February 9, 2023Reading Time: 4 minutes
My journey toward architecture started in the neighborhood of East Flatbush Brooklyn. I was dismayed by the urban decay around me, burnt-out buildings or vacant lots full of brick and rubble. At James Madison High School I took a shop class in which we had to construct a ¼ scale model of a ranch-style residential home BUT it had to be a wood framing model. The best models would get to be exhibited in the local shopping mall, and I was one of those selected. After that, I definitely knew architecture is what I wanted to do.
In 1986 I received my degree from New York City Technical College in Brooklyn. I did not get an architecture degree but an Associated in Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering and Design Drafting.
I got a job at Gibbs and Cox, a naval architecture design firm that had a contract with the US Navy. I worked on various components for the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer from structural components, to systems coordination design for HVAC and electrical.
I attended Pratt Institute earning my Bachelor of Architecture in 1991. While at Pratt a student Rodney Leon asked me to work on helping start a student group of Black architecture students.
The student club known as the Black Architect Student Coalition was a way for students to bond and work with one another as we navigated all the pitfalls of attending architecture school.
After graduation, I worked for the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ). I worked in Tower 1 (North Tower) I also worked on facilities at JFK Airport, Newark Airport, Holland Tunnel, and the Lincoln Tunnel.
I got accepted into graduate school at Columbia University in the Masters of Architecture and Urban Design program. While working at PANYNJ I got real-world experience which included having to jump into my job due to the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center helping to relocate many PANYNJ employees who temporarily lost their office space.
After graduating from Columbia in 1993 I was transferred to PANYNJ Engineering Division. I worked on the JFK AirTrain project, Newark AirTrain, and the Northeast Corridor connection station at Newark Airport.
I left the Port Authority of NY and NJ in 1998 and went to work for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as their Chief Architect. It was a big jump to go from transportation design to
healthcare architecture but I was able to work on significant projects with well-known firms such as Perkins-Eastman and Skidmore Owings and Merrill. I stayed 12 years before switching gears
I was the Director of Campus Operations for the New Community College at the City University of New York (CUNY), the largest university system in the United States. My project involved renovation and adaptive re-use of an art-deco building in midtown Manhattan to house a new community college campus. I worked with the faculty to design all the spaces and how best to meet the needs of underserved students, the majority who would be their first time attending college. I left the Guttman Community College as the Director of Campus Operations.
So today I am in New Jersey and for the last 10 years have been working for Passaic County as the County Architect. It was rewarding to work on historic renovation projects such as the
historic Courthouse Annex in Paterson NJ, the Dey Mansion (one of George Washington’s headquarters) in Wayne NJ to the recently completed Lambert Castle in Paterson NJ. Working
with architects such as LAN Associates and Clarke Caton Hintz on these projects has been rewarding and I learn something new every day.
I have been part of the AIA for over 20 years and have been part of the NOMA for over 30 years. My journey continues mentoring the next generation of architects that includes Black architects and architects of color.
Andrew was awarded the 2021 AIA New Jersey Architect of the Year. He is a past president of NYCOBA-NOMA and North East Regional Vice President for NOMA. He was recently elevated to the NOMA Council (NOMAC). Andrew is a past President of AIA Newark and Suburban. Andrew is currently the Vice President for AIA New Jersey.
By Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, AIA NJ Advocacy Consultant | Posted in AIA Newark and Suburban, AIA-NJ News, Diversity | Tagged: #AndrewThompsonAIA, #Blackarchitect, #BlackArchitectShowcase, #BlackHistoryMonth, #CivicArchitect, #CommunityService, #diversity, #EDI, #Inclusion, #K12Education, #newjerseyarchitect, BHM | 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.