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Bespoke Careers

24 October 2019

24 October 2019

Bespoke Careers attends NOMA in New York

National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) - 16th-20th October 2019

Bespoke Careers attended and sponsored the 47th Annual Conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) at the New York Marriott, Brooklyn Bridge in October of this year. NOMA now has a national membership of over 1,400 architects, with 1,200 registrants attending the conference this year.

New York has always been known as a global hub of innovation and a place where people of all backgrounds can become leaders in their industry. NOMA has been a leader in these efforts by creating powerful networks among minority architects, advocating for policy changes to fight discrimination, and inspiring minority youth.

About NOMA

NOMA was set up in 1971 when twelve African-American architects from different parts of the country met, some for the first time, during the AIA National Convention in Detroit that yeari. What these professionals recognized was the desperate need for an organization dedicated to the development and advancement of minority architects.

The conference

This year’s theme, Believe The Hype: A Global Collective of Industry Change Agents, represents their demonstrated ability to unite a membership organization and provide leadership, education, training, business development, mentorship and collaboration. The conference was held over 5 days with a variety of workshops, talks, parties, exhibitions and opportunities to network with peers and colleagues and attracted over 1000 national delegates. 

The Keynote speaker, Allison Williams, who has an array of international experience from SOM and Perkins & Will asked the question: “How can we take a place around the table to talk about social justice in the framework of our roles as architects, planners and designers?” Allison spoke passionately about her purpose and motivation for creating beautiful places. During her career, choosing to work with corporate, team-based, interdisciplinary work cultures, she has led and realized large-scale work across broad project types, at home and in far-flung places.

Recently opening her own practice, AGWms-studio in 2017, Allison focuses her efforts on consulting for clients, occasional studio teaching, frequent lectures, design competition and awards juries, pro-bono activities and some craft (art & buildings). She also holds lecturing positions at Stanford and Harvard GSD. In 2018, Williams was awarded The Norma Sklarek Award in Architecture by the AIACC and recently joined the Board of Directors for Designing Justice Designing Spaces (DJDS).       

The Debbie Allen Dance Academy

We were lucky enough to have time to attend some of the excellent talks at the NOMA Conference – the first one being ‘Creating Meaningful Impact through Design: The Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA)’. Barbara Bouza, the Managing Director of Gensler in San Francisco and also the current President of the AIA LA Chapter, talked about her role on the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, a non-profit organization transforming an undeserved neighborhood by making a purposeful choice to engage through the arts with their Dance Academy. 

The founding principles of DADA are based on the belief that arts education defines discipline, creativity and self-confidence – these principles empower individuals whether they pursue a professional performing arts career or not. It was an inspiring talk and highlighted how good design can benefit and be the seed for change in an inner-city neighborhood.

NOMA President's Annual Address

The following day we heard the NOMA President’s Annual Address; attendance was high and the president, Kimberly Dowdell, spoke about her story and presidency. “I’ve long had an interest in diversity in architecture as a way to support equitable urban revitalization." 

She also spoke about the trajectory of NOMA; “It is three-pronged: access, leadership and legacy. We create access with early exposure and supportive preparation for architectural study, starting in kindergarten with programs such as project Pipeline leading to our new Foundation Fellows program that subsidizes housing, licensure and travel expenses to enable interns to immerse themselves in professional readiness without the distraction of financial worries. Then, we cultivate leadership by giving young members early exposure to board positions, and promote a legacy by advising member firms on succession and exit planning so that their firms survive them.”         

All good things must come to an end

The conference ended with the Phil Freelon Design Awards Dinner on Saturday night and the NOMA 5K run/walk on Sunday morning, which Bespoke Careers was proud to sponsor. NOMA renamed the decades-old prestigious design awards in honor of Phil Freelon’s notable career, recognizing him as one of the most influential African American architects of our time. Phil sadly passed away on July 9th this year.

"As an organization recognizing minority architects’ successes, challenges and triumphs, there is no more fitting person to name our professional design awards after,” said NOMA President, Kimberly Dowdell. “From the start of his career until the end, Phil Freelon was an inspiration to all. The awards, now in his name, will honor the greatest achievements in architectural design each year and remind us to always strive for excellence.”  

The 5k walk/run is a fun activity for all ages and experience levels encouraging families (and their pets!) to participate with all proceeds to benefit the NOMA New York Chapter.

We look forward to attending the NOMA conference next year in Oakland, California.

Author: Scott MacTavish, Business Development Director, Bespoke Careers

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