Van B. Bruner, Jr., FAIA, an architect known for his leadership on inclusion and diversity in the field, died at the age of 89 on July 10 in Kennesaw, Ga., where he lived with family. The founder of his eponymous firm, The Bruner Firm, Bruner was the second Black architect to serve as AIA vice president, and received the Institute's Whitney M. Young Jr. Award in 1975 in recognition of his "voice for broadening diversity in architecture and advocating for community participation in urban planning projects," according to AIA's description of the award.
Born in 1931, Bruner grew up in Washington, D.C., before moving to New Jersey in 1945. He earned a track scholarship to the University of Michigan where he studied commercial art before graduating and joining the United States Air Force. Bruner remained with the Air Force until 1957, when he began studying architecture at Drexel University in Philadelphia. After graduating and working with local architects Vincent Kling and Louis Goettelmann II, Bruner opened his own practice, focused on civic design, in 1968, and completed projects such as the Gloucester County Superintendent Office Building in West Deptford, N.J., Third World Culture Center in Princeton, N.J., and the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Burlington, N.J..
Bruner served as AIA vice president from 1973 to 1975, a time during which he was a member of AIA's Task Force on National Growth Policy and the chair of AIA's Community Services Commission. In these roles, Bruner created a scholarship for minority architects and a number of community design centers throughout the United States in order to bring free or affordable design services to underserved neighborhoods.
In 2011, he received AIA West Jersey's Louis Goettelmann Award in recognition of his "his leadership and commitment to the profession and his unselfish want to better the built environment," according to an announcement from AIA West Jersey.