noma conference: my marathon day

12Nov12

I went to the NOMA conference last month in Detroit. It was my first time in the city. Unfortunately home life made me shorten my trip so I was only there for about 36 hours. I had two goals: deliver the NOMA magazine on time to conference attendees and deliver my presentations well.

I ambitiously agreed to present in three seminars. Fortunately, in my limited time, they were all on the same day, and, luckily, I had short breaks between each. I know some may wonder why go through the trouble but I always like to share my work. Also, conferences are a great way to get the word out about something that is successful locally so others can use it.

First up was the session on Engaging Youth in Design. I worked with two collaborators, Shirl Buss and Prescott Reavis. We have been working for the past four years with an elementary school in San Francisco that is adjacent to a public housing site that is underging redevelopment. Our job has been to engage the youth to teach them about architecture and planning and how it affects their lives and also to get their input on the development taking place right outside their classroom windows. We gave an overview of what we have taught for the past four years.

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In addition to just presenting the information, we saw this as an opportunity to do something unorthodox. We actually brought a hands on craft activity for the attendees to do during the session. We are architects and at heart I think we love to create. We gave the attendees the task of creating a bas relief about their journey as an architect.

Second, I joined Mark Matel to present the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship. It was great to see a room full of young people interested in community design. As I have written before, I feel architects of color need to be involved in underserved communities especially where there are large populations of people of color.

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Third, I presented my personal journey as part of Riding the Vortex XI, a session discussing the journeys of African-American women in architecture. This session has been presented at several conferences over the last 5 years. It was great to report that the number of licensed African-American women architects has doubled in the last ten years. I, as #251, was sitting on stage with #14 (Kathryn Prigmore). We were joined by the two other originators of the session, Barbara Laurie and Kathy Dixon, and Detroiter,Tiffany Brown.

I love going to the conference to connect with my NOMA family, share war stories, see new cities, learn way to be a better architect and see architecture through new and interesting lenses. You can check out the Twitter feed and Facebook page for other stories and photos from the event.