February 11, 2022Reading Time: 3 minutes
I was introduced to and became aware of architecture at a very young age. I recall peering through the door where my father, Harvey Myers had a drafting table at home, lit by one of those adjustable, black lamps with the bright bulbs. This time he wasn’t drafting. He was studying for his architectural exam. I believe the year was 1968 and I was eight years old. I was always amazed at how hard he worked and his passion for architecture. I used to watch him, carefully drawing lines on mylar or sketching on trace paper. When he wasn’t there, I just looked and took it all in. He would tell me that his work helped to create buildings like words in a story. It captured my imagination. I didn’t know any other architects or friends whose dads were architects. He learned his craft taking classes at Pratt Institute and Batista’s in Brooklyn, but never achieved a college degree. He became eligible to take the exam by documenting his experience. At that time, he was working for the Grad Partnership in Newark but often joked that when he first entered the profession, his employer wanted him to pay them for the job they gave him.
Unfortunately, I came to realize it wasn’t a joke. The hard truths of the time he emerged in, never discouraged him. This night though was all about studying to pass his upcoming exam. The way he described it, it seemed so difficult to me at that age, but eventually, he did. Why? Because he wanted to be out on his own, in charge of his own destiny, doing what he loved most regardless of the circumstances. By 1970 he opened a firm with two partners on Nassau Street in Princeton named Gorski, Myers, and Gilvari. My father was a true pioneer at the time, one of a very small handful of black architects in the state to be licensed, with the courage to start a business with no formal education, in an almost exclusively white profession in one of the most architecturally competitive and exclusive locales, and with no financial resources to speak of to launch the business. His vision was clear. He didn’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything else. Against all odds, he built a firm that was 30 people at its peak, with partners Larry Johnson and George Jones, both African American. I worked for him in what became a family business after I obtained my degree from Syracuse University School of Architecture. Though his partners changed along the way, he remained in Princeton for 45 years until his retirement.
Thanks to him, I was introduced and launched into an incredibly rewarding career and a beautiful life, equipped with all the tools and resources I would need to be successful, without him once saying that it was what he wanted me to do. In early 2000, he decided to join forces with four other firms in the creation of NJK-12 Architects to pursue school facility design work in urban communities under the State of New Jersey’s Abbott Funding Bill. Ultimately, DIGroup Architecture, an MBE firm in New Brunswick, NJ, and Philadelphia, PA where I am currently President, was born out of the formal merger of NJK-12 firms in 2006. I am eternally thankful to move his legacy forward, while marginal in comparison to his incredible achievements by anyone’s definition. Everything he did always seemed amazing to me then as a boy and still does now as a man. I wish everyone could have what I benefitted from a dad that was a role model and mentor not just for architecture, but for life.
Vincent A. Myers, AIA NCARB
President, DIGroup Architecture
By Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, AIA NJ Advocacy Consultant | Posted in AIA Central New Jersey, Diversity, EquityInArchitecture | Tagged: #AbbottFunding, #AfricanAmerican, #AfricanAmericanArchitect, #Blackarchitect, #BlackHistoryMonth, #diversity, #EDI, #equity, #EquityCommittee, #EquityInArchitecture, #HarveyMyers, #Inclusion, #JEDI, #Justice, #MBE, #NewJersey, #VincentAMyersAIA, BHM, DIGroup, NJ | Comments (0)
Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment.