Robert P. Madison, FAIA


This year, for our 58th annual awards program, we are pleased to present a special tribute to Robert P. Madison, FAIA, whose immeasurable contributions to design and architecture enhanced the Cleveland landscape throughout his professional career.

“The evening I received my Cleveland Arts Prize was very touching,” recalls the winner of the 2000 Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts.  “I was moved by the fact that my father was one of the first African American engineers in this country, graduating in 1922. However, he was 25 years ahead of his time, so he suffered greatly from discrimination and racial prejudice. That night I was reminiscent of him and thinking that my success was really a response to what he had attempted.”

His parents moved back to Cleveland, where he was born, from Washington, DC, so that young Robert could attend the nationally acknowledged architecture track at East Technical High School. “My mother and father wanted me to be an architect, and I had agreed,” he says. “So, Cleveland was the starting place for me.”

Robert’s long career as an architect has been distinguished not only by the important buildings he has designed here and abroad, but by the role he has played as a mentor and nurturer of talent and as a creator of opportunities for others. Since Robert P. Madison International was founded in the mid-1950s, it has trained more than 190 African-American architects and engineers, many of whom have gone on to do distinguished work, and spawned at least five other black architectural firms. 

The first African-American graduate in architecture in Ohio, Robert himself embarked on the profession at a time when far fewer opportunities existed. Indeed, the World War II veteran, who had earned a Purple Heart in the service of his country, was told, on applying to Western Reserve University in 1946, that “no colored person had ever graduated from that school.” He was finally admitted, on the strength of his work, and later earned a graduate degree from Harvard University, won an honorable mention in the prestigious Prix de Rome Architecture Competition and went to Paris as a Fulbright Scholar.

Known for its expertise in urban design, Robert P. Madison International had a hand in practically every major downtown building project in the 1990s: Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Louis Stokes Wing of the Cleveland Public Library, the Quicken Loans Arena, Great Lakes Science Center, and the stations of the RTA’s Waterfront Line.

Robert is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and Chairman of the Jury of Fellows and National Ethics Council. He is a recipient of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award and the AIA Ohio Gold Medal.

Additionally, he serves as a trustee emeritus of Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Museum of Art, and was a trustee of the Cleveland Opera. He has received honorary degrees from Cleveland State, Kent State, and Howard Universities. CWRU bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science. He has also served on the board of the Cleveland Arts Prize, and is presently an Emeritus Trustee.

Congratulations, Mr. Madison!