Advancing the Profession Through Project Pipeline

NOMAPGH Leads Workshops for Students

By Maya Henry, COLUMNS Editor Posted on February 7, 2019

Project Pipeline Summer Camp 2018.  All photos by Riccardy Volcy

Providing students with exposure to architecture at a young age gives each child an opportunity to discover their artistic and technical passions early in their educational development. Students, parents, teachers, and counselors can then place students in classes that will build on the student’s interest in architecture and design.

Project Pipeline is a series of architecture summer camps and design workshops led by NOMAPGH (National Organization of Minority Architects Pittsburgh Chapter).  The first summer camp was held in 2018 with a follow-up winter workshop this past December.  These educational opportunities were supported in great part by AIA Learning By Design.

The AIA, with support from the Architects Foundation, and in partnership with Armstrong World Industries Foundation, offers grants in support of K-8 architecture and design education programs. As an AIA Component, AIA Pittsburgh was eligible to apply for the grant on behalf of NOMAPGH.

“As a Chapter, we are committed to developing the next generation of architects, and especially to supporting opportunities for young people who otherwise would not be exposed to architecture or architects,” says AIA Pittsburgh Executive Director Michelle Fanzo. “The AIA Equity by Design grant allowed us not only to fund an architecture education program for students – which is fantastic all by itself – but to also strengthen our partnership with NOMA while doing it.”

A “crit” at the Project Pipeline Winter Workshop

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) was founded in 1971 when 12 African-American architects from around the country met at the AIA National Convention.  These founders recognized the need for an organization dedicated to the advancement of minorities in the profession and NOMA was formed. NOMA now consists of 26 chapters and over 500 members internationally.

The NOMA Pittsburgh chapter has 20 members with a diverse array of experience and skills. It is a non-profit organization run with the support and dedication of member and non-member volunteers. NOMAPGH seeks to remove discrimination within the profession and strengthen the awareness and career opportunities for minorities within the field of architecture.

As older students enter college, they are provided mentoring opportunities and job shadowing experience to give students a chance to “walk a day in the shoes” of an architect.  After college, NOMAPGH supports emerging professionals through the Architectural Registration Exams by providing access to study materials, mentoring and study cohort groups.

“It’s not just a pipeline, it’s a loop,” says NOMAPGH Member Ashleigh Walton, AIA of Urban Design Associates.  “Now you as a professional who’s coming to the end of the pipeline, it’s your opportunity to support the earlier end of the pipeline.”

In the field at the Project Pipeline Summer Camp 2018

Project Pipeline is a way for NOMAPGH to support students from elementary to high school.  The inaugural summer camp hosted 40 students, many of whom came back for another design workshop held this past December at Depiction Illustration in Lawrenceville.   Sketchbooks, art markers, architecture books, and other high-quality materials were purchased for the workshop and students were taught how to use them; at the end of the workshop, they could take them home.

Following the successful summer camp, the organizers wanted to capture the momentum they identified when they kept hearing from participants that they wanted to know “what’s next?”

“We learned a lot in doing these first few workshops,” says NOMAPGH President Alicia Volcy, AIA of IKM.  “It allowed us to see how the kids respond to the different activities.  We’re not teachers, so we needed some trial and error, to see what works well and what doesn’t and this AIA grant allowed us to do that.”

Mentoring during the Winter Workshop

NOMAPGH has received a number of requests to develop high school programming and is looking at expanding their offerings.  They are also seeking additional partners that can help get the word out about 2019 summer camps and help them continue to reach diverse populations.  If you have ideas for partnerships or connections through your resource network please reach out via their contact page.

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