Emanuel Kelly, groundbreaking architect, longtime Temple professor, and social equity advocate, has died at 80

Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly’s work won many awards, and he held leadership positions in all kinds of professional and civic organizations.

By Gary Miles

Industry leaders Toshiko Mori, FAIA, Nina Cooke John, AIA, NOMA, Olelekan Jeyifous and others converge to discuss topics relevant to the BIPOC community including affirmative action and accurate historical storytelling in acknowledgement of the conference theme of “Building Bridges Towards Just and Joyful Futures”

Emanuel Kelly, 80, of Philadelphia, a renowned architect, longtime Temple University professor, and prolific social equity and affordable-housing advocate, died Friday, Jan. 12, of complications from a pulmonary embolism at his home in University City.

Mr. Kelly was a founding partner of Kelly Maiello Architects, one of the first Black-owned architectural firms in the city and the design inspiration behind such local landmarks as the President’s House at Independence National Historical Park, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Reading Terminal Market in Center City.

He was an expert at city planning, urban design, and neighborhood revitalization, and he and his colleagues refurbished the courthouses at City Hall and created the new West Philadelphia High School. He worked on the Criminal Justice Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, John Coltrane Museum, Philadelphia Zoo, and numerous other public places and churches in the region.

He never retired and was, among other things, on the current design team for the African American Museum of Bucks County. His work was recognized by the Beyond the Built Environment advocacy group and many other organizations, and his honors include the Minority Enterprise Development Committee’s 2002 Pioneer Award, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s 2010 Visionary in Historic Preservation Award, and the 2020 Medal of Distinction from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Institute of Architects.