National Organization of Minority Architects @ The Commons

On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, more than 75 people that traveled to Chicago to attend the 46th Annual NOMA International Conference and Exposition gathered at The Commons for a day of [de]construction, [re]construction, and [re]connections. NOMA volunteers worked alongside the SWF team throughout the day on various projects across The Commons. Read on to learn more about the day’s activities.


The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), founded in 1971, is “dedicated to the development and advancement of minority architects.” with members and local chapters across the nation. During this year’s annual conference, a group of 75 conference attendees from 12 states (Arizona, New York, Michigan, Florida, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, Kansas, and Illinois) and two countries (Brazil and Guatemala) spent a Day of Service at The Commons. Many architects find themselves in office buildings and conference rooms, and rarely have an opportunity to be outside in the community. The Day of Service provides an opportunity for NOMA members to create partnerships and relationships with communities across the country and take something they learned back to their cities.

After brief introductions, the group broke up into groups for activities, while simultaneously reflecting on three topics: [de]construction, [re]construction, and [re]connection. Physically, [de]construction meant breaking down reclaimed wood or pruning in the farm. Mentally, participants began the process of [de]constructing preconceived thoughts and beliefs. Through [re]construction, participants built fractals, sanded, and stained wood from previously wasted materials while reflecting on the ways they might [re]construct their communities using elements too often considered wastes. During each activity, participants [re]connected with the environment and people around them.  

At the end of the day, the group gathered in the Thought Barn to share a farm-to-table meal prepared by SWF Resident Chef, Mama Betty. As they ate, the NOMA volunteers shared lessons learned from the day and discussed the way they can implement those lessons into their lives and everyday practices.

Courtney Hug