Winter Speaker Series 2022: Peter Cook

February 19, 2022 2:00 pm In person at the Museum, and Virtually on Zoom

"From Julian Francis Abele to the National Museum of African American History and Culture"

Julian Francis Abele (1881-1950) was one of America’s most accomplished architects. Abele was the first African American graduate of both the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, became chief designer at the established firm of Horace Trumbauer in 1909 and was inducted into the American Institute of Architects in 1942. His projects included the design of an incredible 39 buildings for the newly established Duke University, a university that segregation would have prevented him from attending. Abele’s accomplishments and influence as an architect paved the way for an untold number of architects of color, including his direct descendent, acclaimed architect Peter Cook.  

Cook will discuss the influence of some of the nation’s leading African American designers—from Abele’s remarkable legacy to the talented J. Max Bond, Jr.— that has helped shape his own career and aesthetic. Cook’s own award winning projects include transformative, enduring designs that celebrate individuals and their communities, such as the unparalleled Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Through his work, Cook seeks to create spaces for arts, civic, cultural and community-based institutions that transcend boundaries, explore diverse contexts, histories, and cultures and encourage greater inquiry, empathy, connection and understanding.

The lecture will be followed by audience Q&A and continued conversation in the galleries over hot tea, coffee, and scrumptious light fare and desserts, generously provided by Pranzi Catering.

Note: Tickets for individual lectures are available for In-Person and Virtual attendance. In person seating is limited. 

About Our Speaker

Peter Cook is a nationally recognized advocate for design excellence who believes that architecture is an art form practiced in a social setting with the power to transform communities both physically and emotionally. Based in Washington, D.C., Peter is a Design Principal at HGA Architects & Engineers.

Peterʼs work engages and transforms the communities it serves and transcends specific historical and cultural contexts to promote broader understanding. His current designs include the new Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library in Washington DC, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology in New Haven, the Northern Virginia Science Center in Loudoun County, Virginia, and the Contemplative Site at Monticello in Charlottesville. His prior projects comprise many prominent institutional buildings in Washington, including his collaboration with Adjaye Associates and the Freelon Group for the design of the Smithsonian Institutionʼs National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as the award winning Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library, the Gateway Pavilion at the St. Elizabeths campus, and the expansion and modernization of the South African Embassy. In recognition of the reach and impact of his work, Peter was appointed by President Joseph R. Biden in 2021 to serve as a Commissioner on the Commission of Fine Arts.

Born and raised in Detroit, Peter is a direct descendant of Julian F. Abele, one of the nationʼs most talented and accomplished African American architects. Peterʼs passion for socially impactful design was inspired by Abeleʼs contributions to an architecture that uplifts the human spirit, including Duke Universityʼs East and West campuses, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and Harvard Universityʼs Widener Library.

Peter holds a Master of Architecture from Columbia Universityʼs Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservations, and a Bachelor of Arts in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University.

Peter also serves on the board of the Washington Architectural Foundation, and has served the National Association of Minority Architects as a President of its Washington DC Chapter and as a regional Vice President.


National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. Photo credit: Alan Karchmer
Philadelphia Public Free Library, 1920. Photo credit unknown.
Julian Francis Abele, c. 1927. University of Pennsylvania Archives and Records Center

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Sincere Thanks to our Generous Supporters:

Series Sponsors:

Joan Abrams
Lockett Ford Ballard, Jr.
Johanna and Ronald Becker
Angela and Edwin Fischer, The Hope Foundation
Island Carpet Tile & Hardwoods
Mary Jennings
Linda McGoldrick
Santiago Neville
Edwina Sebest
Cynthia Sinclair


Linda Jenkins
Kathleen Shinners

Catering and Speaker Accommodations:


Winter Speaker Series Committee

Johanna Becker, Chairwoman
Cristin Searles Bilodeau, Director of Community Engagement
Eleanor Doumato
Anne DuBose Joslin
Susan Kieronski
Santiago Neville
Kathleen Shinners