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.”