A Call to Vision: NOMA Conference 2011

Event: NOMA 2011 Atlanta: Architects as Visionaries
Location: Atlanta, GA, 10.20-22.11
Speakers: For a full list of speakers and events, click here.

(L-R): Revolution Sports — Revolution Park Sports Academy, Charlotte, NC by Neighboring Concepts (Charlotte); Cartagena — Mixed Use and Urban Plan for Internally Displaced People in Cartagena, Colombia, by Marshall Moya Design (Washington, DC); Family Housing — Affordable Family Housing Building, Oakland, CA, by HKIT Architects (San Francisco).

(L-R): Neighboring Concepts; Marshall Moya Design; HKIT Architects

Beginning as a horizontal entrance canopy and continuing vertically up the front wall to the roof, a series of sinuous elements engage the facade, symbolic of a “dragon tail,” which is fitting for the location in Chinatown, Oakland, CA. What kind of building could this be? One would never guess: affordable housing. The Affordable Family Housing Building by HKIT Architects (San Francisco), with lead designer Rod Henmi, FAIA, NOMA, was one of several “visionary” concepts, winning a Design Excellence Honor Award in the Professional Design Competition, Unbuilt category, at the 39th annual National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference, themed “Architects as Visionaries,” which took place in Atlanta, GA, 10.20-22.11. The building will include 98 apartments for low- and moderate-income families.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., executive architect for the newly dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, spoke of the 15 years of lobbying to get the legislation permitting the memorial passed, and the next 15 to complete the project.

Seminars during the conference included “Sustainability and the Design Process,” organized by AIANY Chapter member Terrence O’Neal, AIA, LEED AP, and “Designing and Working on an International Platform,” organized by Kelly Powell, NOMA, president of NYCOBA-NOMA, the New York Chapter of NOMA. Chapter of the Year honors went to NYCOBA-NOMA for its focus on career development and its high level of activity.

Film Producer Michelle Jones and Co-producer Will Stroman showed “Master Builders in the Nation’s Capital,” featuring the history and biographies of African-American architects in Washington, DC, past and present. Jones, a former archivist at AIA National, expressed her hope that NOMA members in other cities will be inspired to make similar films.

The competition program for the Student Design Awards, entitled “Village Walk Complex,” was a transit-oriented development including visitor center, grocery store, retail, and parking. The winning proposed structure by Auburn University students “celebrates the civil rights movement while creating a revitalized community surrounding the Ashby MARTA train station” in Atlanta. The jury commented that the building, although a large structure, honors the community and the scale of adjacent housing, while also offering flexibility to be adapted to other future uses. Washington University (St. Louis) and Boston Architectural College won second and third place, respectively.

Neighboring Concepts, from Charlotte, NC, won the Design Excellence Honor Award in the Professional Design Competition, Built category, for the Revolution Park Sports Academy in Charlotte, by lead designer Darrel Williams, FAIA, NOMA. The jury lauded the project’s respect for proportion and scale and the designer’s knowledge of materials, as well as the use of a passive solar wall on the south side.

Marshall Moya Design, Washington, DC, took the Design Excellence Honor Award for a new category, “Vision,” in line with the conference theme, for “Mixed Use and Urban Plan for Internally Displaced in Cartagena, Colombia.” Internal political conflict caused the displacement of four million people in this city. The project offers a new model of housing for the poor, in which a five-tower hotel is stacked vertically over housing for the homeless, and, for financial sustainability, the “at-risk” residents grow food in vertical and horizontal roof gardens and are offered jobs at the hotel.

The Vision category was the last award presented. It was a fitting conclusion to the conference and an optimistic nod to the modern era of the early 20th century, when architects were solvers of social problems and not merely form-makers.