoo

Born in 1920, McAdoo attended UW and became the first Black architect registered in Washington. His storied career included designs of the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, private homes like the Ota Residence (eventually landmarked), and the Queen Anne Pool.

But McAdoo also believed in building community through activism. Back when the practice of redlining excluded Black Seattleites from accessing home loans, he used his voice (literally) as a radio host on KUOW and advocated for equity.

Local additions were co-developed with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and curatorial consultant Hasaan Kirkland.

The new exhibit includes 3D models and timeline displays.

Photo via MOHAI

Mel Streeter

Know those sportsball stadiums you love so much? Give a cheer to this influential architect. Streeter was on the team that helped design Qwest Field (now Lumen) and Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park). He also spearheaded prominent education projects like John Muir Elementary and the African American Academy.

Streeter made sure to mentor young architects of color after facing discrimination early in his career — he once had to apply to 22 firms before one would give him a chance.

Laurie Allison Wilson

Among the current local figures mentioned at the MOHAI exhibit is one of only 500 Black women architects in the US. Wilson ran her own firm for 12 years before joining Seattle-based company Weber Thompson, specializing in affordable housing projects.

She consulted on the Africatown Plaza — and you’ll see her work at Othello Square, a nonprofit hub due to start construction later this year.

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