courtesy Nomi

Firm: Nomi
Location: Lexington and Louisville Ky.
Founded: 2015
Leadership: Matthew Brooks, AIA
Education: B.Arch University of Kentucky (UK)
Experience: Beckhard Richlan Szerbaty & Associates, Omni Architects
Firm size: 15

Nomi is an architecture, design, and fabrication studio that works on a variety of project types at multiple scales, from high school campuses to an individual table. The diversity of our work strengthens our practice by challenging us to continue learning, problem-solving, and collaborating with new people.

Ultimately, we want to improve the lives of people using our buildings and products. So, whatever the type or scale, we apply the same research-based intensity to develop smart designs that are specific to each project.

Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios The adaptive reuse of a Federal-style former residence into an office included the construction of a board-formed concrete-and-glass stair and elevator tower in the rear as well as a contrasting modern addition next to the entrance.
Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios

Memorable learning experience:
When I was living in New York I found a job building models through an ad placed in the paper by Acconci Studio. Vito Acconci does these amazing installations that blur the line between art and architecture. But of course, he is also well known for his, shall we say, unconventional performance art. Those were two interesting weeks!

A renovated kitchen featuring a red painted structural beam is part of an open-concept living space in this Fayette Park residence in Lexington.
Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios A renovated kitchen featuring a red painted structural beam is part of an open-concept living space in this Fayette Park residence in Lexington.

First commission:
Our first fabrication project was a small restaurant called Athenian Grill. The owner is a friend who grew his business from a food truck and was ready to make the transition to a brick and mortar place. The property he rented was an old garage that had been used as a catering kitchen for many years but had no curb appeal and felt very cramped inside. We knocked out the ceiling and a lot of walls to open the space then repurposed all the lumber and lath to make new casework and tables.

Completing Athenian Grill as a design-build project helped us gain a deep appreciation for the work that contractors do and steered our focus toward specialized fabrication and away from general construction. The relationships we've since built with local contractors and fabricators allows us to concentrate on research and development while collaborating with talented tradesmen in our community.

Favorite project:
In 2014, we won the York Street Challenge, an affordable-housing design competition organized by a local community development nonprofit NoLi CDC. The goal was to "transform vacant or condemned properties in Lexington's North Limestone neighborhood into affordable live/work spaces that respect and respond to the neighborhood's historical context." We loved everything about the competition. It was a community-driven project with the opportunity to transform not only one property but an entire neighborhood; it had the potential to change the way we think about residential construction.

Inspired by open source projects, we proposed to build our York Street Maker Spaces project ourselves, using CNC fabrication. Ultimately, the wood structure for the houses became an assembly of pieces milled entirely on our CNC machine that fit together like a puzzle. The pre-cut parts were delivered on pallets and constructed on site using only rubber mallets, screw guns, and a little elbow grease. The idea that an affordable house can be assembled by its owner on site is really exciting to us.

courtesy Nomi Organized by the North Limestone Community Development Corp., in Lexington, the York Street Challenge asked for innovative design ideas to repurpose 20th-century shotgun houses into live–work spaces. Nomi proposed building a new structural frame that incorporated salvaged lumber and extending the floor plan to include the original porch area.
Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios
courtesy Nomi

Second favorite project:
Our Louisville office space is special because it was the first time we translated a purely conceptual idea into a built form. I sketched out an idea of plywood that would be bent and manipulated to form workstations. We were able to research and develop a way of making those pieces that was very close to the original vision.

How did you come up with your firm name?
Just like our approach to design, choosing a name was a collaborative effort. Everyone was invited to add names and ideas to a shared document, which ended up being about nine pages long. We narrowed that list down to a few names and ultimately Nomi was chosen. In Italian, it means “names.” In Japanese, it refers to a type of wood chisel. We all agreed the duality of the meaning was perfect.

Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios Custom shelving, desks, wall panels, and a movable wall system made of plywood create a contiguous and raw look in Nomi’s office.
This model depicts a lounge-kiosk concept for an office.
courtesy Nomi This model depicts a lounge-kiosk concept for an office.

Modern-day architecture hero:
The firm Jersey Devil design/build. I love the name and I love the work. When I was in school at UK one of the founding members came to lecture. I remember being really inspired by their collaborative and nomadic approach to architecture and how they were so involved in the actual making of their projects.

Special item in your studio space:
CNC machine.

Design tool of choice:
A block of wood. To me it holds so many possibilities. It can be drawn on, carved into, or cut through; it can be joined with other materials or stand alone.

Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios The Plantory is a multi-tenant nonprofit center located in a former bread factory in Lexington, Ky. Nomi repurposed the remnants of CNC-milled plywood—used to make desk frames—as screen walls for the conference room.
courtesy Nomi

Design aggravation:
Contrived, fake, one-dimensional, or gimmicky moves passed off as meaningful design concepts, like making columns for school buildings look like giant crayons.

Plenty. But I'm too superstitious to name them.

Morning person or night owl:
I've always been about the night. Mornings are never quiet.

Kentucky bourbon.

Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios
Magnus Lindqvist/GLINT Studios