Robert Traynham Coles, the man that strived hard to open doors for fellow people of color in the architecture industry, has passed away at the age of 90. He died at HighPointe on Michigan Avenue, this Saturday.
Coles leave behind Sylvia Meyn Coles, his wife; as well as a daughter, Marion and a son, Darcy. An announcement regarding the date for the celebration of his life is yet to be done.
Coles graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in architecture. In 1955, he earned his master’s degree in architecture from the Massachusetts of Technology.
Later he continued his studies in Europe, apprenticed in Boston as well. In 1961, Coles opened his own firm in Buffalo, which came to be the oldest African American-own architectural firm in New York and in the Northeast in general.
He was the chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows who was an African American architect when he was appointed in 1994. He was the inaugural secretary and the founder of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA).
The Alumni Arena and Natatorium at the University at Buffalo (UB), the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.; and the JFK Community Center , 114 Hickory St.; are some of the local landmarks by him.
In 1991, his own home and studio located in the Hamlin Park Historic District saw an addition to the National Register of Historic Places. Several buildings in New York City, Rhode Island, and Rochester, Washington, D.C., Providence have been designed by him.
He was an educator and worked at the Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Kansas. In 2016, Coles published Architecture and Advocacy, a memoir. In 2019, he was the recipient of the Edward C. Kemper Award from the AIA for his contributions to architecture.