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Robert T. Coles, FAIA


Buffalo, New York


Community outreach, architecture eduction

Buffalo architect Robert T. Coles, FAIA, received the Whitney Young Award for his professional, social, and political leadership. Heading what was then the only African American-owned firm in Western New York, Coles offered unparalleled opportunities for aspiring designers of color throughout the region. Noted projects included facilities for the Buffalo YMCA and a recreation complex for the State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as the creation of numerous community outreach initiatives.


A native of Buffalo, Coles received an undergraduate architecture degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After studying in Europe, he returned to Buffalo in 1960 to open his own practice and advocate for social, political, and economic improvement for minority communities.


During the early 1970s, Coles served on several AIA housing committees before joining the national chapter for two years as AIA Deputy Vice President for Minority Affairs. He also was an early and active member of the National Organization of Minority Architects, serving as treasurer, vice president, and on its board of directors. Coles returned to his own practice full-time in 1976, continuing outreach work that would lead to faculty positions at the University of Kansas, Buffalo State University College, and Boston Architectural College.

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