NOMA 2019 Conference and Exposition
Neville Simpson / Courtesy the National Organization of Minority Architects NOMA 2019 Conference and Exposition

The following is a press release from the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) outlining major announcements planned for its 47th annual conference. For a behind-the-scenes perspective, read our Q+A with NOMA president Kimberly Dowdell, AIA.

The 47th Annual National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Conference opened Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Brooklyn, NY, with a record-breaking attendance of more than 1,000 people. Coinciding with New York City’s Archtober, NOMA hosted over 100 events in Brooklyn, Harlem and Lower Manhattan, including lectures, seminars, and tours, with support from 45 partners. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) approved most events for continuing education credit, and all program content is intended to focus on continued excellence in architecture, design and cultural competency.

“With an increased outlook for built work and heightened demand for architects across the country and around the globe, the time is now for NOMA’s leadership to engage in business opportunities and partnerships, while inspiring future generations of minority architects,” said Kimberly Dowdell, NOMA President and HOK Principal. “To that end, we have intentionally cultivated a dynamic conference experience that informs, networks and motivates our members and partners to participate collaboratively. Through the meaningful collaboration of people with diverse perspectives, a better, more intelligent and well-rounded building industry is within reach. NOMA does an exceptional job of bringing people together to engage in new conversations and embrace change, while also fostering a profound sense of belonging for all.”

The conference theme, “Believe the Hype: A Global Collective of Industry Change Agents,” represents NOMA’s demonstrated ability to unite as a membership organization and provide leadership, education, training, business development, mentorship and collaboration.

In addition to naming this year’s conference the largest attended ever, Dowdell announced the success of the newly founded NOMA President’s Circle, through which partnerships were formed to help connect NOMA’s network of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) experts to organizations in order to increase heighten cultural competency and improve DEI outcomes. Founding members include the AIA, NCARB, Enterprise Community Partners, Cuningham Group, Shepley Bulfinch, Gensler, HOK and Perkins & Will. All organizations were involved in conference educational and networking events.

To help increase the number of minority architects throughout the U.S., NOMA announced a new program to assist minority students with licensure. The NOMA Foundation Fellowship (NFF) aims to place architecture students enrolled in their final year at a National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited undergraduate or graduate program in a 12-week paid architectural internship. The fellowship includes a structured mentorship program and financial support to help facilitate the sometimes challenging transition from academia to the profession. Due to the high level of disparity seen in the profession relative to African-American architects, NFF will prioritize applications from seven eligible Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), which are to be credited for graduating 30 percent of the licensed Black architects in the U.S. today.

“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.”

The NFF pilot will launch in the Summer of 2020 in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. Additional program information will be announced in November.

NOMA’s membership grew 30 percent this year to more than 1,300 members. This number includes members of a variety of racial/ethnic groups, with a higher percentage of African-American architects, which account for only two percent of the total number — roughly 2,300 professionals — of registered architects, according to University of Cincinnati’s Center for the Study of Practice. NOMA has 30 professional chapters across the U.S., adding two new professional chapters in Kansas City and Milwaukee in 2019.

Chapters of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) — mentored by regional NOMA chapters — grew by 20 percent, bringing the chapter count to 75. NOMA and NOMAS membership is predominantly African-American, with other minority members including Native American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, East Indian and Asian, as well as an increasing segment of non-minority members who support NOMA’s mission.

Perkins and Will principal and managing director Zena Howard delivers the J. Max Bond Jr. lecture on the opening night of the 2019 NOMA Conference and Exposition
Neville Simpson / Courtesy the National Organization of Minority Architects Perkins and Will principal and managing director Zena Howard delivers the J. Max Bond Jr. lecture on the opening night of the 2019 NOMA Conference and Exposition

Conference Highlights include:

  • NOMA’s Annual J. Max Bond Jr. Lecture: Zena Howard, FAIA, LEED AP, Perkins & Will’s Managing Director, will deliver the conference opening lecture on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. The City College of New York’s Spitzer School of Architecture, the J. Max Bond Center for Urban Futures, The New School, AIA New York’s, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and nycoba | NOMA co-hosted the lecture.
  • The 2019 NOMA Barbara G. Laurie Student Design Competition: 40+ NOMAS student chapters will compete in an annual design competition on Friday and Saturday, October 18-19, 2019, that proposes plans for Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. Design considerations include forces of gentrification, housing equity and keeping the local culture and aesthetics of today’s Flatbush in place.
  • NOMA Conference Keynote Lecture: Allison Williams, FAIA, NOMA, AGWms_studio Principal, will give the conference keynote address on Saturday, October 20, 2019.
  • The Inaugural NOMA Phil Freelon Professional Design Awards: The conference concludes Saturday, October, 20, 2019, with the newly named NOMA Phil Freelon Professional Design Awards to honor the recent passing of NOMA leader and industry influencer Phil Freelon.

The NOMA Conference was last hosted in New York City back in 2004. Next year’s conference will take place in Oakland, CA, and 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 of a future NOMA conference event, visit

Oct. 18, 2019 update: This article has been updated with images from the conference.
Oct. 22, 2019 update: The link for sponsorship information has been updated.