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Jaein Lee, B.Arch. ’22, presents “Our Backyard” at NOMA’s 2019 conference.

Cornell group takes second place in student design competition

The Cornell student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) was recently awarded second place in the annual student design competition at NOMA’s 2019 conference, held Oct. 16-20 in Brooklyn, New York.

Cornell’s entry, competing with projects by 39 other teams from U.S. architecture colleges, was “Our Backyard,” which provided a housing solution for a mixed-income residential development in the New York City borough.

The Cornell NOMAS team poses with their award.

The National Organization for Minority Architects Students (NOMAS), the student extension of NOMA, exposes architecture students of color to the history, culture and practice of professional architects of color. The Cornell chapter is open to minority students from across the university.

NOMA’s 2019 conference was titled “Believe the Hype: A Global Collective of Industry Change Agents.” The annual conference also features workshops, meetings and events focusing on the impact of current issues in architecture on people of color. Students raise funds to attend and participate. During the year, NOMAS activities include special events, guest speakers, field trips and site visits.

Competition design requirements change yearly, but always recognize and strengthen marginalized neighborhoods and communities.

“It’s a new way for all of us to approach design since in studio we tend to focus on beauty or efficiency,” said chapter president Jaein Lee, B.Arch. ’22, who co-presented “Our Backyard” at the conference with Angel Langumas, B.Arch. ’ 23.

The team had the support and guidance of Lily Rice, assistant director of student services in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning; faculty adviser Rubén Alcolea, visiting professor in architecture; and Andrea Simitch, chair of the Department of Architecture.

“Our Backyard” provided a specific architecture design response combining housing units with diverse public spaces – something even experienced architects struggle to do, Alcolea said.

“The team of mostly second- and third-year undergraduates approached the architecture problem with radical ambition and without prejudices,” he said. “The resulting proposal was extremely fresh but also meticulously rigorous, and I think this was perhaps one of the keys to their success.”

The Cornell NOMAS team also included Wendolin Gonzalez, Cornelius Tulloch and Chi Yamakawa, all B.Arch. ’21; Abigail Calva, Yimeng (Lucy) Ding, Polen Guzelocak and Farzana Hossain, B.Arch.’22; and Htet Aung (Alexander) Kyaw, Maiko Sein and Carolina Zuniga, B.Arch. ’21.

“I hope this fantastic achievement empowers the team to raise their voice and take even more active leadership beyond the Department of Architecture, increasing the impact these initiatives should have in our academic communities,” Alcolea said.

The conference also featured a first-ever NOMA Cornell Meetup, coordinated by Rice and AAP Connect director Scott Scheible. More than 40 alumni from across the country attended, including 2019-20 NOMA president Kimberly Dowdell, B.Arch. ’06; Antoine Bryant ’95; Michael Neumann, B.Arch. ’81; Mark Hill, B.Arch. ’84; and Robert (Bob) Balder ’89, the Gensler Family Sesquicentennial Executive Director of AAP NYC.

Patti Witten is a writer for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

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