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.

15 Strategies for Sustainable Affordable Housing

Event: 2011 AIA Tri-State Design Conference
Location: Atlantic City, NJ, 09.21-23.11
Organizers: AIA New Jersey; AIA New York State; AIA Pennsylvania

(L-R): The Eltona, Melrose section of the Bronx, by Danois Architects; Hopewell Manor, Elverson, PA, by Barton Partners Architects & Planners; Grand Central, Orange, NJ, by Inglese Architecture & Engineering.

(L-R): Equus Design Group; Don Pearse Photographers, Inc.; Andy Foster

Funding constraints and the fiscal atmosphere in Congress threaten current affordable housing programs. Various initial low-cost measures can help achieve and maintain sustainability. Terrence E. O’Neal, AIA, LEED AP, principal of NY-based TONA (Terrence O’Neal Architect, LLC), moderated and spoke at the “Sustainable Affordable Housing” seminar at the recent AIA Tri-state Convention (NY State, NJ, and PA) in Atlantic City.

O’Neal encouraged architects to strive to minimize the first cost outlay and maximize the return in energy savings. He noted that since LEED certification is often not a feasible goal as many funding sources fail to support its high consulting fees, projects can enlist alternative rating systems, such as Enterprise Green Communities. O’Neal suggested that architects refer to online resources including the Affordable Housing Design Advisor, the Affordable Green Academy, and the NAHB National Green Building Program. The International Green Construction Code (IgCC), which is scheduled to be adopted in 2012, may eventually eliminate the need for rating systems altogether.

Panelists Thomas Barton (Barton Partners, Norristown, PA); Erick Ascencio (Danois Architects, NY); and Edward Martoglio (RPM Development, Montclair, NJ) discussed, respectively, three case studies of sustainable affordable developments: Hopewell Manor, a senior development in Elverson, PA; the Eltona in the Melrose redevelopment area of the Bronx, the first LEED Platinum, mixed-use, multifamily affordable project in the state; and Grand Central in Orange, NJ, the first multi-family building in NJ under the Climate Choice Program.

O’Neal identified 15 budget-minded sustainable items from the case study projects:

  1. Light-colored roof — White roofs reflect heat and reduce the heat island effect, a critical feature in dense urban areas.
  2. Low-flow toilets — Extra low-flow and dual flush toilets conserve water and should be considered despite the greater first cost.
  3. Flow restrictors on all fittings — The cost differential between good flow restrictors and great ones is negligible: Specify a great one.
  4. 90% efficient hot water heaters, condensing boilers — Potential energy savings makes up for the slightly more expensive first cost.
  5. Enhanced ventilation — Trickle vents and continuous direct venting are recommended.
  6. A well insulated envelope — This includes walls and roof. R values of the case study projects exceeded code requirements.
  7. Energy Star appliances — More appliances meet this standard each year.
  8. Fly ash — Important to use in concrete, for increased recycled content.
  9. FSC-certified wood floors and cabinets.
  10. Recycled wood kitchen cabinets.
  11. Urea formaldehyde-free adhesives in all laminate and veneers.
  12. Low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paints — available from every manufacturer.
  13. Vinyl tile with recycled content.
  14. Recycled steel studs.
  15. Resident Orientation — Providing orientation for residents and maintenance personnel on sustainable features ensures proper maintenance and increases efficiency.

Exhibition Features Women of Color in Design

Event: 2% — Women of Color in Design exhibition
Location: Boston Architectural College, Boston, 05.10-17.08
Organizer: Dr. Theodore Landsmark, Assoc. AIA — President, Boston Architectural College

2% -- Women of Color in Design

2% — Women of Color in Design.

Artbug, Catherine Swaniker — Senior Project Architect, Group Goetz Architects, courtesy www.the-bac.edu

Opened to coincide with the AIA National Convention, the 2% — Women of Color in Design exhibition featured work of one of the smallest segments of the architecture profession: women of color.

Karen Hudson, granddaughter of pioneering African American architect Paul Revere Williams, FAIA, presented AIA President Marshall Purnell, FAIA, with historic possessions belonging to Williams at the exhibition opening. As the first black licensed architect, member of the AIA, and first admitted to the AIA’s College of Fellows, Williams’ certificate of AIA membership and College of Fellows certificate will be valuable additions to the AIA national archives. Hudson, peering over the nearly full lecture hall, commented, “He [Williams] would be happy to see this room so full,” hinting at the number of architects of color who were present.

Recalling the lack of acceptance by professors and fellow students in architecture school, Purnell commented, “I chose this profession. It did not choose me.” He spoke of overcoming obstacles and succeeding through determination and persistence. Key architects from Purnell’s formative years were in the audience to commemorate the moment as well.

Norma Sklarek, FAIA, the 2008 winner of the Whitney Young Citation, was also recognized and honored at the opening as the first African-American woman to be licensed as an architect in 1954.

The exhibition showcased quality work by women architects nationwide, including NY-based architects Roberta Washington, FAIA, and Heather Philip-O’Neal, AIA, principals in their respective firms. The projects ranged from independent work to architects’ work as key persons within firms. One thing is certain: more investigation and exposure of this segment of the industry is needed. “A few colleges and organizations have expressed interest in displaying this exhibition in several cities across the nation,” said Boston Architectural College President Dr. Theodore Landsmark, Assoc. AIA. Stay tuned.

NOMA Meets in Orlando, Commits to Community and Change

Event: 35th International Conference & Exposition: Embrace Commitment. Community. Change
Location: Orlando, FL, 10.25-27.07
Organizer: National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA)
Host: NOMA Orlando


(left) Southwest Public Safety Center in Detroit, designed by Hamilton Anderson Associates, won the First Place NOMA Design Honor Award; (right) Cornell University’s project, “Soft Boundaries,” won the 2007 NOMA Student Design Competition.

Clayton Studio; Cornell University

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference theme, “Embrace Commitment. Community. Change,” resonated throughout this event, from seminars and keynote addresses to the design awards competition. Seminars focused on sustainability, building information modeling, real estate development, and the correlation between design and culture. The many seminars on architects and public policy reflect the growing interest in this important topic.

Introducing the NOMA 35th International Conference and Exposition, 2008 NOMA president, Carlton T. Smith, NOMA, AIA, invited members to “make a commitment to one another in order to effect change collectively for the betterment of our communities.”

Luncheon speaker Chauncey Mayfield of Mayfield Gentry, a real estate holding company in Detroit, MI, said clearly to all: successful professionals should always reach back and assist those who are starting out. “Don’t pull up the ladder,” he said. “Leave it in place to assist others on their way up.” And he speaks from experience. After winning its first large-scale project, Mayfield Gentry continued to grow. After forming a relationship with a German company, the firm transformed itself into a major property management company with developments in several states. He noted that the lack of diversity in real estate was even greater than in architecture. In fact, you could count the number of minority-owned property management companies in the U.S. on the fingers of one hand. The number of major African-American developers, he added, is similarly low, and he saw no real efforts as yet to increase diversity in the industry.

Design Awards keynote speaker Dr. E. Lance McCarthy, president and CEO, Metropolitan Orlando Urban League, spoke of his admiration for Ayn Rand’s fictional character Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, stressing that architects should stay true to their ideals no matter the opposition. The first place Design Honor award went, for the third consecutive year, to Hamilton Anderson Associates of Detroit. This year’s honored project, Detroit’s Southwest Public Safety Center, houses a police precinct and a fire station, providing one-stop service for the public. The open plan and glass façade offers a spacious setting for community meetings.

The student design competition centered on a “New Urban K-12 School” sited in the predominantly African-American community of Parramore in downtown Orlando, identified as a community in transition. Open to National Organization of Minority Architecture Student (NOMAS) chapters nationwide, the program encouraged students to complement Orlando’s overall master plan for the area, “Pathways for Parramore,” by designing a school that would improve the depressed aspects of the neighborhood. First prize went to the Cornell University team (for the second consecutive year), with a scheme that invites the community to take part. Exterior courtyards intertwined with transparent interior spaces reinforce the team’s concept, “Soft Boundaries.”

AIA National President RK Stewart, FAIA, and President-elect Marshall Purnell, NOMA, FAIA, were active in the conference, highlighting the AIA’s commitment to closer ties with NOMA. Both Stewart and Purnell offered support and stressed the common interests of each organization. Next year’s convention will be held October 2-4, 2008, in Washington, DC, with the theme “Evolve: Expanding our Horizons.”