AIA Newark and Suburban Past President Andrew Thompson, AIA, Featured in the AIA New Jersey Black History Month Showcase

February 3, 2021

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AIA Newark and Suburban Past President Andrew Thompson, AIA, Featured in the AIA New Jersey Black History Month Showcase

by Andrew Thompson, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP, BD+C

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and received my education through the NYC public school system. As a young child, my mom bought me a sketchbook and I designed everything from race cars to settlements on the moon.

I attended James Madison High School, where notable grads such as the late, great Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg graduated. It was there I entered a contest to design a ΒΌ scale house but we had to only show the physical construction, rafters, beams and studs. I won and my house was shown at Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn. At that point, I wanted to become an architect.

I received a 2-year degree in Mechanical Engineering from my first college, New York City College of Technology. Later, I attended Pratt Institute where I earned my Bachelor of Architecture. In between schools I worked for a naval architecture firm in New York City and worked on the DDG 51 Class USS Arleigh Burke. I worked in the structural department. In a sense, my first architectural accomplishment was not a building but a navy guided-missile destroyer.

Click the photo to start Andrew’s slideshow.

I graduated Pratt Institute in 1991 and got a job working for the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ). My office was One World Trade (Tower One) and I worked on the 82nd floor. I did space planning and fit-outs for Port Authority facilities. While I worked for the Port Authority the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center happened. I was attending graduate school at Columbia University and worked part-time at the Port Authority. I had to jump into action and help relocate all the various Port Authority Departments from Tower One and all the shops in the Concourse Level of the World Trade Center complex.  That showed me when faced with a crisis, how architects can be essential responders. I later worked on Air Train for John F Kennedy Airport. I was able to work with a great group of architects and engineers.  I am still in touch with them years later.

During this time I joined the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and I am still a member, years later.

I left the Port Authority to go into healthcare, working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). That is where I first joined the AIA. My first chapter was the Brooklyn AIA chapter. I was one of three African Americans members but the chapter made me feel welcome. I later joined the AIA New York chapter. I became the Chief Architect at MSKCC and it was a great experience working with notable teams from Perkins Eastman and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. I know certain people in those firms were taken aback when they saw I was Black and in a leadership role, but their reaction did not shake my drive to perform at the best of my ability.

Next, I left MSKCC and went to work for the City University of New York (CUNY). As the Director of Campus Operations for the New Community College (now the Charles and Stella Guttman College). It was the first new community college CUNY had developed in 40 years. I worked with the new president and faculty of the college and outfitted an existing building next to Bryant Park as a new learning environment for students.

I am now at Passaic County working as the County Architect. I work on everything from historic restoration projects to a newly completed 10 acre Department of Public Works Facility.

William (Bill) Brown, III, AIA, NOMA, was instrumental in encouraging me to join the Newark and Suburban section of AIA New Jersey. I later found out his father was the first African American President of the section and Bill was the second. I joined the Board and later became the third African-American President of AIA Newark and Suburban.


Andrew is a well-respected leader of AIA New Jersey. He has just completed a strong year presiding over AIA Newark and Suburban through the pandemic. Mr. Thompson has served as a guest speaker for the AIA New Jersey Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and a volunteer at the 2019 NOMA National Convention in New York City. He serves on the AIA NJ College Relations Committee, acts as a visiting juror, and volunteers for the K-12 Committee Outreach Programs in NJ public schools. 


All AIA New Jersey members Are invited to submit an article to AIA NJ to be considered for publication in our future communications!  Please send your story and photos to staceykliesch@gmail.coma

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