The National Organization for Minority Architects conference kicks off this week in Portland, Oregon

Portland Programs

The National Organization for Minority Architects conference kicks off this week in Portland, Oregon

(Sean Oulashin/Unsplash)


The National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA) is hosting its annual conference in Portland, Oregon for the first time. The five-day event brings together architects and design professionals for a series of panel discussions, seminars, workshops, award ceremonies, and building tours. This year’s theme, Building Bridges Towards Just and Joyful Futures, alludes to the 12 bridges in Portland, connecting the east and west sides of the city. The full schedule for the conference is available here.

The city of Portland holds significance for the professional organization, as it was the location of the 1968 AIA convention, where civil rights activist Whitney M. Young Jr. gave a speech on diversity in the industry. “NOMA is steeped in history with a mission founded out of need and call to action. As we gather in this historically significant city to NOMA, we recognize that every NOMA member brings their unique gifts and experiences to our conference,” said Pascale Sablan, 2023–2024 NOMA president, in a press release.

The event kicks off on October 11 with the Legacy Project. Attendees will visit the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition and Black Futures Farm to consider Black histories as they relate to agricultural work through gardening and design.

Among the speakers taking part in discussions at this year’s conference are architects Toshiko Mori, Nina Cooke John, and artist Olalekan Jeyifous. Mori is a panelist for the keynote Just Practice, Joyful Learning. She will speak alongside Robert L. Easter of Hampton University, Cruz Garcia of WAI Think Tank, and Daisy-O’lice Williams of University of Oregon. The group of professionals will engage in a conversation on how the education system could be amended. In Neo Griots-Storytelling through Practice, Cooke John and Jeyifous will address ways the built environment can be used to tell overwritten or forgotten narratives and histories.

At NOMA attendees can partake in sessions to earn continuing education credits. The sessions are divided into five tracks: design, technical, community and justice, business, and Reframing Portlandia. Among the topics to be presented are trauma-informed design, working toward licensure, restoring the house of architect Paul R. Williams, and mass timber. Other session highlights include a talk from LGBTQIA+ architects and designers behind the new book Out in Architecture on designing with equity in mind and the design concepts for the National Juneteenth Museum.

NOMA will also host a number of programs geared toward students, including sessions on putting together a portfolio and considering grad school. Student chapters of NOMA can take part in the Barbara G. Laurie Student Design Competition. This year groups will work on a design for the Williams & Russell Project, a Portland initiative focused on addressing systemic injustices within the city’s Black community. Students will be tasked with planning out a site that must include mixed-income housing, commercial and retail, and community spaces.

Throughout the five days of programming, attendees are welcome to tour eight buildings in Portland, among these the Portland Japanese Garden, the new Nike Worldwide Headquarters, and the PAE Living Building.

NOMA’s 2023 conference is sold out, but virtual registration is still available here. The event runs from October 11 to October 14.