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APLA Student Team Wins First Place in NOMA Competition

The student team from the School of Architecture, Design and Construction was the first place winner for the second year in a row in the National Organization of Minority Architects’ student design competition. The student design competition was part of the annual NOMA Conference in Detroit, Michigan, October 18–20. The competition challenge sought community-led design solutions to invigorate and sustain enhanced economic development in Southwest Detroit’s Corktown District, an area that has been severely under-resourced for decades.

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The solution required in-depth research of historical site conditions as well as an understanding of the current social, cultural, economic, and physical space conditions found in this unique community. Working under the direction of Kevin Moore, (Interior Architecture) and Carla Jackson Bell (NOMA advisor), the APLA team researched the area through websites and books. 

“This year the project was comprehensive, requiring a master plan and building design. This was only possible with a team of students prodding, arguing, and building a proposal together, often late into the night,” says Moore.

Fifth-year architecture student Damian Bolden explains, “The project statement challenged our team to reconsider the traditional role of architecture in society to arrive at an effective method of creating sustainable communities.”

This year’s NOMA student design competition team included: Damian Bolden (fifth year architecture), Tina Maceri (fourth year architecture), Valecia Wilson (first year community planning), Brandon Cummings (first year community planning), Taiwei Wang (fourth year architecture), Jack Mok (fourth year architecture), Cierra Heard (fourth year architecture), and Rachel Latham (fourth year architecture).

Their winning proposal, “Renovate>Cultivate>Innovate,” provided a frame work to build on the entrepreneurial spirit of the current citizens. Rather than impose a singular future on the neighborhood, the APLA’s team design emphasized collective innovation that grows from the renovation of existing infrastructure and the cultivation of a live/make district. The team identified and strengthened a stunning diversity of activities along a walkable route from rural community to urban village to industrial corridor. The team’s holistic approach was praised by the jury of design professionals as “a catalyst for healing land, people, and economics.”

 “Participating in the NOMA student design competition not only developed my leadership and teamwork skills, but also opened my eyes to the opportunities that exist within a changing urban condition,” says Bolden.

“This is the second year that our Auburn NOMA students have participated in this competition and the second year that they’ve won it,” says NOMA advisor Carla Jackson Bell. “I am very proud of the caliber of students we have enrolled, and the fact that our CADC minority student percentage has rapidly increased each year.” Thanks to Bell’s efforts, CADC has experienced an 8 percent increase in recruitment success, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented students, and CADC currently has thirty-five active NOMA members.

The mission of NOMA is “to champion diversity within the design professions by promoting the excellence, community engagement, and professional development of its members.” One way it meets its mission is through its annual conference and sponsoring the student design competition. For more information about NOMA, please go to