AIA New Jersey Black History Month Showcase: Meet John D. Lyon, AIA

February 14, 2019



AIA New Jersey Black History Month Showcase: Meet John D. Lyon, AIA


When I was 13 years old, living in Jamaica, I wrote a research paper on Vitruvius for my history class. That was the moment I decided to become an architect. I started taking mechanical drawing classes, performed well and went on to study architecture at the local community college.  From there, I was accepted into the Bachelor of Science in Architecture program at Florida A&M, and then went on to win a scholarship for their Master of Architecture program. My high school sweetheart followed me from Jamaica to Florida to New Jersey, where I began completing my IDP requirements after graduation.

I found myself in need of construction administration hours which I could not satisfy at an architecture firm so looked to the construction industry. I took a position at Turner Construction, completed my hours and applied for the ARE, but my work schedule kept me too busy to take the exam. After 8 years, I felt like I was drifting away from my goal of becoming an architect. My manager said, “Forget architecture! I can turn you into the best construction manager possible!” But that was not my dream! I wanted to be an architect.

My next position was for the government as an architectural project manager. I was overseeing projects for Amtrak and the national railroad. I felt more connected to the work I sought, and found time to take and pass the registration exam, and traveled all across America managing huge construction projects for another eight years, but still I was not the architect on any of these projects!

Fast forward to today, I am three months into my new position with Spiezle Architectural Group. I am a real project architect, right in the nitty gritty, working on a project for Holmdel Schools! I have finally achieved my goal!



Renderings of Holmdel High School by Architectural Designer Matthew Imperato, Spiezle Architectural Group



One of my greatest experiences as an architect was participating in the 2018 AIA NJ Equity In Architecture initiatives for National Architecture Week.  After preliminary training with committee chair Stacey Kliesch, I booked a date at Joyce Campbell School in Trenton, NJ. It was a big thing for me to speak with inner-city kids, explaining to them that they could be architects, too! It was so fulfilling, telling them what we do, what we are and what their future could be! Part of being an architect for me is teaching. I will never forget the excitement and connection with the kids when I told them that the designer of Air Jordan basketball shoes, everyone’s most beloved sneakers, came from an architecture background! Their eyes lit up!!

I have always been a part of AIA, starting as an associate. AIA is a positive movement. I like being involved. It is important to me to be part of a professional organization and it connects me to things like teaching in classrooms and spreading the message of architecture and design to the next generation. Teaching about architecture will always be a part of my professional experience. 

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