Cheryl McAfee was born in 1956 in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, McAfee spent much of her time growing up in Wichita, Kansas during the 1960s at a time when Civil Rights laws were just being enacted, white supremacist-inspired laws were being dismantled and the Fourteen Amendment of the United States Constitution was a focal point for social change. This transformative period in American culture played a significant role in McAfee’s youth and served as a major source of inspiration for her continued focus on addressing institutionalized social and economic injustice and being a vocal champion for diversity and inclusion in the profession of architecture.
McAfee went on to break down her own barriers in her academic and professional careers. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kansas State University and went on to obtain a Master of Architecture in Urban Design and Planning Policy from Harvard University. McAfee also studied at Oxford Polytechnic School of Architecture, Oxford, England. She is licensed in five states. She is a member of the College of Fellows in American Institute of Architects (AIA) along with her father, Charles McAfee, and her sister, Charyl McAfee-Duncan; giving the McAfees the distinct honor of being the only family where a father and two daughters are members of the College of Fellows. Cheryl McAfee also served as the first female national president of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
Cheryl McAfee is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal of McAfee3 Architects, a firm started by her father in 1963. She runs the firm along with her sister who is the President and Chief Financial Officer. McAfee3 Architects is a 100% female-owned African-American firm with headquarters in Atlanta and offices in Dallas, Texas, and Wichita, Kansas. For over 50 years the firm has grown to be an award-winning architectural practice that is nationally known for excellence in design, production, and client service. Cheryl McAfee was the senior program manager of design and construction for all 33 sports venues of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and, from 2000-2013 – 13 years, served as Joint Venture Partner and Principal Architect of master planning and design for the $7 billion expansion of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; including the new international concourse and terminal building.
During her interview, McAfee speaks passionately about being exposed to architecture and social justice at an early age by her father. Her father, Charles McAfee, was widely known for tackling social justice issues and became one of the most influential African-American architects of our time. McAfee recalls vivid descriptions of direct threats and attacks on her family due to the work her father was doing to support the Civil Rights Movement in Kansas. In one story she recalls, when she was 7 years old, a near death experience involving her sister when her father’s office became the headquarters for United States Department of Education concerning the desegregation of schools. These experiences served as the foundation for her passion for service. She states, “I have a passion for justice….I try to figure out what can I do to make a difference…as an architect”. Throughout the interview, McAfee explores issues of race and gender discrimination, personal inspiration and mentors, racism in her Ivy League educational experience, the glass ceiling that exists in the profession today and working on the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta.
The accomplishments of Chery McAfee and her passion for fighting social injustice in the profession stands as a inspiration for the next generation of Atlanta minority architects and truly makes her one of NOMA Atlanta’s Trailblazers of Change.
Author: Garfield Peart | May 10,2015 | © NOMAATLANTA
Notable Atlanta Projects:
1996 Summer Olympics
Martin Luther King, Jr. Corridor
Atlanta Falcon’s Stadium ADA Design Reviews
Atlanta Fulton County Library
Atlanta Beltline, Atlanta
Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Notable Achievements and Awards:
Member of the College of Fellow, AIA
Kansas Chapter AIA | Design Award for Jackson Mortuary remodel and addition
Twyla J. McFall Award | Black Women’s Conference | Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement and Community Service
121 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 302
Atlanta, GA 30303
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