The following is a press release from the National Organization of Minority Architects announcing the first day of its virtual 2020 conference—the largest NOMA conference gathering to date.

The 48th Annual National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Conference opened on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, with an online audience of more than 1,500 registrants, making it the largest NOMA conference gathering ever. The virtual conference surpasses the record-breaking attendance of over 1,200 at last year’s NOMA Brooklyn conference. In an unprecedented year due to COVID-19, a resulting recession and social unrest, the conference will bring together architects, designers, academics, urban planners, community developers, artists, and students to champion and discuss how to shift the issues of our current structures to more equitable systems through architecture during the online conference, Oct. 14-17, 2020.

“When faced with the difficult question of whether or not to cancel our in-person conference at the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, we decided to prioritize the health and safety of our members. In light of this decision and recognizing how much our members need each other now more than ever before, we opted to forge into the unfamiliar territory of delivering a virtual conference experience,” said Kimberly Dowdell, NOMA, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, 2019-2020 NOMA President and HOK Principal. “We are gathering online to discuss the pressing issues that COVID-19 has brought to light with NOMA members and colleagues from across the industry. As architects, we are responsible for shaping the future of the built environment. In the shadows of this pandemic, it is critical that our profession is better equipped to help foster greater health and wellbeing for people in all communities, particularly those that suffer from the greatest health and wealth disparities in our nation. NOMA members expect to be on the frontlines of these issues moving forward.”

Originally planned to take place in Oakland, CA, and curated by the San Francisco NOMA Chapter (SF NOMA), the conference theme of “Spatial Shifts: Reclaiming Our Cities” outlines a dynamic set of more than 40 online lectures, seminars, and networking events. Organized by conference co-chairs June Grant, NOMA, RA, SF NOMA President, and Rod Henmi, NOMA, FAIA, LEED AP, the conference theme is a call to empower architects as designers, community members, leaders, and environmental stewards to champion the shift of our current structures to more equitable systems. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) approved most events for continuing education credit.

The conference will be Dowdell’s second and final conference under her two-year presidency. On behalf of NOMA’s Board of Directors, Dowdell will induct incoming 2021-2022 NOMA President Jason Pugh, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA, at the NOMA Awards Brunch, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Pugh’s term will start on Jan. 1, 2021. A graduate of Howard University and Columbia University, Pugh is an architect and certified planner at Gensler in Chicago.

Under Dowdell’s leadership over the past two years, NOMA doubled its membership to more than 2,000 members; grew partnerships with organizations including the American Institute of Architects Large Firm Roundtable (AIA-LFRT) and The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards; and expanded the NOMA President’s Circle corporate membership program to over 70 members, including architecture firms, corporations, organizations and academic institutions. NOMA is also the new host of the Directory of African American Architects.

To help increase the number of minority architects throughout the U.S., NOMA launched the NOMA Foundation Fellowship (NFF) this summer and placed 30 architecture students enrolled. The NFF was a two-month virtual research fellowship hosted at leading architecture firms across the country. Fellows engaged in design research and benefited from firm mentorship. Amidst COVID-19 and record unemployment, NFF provides professional experience to underrepresented students with the goal of keeping them engaged in the profession and providing a pipeline to eventual employment. In all recessions, including the current one, minorities are often the most adversely impacted by job loss. NFF will continue this winter due to the support of the AIA-LFRT members.

“Mentorship is a key component to the success of any architect, and almost any NOMA member can name at least three people that helped them overcome obstacles to get them to where they are now,” said Dowdell. “The fellowship is a means to formalize that support structure for minority students and open the process of giving to NOMA members and non-members who wish to support the program with a named fellowship.”

Conference Highlights include:

Community Design Workshop, Wednesday, that envisions a San Leandro Creek greenway, moderated by June Grant, NOMA, RA, SF NOMA President. The creek runs through deep East Oakland starting from Sobrante Park, passing through Columbia Gardens pouring into the San Leandro Bay at the MLK Jr. Shoreline Park. Workshop space is limited to 50 persons and is sold out.

Industry Leaders / Fireside Chats:

  • Thursday: Liz Ogbu, Studio O Founder; Judith Grant, SF NOMA Conference Co-Chair and Blink!Lab architecture founder; and Deanna VanBuren, Designing Justice, Designing Spaces Co-Founder, in a moderated conversation with Fay Darmawi, San Francisco Urban Film Fest Founder and Executive Producer.
  • Friday: De Nicholas, Design As Protest cofounder, arts-based organizer, and Harvard GSD Loeb Fellow; Favianna Rodriguez, Oakland, CA-based artist and social activist; Daryl Shack, Zuni Visual Artist, Spatial Activist, in a moderated conversation with Bryan C. Lee, Jr., Design As Protest cofounder, Colloqate founder, and NOMA Board Member.
  • Saturday: Jane Frederick, FAIA, 2020 AIA President, Peter Exley, FAIA, 2021 AIA President, Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, 2020 NOMA President, and Jason Pugh, AIA, 2021 NOMA President, in a moderated conversation with William Bates, FAIA 2019 AIA president.
  • Saturday: Daimian Hines, AIA, HINES Architecture Principal and Founder; Noni Session, East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC) Founder and Director; and Brian Rice, community engineer, in a conversation moderated by Jason Pugh, AIA, incoming 2021-2022 NOMA President and Gensler architect.

Architecture Program and Graduate Fair, Friday, with 38 architecture programs from across the country represented, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

NOMA Award Brunch, Saturday, featuring the induction of incoming NOMA 2021-2022 President Jason Pugh; the NOMA Phil Freelon Professional Design Awards; 2020 licensure recognition; NOMA Barbara G. Laurie Student Design Competition Awards; and NOMA leadership awards, including President’s Award; Member of the Year; Most Improved Chapter; Emerging Chapter; Chapter of the Year; and the Founders Award.

NOMA-NAACP-Social Environmental and Economic Design (SEED) Awards, Sunday, recognizing award winning projects that include: 7933 Tree Lane, Madison, WI; Biblioteca Caminanza, Portland, OR; The Chicago Mobile Makerspace, Chicago, IL; Envision Comanche, Tulsa, OK; Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; Pathways to Equity: West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Oakland, CA; The Weatherization Kit Project, Pittsburgh, PA

The Black Women in Architecture co-located brunch, Sunday

To view the NOMA Conference schedule online, visit:

NOMA made the decision to move the conference online in order to protect the health and safety of NOMA members and sponsors during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Globally, the pandemic has had a disproportionately adverse impact on communities of color. COVID-19 related deaths were much higher among African American and Hispanic/Latino households in the U.S., further prompting NOMA to consider the demographics of our membership in the decision.

NOMA’s 49th annual conference will be held in Detroit in 2021, celebrating 50 years since the organization’s founding, which stemmed from the AIA Convention in Detroit in 1971. To sponsor a future NOMA conference event, visit