In Memoriam: Van B. Bruner, Jr. FAIA

July 22, 2020

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In Memoriam: Van B. Bruner, Jr. FAIA

AIA New Jersey has received the sad news that our colleague Van B. Bruner, Jr. FAIA  was called home by our ancestors on July 10, 2020. Mr. Bruner was 89 years old. Rest in Power, Van B. Bruner Jr., FAIA! 

2011 AIA West Jersey presented the prestigious Louis Goettelmann Award to Mr. Van B. Bruner, Jr., FAIA, for his commitment and exemplary service to the profession and the West Jersey Chapter of AIA. The award was presented to him by William Fearon, AIA, Past President AIA-WJ.

Mr. Van B. Bruner, Jr., FAIA, was dedicated to serving and enriching the community around him. Born in 1931, in Washington D.C. and spending most of his youth in our nation’s capital, he first arrived in New Jersey in 1945 and went on to attend both Haddon Heights and Woodbury High Schools.

Ever since his adolescent years, he had been a leader in his community. Excelling at both the high and low hurdles, he earned a track scholarship in high school to the University of Michigan where he went on to break a 25-year-old university indoor track hurdle record. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Commercial Art, he married his wife Lillian Almond and then made the decision to join the United States Air Force. Demonstrating the courage and bravery of a leader, he trained to fly the propeller-driven refueling planes and helped keep the American aircraft in the sky around the clock during the Cold War.

After leaving the USAF in 1957, he attended Drexel Institute and began to study architecture. After graduating from Drexel, he was blessed to work with some of the most well-known architects in Philadelphia such as Vincent Kling and Louis Goettelmann 2nd. It was in 1968 that he started his own practice, The Bruner Firm, while being Department Chairman of the Building Construction Engineering Technology of the Spring Garden Institute of Philadelphia.

Mr. Bruner, Jr., FAIA, helped set a precedent when he became the 2nd Black Vice President of the National American Institute of Architecture and during his time there he helped to create Community Design Centers throughout the United States, the Minority Disadvantage Scholarship, and recognition of Black Architects within the society. In 1975, he was awarded the Whitney Young Award for his Civil Rights actions during the 1960 -70 and received the designation of Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, (FAIA) while participating in the National AIA.

Throughout its years, the Bruner Firm had been a leader in civic design and development completing such projects as the CCMUA Building, Gloucester County Superintendent Office Building, Third World Culture Center in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Burlington, New Jersey.


Van B. Bruner Jr., FAIA


New Jersey


Community design, professional outreach

The 1975 Whitney Young Award was bestowed upon Van Bruner Jr., FAIA, as a voice for broadening diversity in architecture and advocating for community participation in urban planning projects.


The principal of a small New Jersey architectural firm, Bruner devoted a large share of his time to professional and public concerns. AIA vice president from 1973 to 1975, he served on the AIA Task Force on National Growth Policy, helping to direct positive change for the organization’s future. He chaired the AIA Community Services Commission, bringing growing numbers of minority professionals into the organization’s structure and outreach activities.


As a member of AIA West Jersey, Bruner launched a community design center that brought free and low-cost architectural services to neighborhoods and nonprofit groups. The center worked within several Camden, New Jersey communities to improve affordable housing and also led a team of designers that converted a vacant theater into a neighborhood church building. In addition to his design center work, he participated as a lecturer at historically black colleges and universities in a joint project between AIA and the Urban League.

Mr. Bruner’s obituary is available HERE


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