Robert J. Nash, FAIA
Community development, professional outreach
The inaugural recipient of the Whitney Young Award, Robert J. Nash, FAIA, was the first African American architect elected to national AIA office, and was named to the AIA Task Force on Equal Opportunity following Whitney Young’s 1968 public challenge for architecture to chart a more socially-responsible path.
After graduating from Howard University in 1952, Nash launched his architectural career in Nigeria, using indigenous materials and experimental construction techniques to design low-cost housing and schools. After two years in Africa and another two years with the Army Corps of Engineers, he opened his own office in Washington, D.C. Always socially active, he firmly believed in close ties between architecture and the community—a stance further reinforced following the 1968 riots in the nation’s capital.
Nash later served at the first co-chair of the AIA Human Resource Council with Nathaniel Owings, FAIA, implementing the organization’s three main equal opportunity initiatives: Establishing community design centers, improving the design and construction of affordable housing, and increasing diversity within architectural education. Nash also became an AlA liaison for the Urban League’s Black Executive Exchange Program, facilitating African American professionals to visit architectural schools at historically black colleges and universities.