Each year, over 600 minority architects, urban designers, community activists and design students from across the country come together in fellowship for the annual National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference.
This year’s 46th annual conference, “NOMA UNBOUNDED – The Convergence of a Legacy,” was held at Chicago’s historic Palmer House Hotel last weekend.
Epstein was pleased to be a sponsor of this year’s conference. We’re equally proud of our Design Professional, Alexus Davis, who represented Epstein at NOMA UNBOUNDED and who has been involved with the organization for the past 6 years. She participated in NOMAS (the National Organization of Minority Architects Students) throughout her entire college career at the University of Illinois and was even president for 2.5 years and subsequently served as a student advisor for 3.
Strength in NOMA is built through unity in the cause that created the organization. Epstein is delighted to support NOMA, and serve as an effective source of motivation and inspiration for minority youth.
We asked Alexus to share her insight on the group, as well as some of the dilemmas that face the nation, particularly as they affect the profession:
“There are many reasons why NOMA is an important organization to me and why I admire Epstein’s backing of it. NOMA is a support group to AIA (American Institute of Architects); most of our members are also members of AIA. NOMA’s mission is to champion and support diversity within the profession while fighting for more, and better, opportunities for people of color in architecture. Black women make up 0.004 percent of the profession. There are currently roughly 444 black women in America who are licensed and 1,802 black male architects. As of 2016, there are 109,748 licensed architects in America, which means that African Americans make up 0.02 percent of the profession.”
These figures are according to the Directory of African American Architects, which is maintained as a public service to promote an awareness of who African American architects are and where they are located.
NOMA President Kimberly Dowdell and Alexus.
“NOMA has been a major support system for me; I have two amazing mentors, Jason Pugh and Oswaldo Ortega, who have introduced me to very successful people in our field and have shown me a side of the profession that I wouldn’t have been exposed to on my own. They helped me push myself through school, they gave me constructive criticism and positive feedback on my work. They’ve also been a great resource on navigating life. Jason Pugh is responsible for connecting me with Epstein; he encouraged me to apply here.
The Chicago chapter of NOMA is one of the strongest chapters; fortunately, for me, Chicago has the largest population of black women in architecture. I’ve been able to build relationships with people like Dina Griffin, President of IDEA (Interactive Design Architects). Dina’s firm was selected as the AOR for the Obama Presidential Library, which is a major accomplishment for a black woman in this field. I’ve also built relationships with Rosa Sheng, the designer of the glass staircase for Apple, who also leads the Equity by Design Movement; Katherine Darnstadt; Michael Ford, the Hip-Hop Architect; Bryan Lee & Pascale Sablan, who are leading this Design Justice movement. These are all amazing architects, who I’ve been able to connect with because of NOMA.”
I-NOMA, the Illinois chapter of NOMA, has a strong pipeline system that starts with recruiting students from underserved communities and carries them all the way through licensure. A diagram highlighting the process can be seen here. The term “Project Pipeline” is used to combat the school to prison pipeline system that has historically disadvantaged students of color in our country.
I-NOMA and SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago).
“I began the pipeline in college as a NOMAS student, and I’m currently studying for the ARE’s. Over the past two years, Equity Office has donated $175,000 to the project pipeline initiative that has allowed I-NOMA to provide students with great programs.”
In Epstein’s relationship with NOMA, we aim to help support the continuance of building strong chapters of design professionals whose sensibilities and interests include the promotion of all communities. Once again, we are proud of your devotion, Alexus, and are here to support you!