On October 16 through 20, 2019, 18 students from the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) chapter at Illinois Tech went to Brooklyn, New York to attend the annual National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference. After enduring a turbulence-ridden airplane trip and missing the majority of studio that day, we landed in Brooklyn ready to eat and ready to learn. The NOMA Conference had over 100 speakers present that hosted sessions throughout the week. It was definitely hard to decide which lectures or sessions to attend because there were so many good topics being discussed all throughout the conference.
The first day of the conference, I went to a panel that discussed affordable housing throughout the world and how cities are adapting their policies to accommodate for more affordable housing. The Illinois Tech chapter had the chance to tour Adjaye Architects, known for works such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., because of connections from a College of Architecture alumni. It was interesting to see the work they are doing globally but more specifically in the Brooklyn area. A lot of the work they do in the area is for building community spaces in areas that lack it. It was also interesting to learn about architectural renderings and how they lack representation of the people shown in renderings. The work of the firm was also very nice to see. We got to see the design and iterative process of some of their projects through different models filtered around the firm. That night, there was also a party hosted by the NOMA New York chapter that was very fun as well.
Some members of the Illinois Tech NOMAS chapter entered the student competition that Friday morning, the team competed in the first round and successfully made it to the second round. Some of the sessions I went to that day were about creating architecture made for people; architecture that relates to humans on a biological and neurological level. Another session I went to that day was about African American women architects and how they are underrepresented in the field. There are currently less than 500 licensed female African American architects, and they make up 0.36% of the field. The day concluded with a ball at the Brooklyn Museum. The venue was absolutely stunning and we got to see some parts of the museum as well.
On the final day of the conference, one of the sessions I attended was about how to change representation in architecture when presenting information. Like, how can we shift to more digital technologies when showing proposals to clients. The keynote speaker, Allison Williams, concluded the end of the sessions talking about her journey with architecture. The same night was the annual banquet. There, the winners of the student competition was announced and Illinois Tech placed 3rd out of 39 schools.
Overall, the conference was absolutely amazing. Between sightseeing and conference activities, the week was jam packed with adventure and left little time for sleep. In the end, the lack of sleep was all worth it. Compared to other architecture conferences I have been to, the NOMA Conference was like one big family. During the banquet and the parties, everyone was so kind and friendly. Everyone was cheering for one another and recognized the successes of each architect as well. It was truly a wonderful experience to be a part of such a welcoming group of people.