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[WEAVING IN] wins: UB NOMAS team gets second win in annual design competition on the national stage

The UB NOMAS team poses with their award beside their design. Back row from the left: William Baptiste and Femi Alege. Middle row: Yifan He, Krishna Dayalan, Professor Brian Carter, Shane Todd, and Arisha Shahid. Front row: Samantha Su and Irene Turlan.

By Brenna Zanghi

Published November 20, 2017

UB’s chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students recently won their second award in the national Barbara G. Laurie NOMA Annual Student Design Competition. After recognition in 2016, their latest proposal has received an award in 2017.

Twenty teams from around the country participated in the 45 annual competition which invited students to propose a design for the John Chase Academy of Architecture, Design, and Sustainability in Sunnyside. This African American neighborhood, established near Houston in 1910, has more recently seen increased poverty and disinvestment and local leaders are seeking ideas to reinvigorate the neighborhood. The new school, part of this rebuilding initiative, seeks to foster relationships with the community while encouraging social entrepreneurship.

The student teams were challenged to examine a site and design space to provide residents with improved access to secondary education, opportunities for adult educational programs, and places for community events. Students were invited to consider the history of the community, examine a large site in Sunnyside and present ideas for the future. The requirements included the planning of new educational and athletic facilities, workspaces, a gallery and outdoor spaces. Submissions were considered by a jury of architects and community leaders who focused on six core values: Cultural Expression, Design Excellence, Community Integration, Constructability, Sustainability and Landscape.

The design developed by UB NOMAS team was entitled “[WEAVING IN] Sunnyside.” It integrated architecture, urban design, ecological practices, and inclusive accessibility in a plan that sought to restore the large site and weave it back into the community of Sunnyside. The proposal recommended the creation of three separate groups of new buildings – the academic campus, an athletic center and a cultural hub. Combined with landscape restoration and gardens, workshops, start-up spaces and existing facilities they formed a cohesive fabric of activities throughout the site. A series of ecological strips were an integral part of the plan to restore natural vegetation, filter air and water, mitigate pollution and connect new buildings with the site and its community.

The design team was inspired by the UB architecture program's Graduate Research Groups, which focus on five areas of specialty – Ecological Practices, Inclusive Design, Situated Technologies, Material Culture and Urban Design – and reflect significant the faculty's expertise and funded research. They enable students to enroll in UB’s two-year Master of Architecture degree to commence design research while elevating 3 1/2-year MArch. students to conduct research over three semesters. The UB NOMAs team benefitted from the research in each of these groups as a source of inspiration for their winning design.

UB’s NOMAs chapter, founded in 2011, represents minority students enrolled in the School of Architecture and Planning. Professor Brian Carter, UB’s faculty advisor, noted that “It is inspiring to see such a diverse group of our students working together and developing ideas that are being recognized on the global stage  – design clearly matters.”

The NOMAS 2017 design team consisted of undergraduate and graduate students Femi Alege, William Baptiste, Krisha Dayalan and, traveling to Houston to present to the jury, Yifan He, Arisha Shahid, Samantha Su and Irene Turlan.     

The NOMAS team regroups after their win. The [WEAVING IN] Sunnyside project model is visible below the team’s presentation board; the students integrated the natural environment into their design in order to best utilize the expansive site. The main building, the proposed school, is highlighted on the left side of the model.