University of Washington West Campus Student Housing Phase I
2012 AIA Seattle Honor Award
Photo Credit: Benjamin Benschneider
Born August 18, 1932 in the East Los Angeles barrio of Boyle Heights, Leon Bridges spent his youth in Los Angeles. While a junior high school student, he met his mentor, famed African American architect Paul Williams. He attended East Los Angeles Junior College, LA City College, and UCLA before entering the military in 1952 (stationed in Japan), and continued to study architecture while a soldier. He also pursued an acting career, appearing as an extra in several movies and touring with the Griffith Park Greek Theatre Light Opera Company 1950-52.
He earned his BArch from the University of Washington in 1960. Bridges worked as a draftsman for the Seattle architecture firm Gotteland and Koczarski 1961-63, a firm that designed Catholic churches and other buildings. Bridges formed his own architecture firm, Leon Bridges AIA, in 1963, and as his first project designed a building for the Seattle YMCA. In 1966, he formed a partnership with colleague Edward Burke. They practiced together until 1972 when Bridges relocated his firm to Baltimore, Maryland, where he became Maryland's first registered African American architect.
In 1971, his colleagues elected Leon Bridges to service on the AIA national Board of Directors. In addition, Bridges has served the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in every national office, including president. In 1976 Bridges co-founded the AIA/Ford Minority Scholarship Fund, which has provided millions of dollars in college scholarships for needy students. In 1984, he earned the MBA from Loyola College of Maryland, and received recognition of the national significance of his community service by induction into the AIA College of Fellows.
Bridges's work has garnered more than twenty national, regional and local awards for design excellence, for projects including the restoration of Baltimore's Penn Station and Baltimore City College High School.
Bridges practices as a partner in The Obsidian Group, an architectural, design and planning firm with offices in Baltimore, New York and North Carolina.
HistoryMakers: Leon Bridges
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