UNESCO headquarters Paris Beverly Loraine Greene architect
The entrance to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, a project on which Greene worked as an architect. Photo courtesy of UNESCO.

In an era when architecture was even more starkly white male-dominated, Beverly Loraine Greene did not let that  stop her from a distinguished career as an architect.

Beverly Loraine Greene: A Bio in Brief

Beverly Loraine Greene
Beverly Loraine Greene, is the first Black woman known to be a registered architect in the US. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.


Beverly Loraine Green was born in 1915 in Chicago, Illinois to parents James and Vera Greene. James Greene was a lawyer, and Beverly was their only child. In 1936, she graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne with a bachelor’s in architectural engineering, making history as the first Black woman to do so. She went on to earn her master’s from the same university in city planning. In 1945, she earned a masters from Columbia University as well.

Greene registered with the state of Illinois as an architect in 1942, again making history. She is the first known Black woman in the United States to become a registered architect. She moved to New York City in 1945, where she worked on a variety of architectural projects such as the Sarah Lawrence College Arts Complex.

Her most famous architectural contribution, however, is the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Greene worked on the architectural team that designed the modern, Y-shaped building.

Sadly, Greene died at the age of 41. Her funeral was held in Manhattan, at the Unity Funeral Home—a building she designed.

More on the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris

UNESCO headquarters model
Greene worked on the design of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Here, Eleanor Roosevelt looks at a model of the building.

The design of the UNESCO Headquarters was a star-studded and controversial cast of architectural characters. Greene worked with Marcel Breuer on the project. Lead architects included Marcel Breuer, Bernard Zehrfuss, and Pier Luigi Nervi. Walter Gropius, of Bauhaus fame, and Eero Saarinen also contributed.

According to architectuul, the Y-shaped building (above) was dubbed the “three-pointed star,” and “the entire edifice stands on seventy-two columns of concrete piling.” The building opened its doors in 1958.


UNESCO headquarters Paris Beverly Loraine Green architect
Inside the UNSECO headquarters in Paris upon the building’s opening in October 1964. Photo courtesy of UNESCO / Roger Lesage.

Want to read more about women of Mid Century Modern design? We can help! Read about Ruth Asawa and Eva Zeisel.

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