College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Minority architecture students plan conference to address erasure, design their future


cNOMAS, the Clemson University student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), will host its 2022 student-led conference, “Addressing Erasure: Designing Our Future,” March 17-20 at the Clemson Design Center in Charleston (CDC.C).

Conference speakers include architects, Clemson alumni and faculty who have had significant roles in the process of inclusion for minorities at Clemson and in the field of architecture.

 “For minority students, the feeling of being othered is still noticeable at our school, in South Carolina and in the nation as a whole,” said Michael Urueta, former president, now graduate advisor of cNOMAS and M. Arch. student at Clemson. “Our chapter continuously advocates for inclusive, just, equitable and diverse approaches to building a stronger Clemson community.”

The keynote speaker for the event will be Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group, whose mission is “to research, build, and advocate or architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.”

Conference sessions will be held at the CDC.C, and the keynote address will be delivered at Mother Emmanuel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the southern U.S.

“Charleston’s complex history and its current urban challenges make it the perfect location for a conference addressing racial and social injustices within architecture,” Urueta said.

Other speakers include Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature, whose Call My Name project has revealed the impact of enslaved or convicted African American laborers on Clemson’s built environment; Michael Arad, partner at Handel Architects, LLC, whose design, “Reflecting Absence,” was selected for the September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site; Ray Huff, director of the Clemson Design Center in Charleston, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and founder of  Huff + Gooden Architects; Michael Allen, ’99, founder of MOA Architecture, Inc. and leader of the Echo Theater Project—transforming a building that sold white supremacist merchandise into a community center; and Kimberly Dowdell, former NOMA National President, marketing principal at HOK in Chicago and co-chair of HOK’s Diversity Advisory Council.

Information on how to register for the conference, including lodging and dining options can be found on the cNOMAS website. The registration deadline is March 3rd.

About the conference

“Addressing Erasure: Designing our Future” is organized by Clemson University School of Architecture students Diego Bazzani, Seth Moore, Adrianna Spence and Michael Urueta with assistance from faculty members David Allison, Ray Huff and Clarissa Mendez. The conference is sponsored by Clemson University’s College of Architecture Arts and Humanities, the Clemson Architectural Foundation, the Clemson University School of Architecture and Clemson Architecture + Health, LS3P Associates Ltd., McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture and CDC.C Director Ray Huff.

About the Speakers

Michael Murphy, Int FRIBA, is a founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group, a collective of architecture and design advocates dedicated to the construction of dignity. His 2016 TED talk has reached over 1.7 million views, and he was awarded the Al Filipov Medal for Peace and Justice in 2017. Murphy is the Thomas W. Ventulett III Distinguished Chair in architectural design at Georgia Institute of Technology and Baumer Visiting Professor at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School. Most recently, MASS was featured on CBS’ 60 minutes and recognized as the winner of the AIA 2022 Architecture Firm of the Year, AIA 2021 Collaborative Achievement Award, Wall Street Journal’s 2020 Architecture Innovator, the National Arts and Letters Award for 2017 and the 2017 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award. Michael co-authored with Jeffrey Mansfield the newly released The Architecture of Health: Hospital Design and the Construction of Dignity, published by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The book complements an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, “Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics,” open Dec. 10, 2021, to Feb. 20, 2023.

Rhondda Robinson Thomas is the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University where she teaches early African American literature. She is also faculty director of the “Call My Name Project” and author of the book titled “Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community at an American University,” both award-winning projectsthat have been supported with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, SC Humanities and the Whiting Foundation. She has published other scholarly books and articles for Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, American Literary History, and African American Review.

In Spring 2021, she was named Clemson University’s Researcher of the Year. Currently she is serving as coordinator of research and community engagement for Clemson’s Woodland Cemetery Historic Preservation Project.

Michael Allen is CEO and architect at MOA Architecture, Inc in Greenville and is a Clemson University School of Architecture alumnus. Allen was born and raised in Conway, South Carolina. He excelled as a student-athlete in football. Allen accepted a full scholarship to Clemson University in 1995 as a part of the Clemson Tigers Football team while pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Architecture. Allen also played semiprofessional football in NAFL and Arena Football following college. However, his athletic career was ultimately eclipsed by his natural talents as an architectural project designer in building management and planning work in architecture. With nearly 22 years of architectural experience, Allen started MOA Architecture, Inc., where the firm successfully manages multi-million-dollar design projects in K-12, higher education and private development projects. Allen lives a life of strong Christian beliefs and currently lives in Greenville, where he serves his community and runs his headquarter office.

Ray Huff has served as the director of the Clemson Design Center in Charleston since 2017. He is the founder of the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston and of Huff+Gooden Architects with partner Mario Gooden. His professional experience includes a mentorship with noted Florida architect Donald Singer. In 1974 he established the design practice Synergy Architects in Clemson, South Carolina where he won numerous design awards and taught design studio at Clemson University before relocating to Charleston. He received the Clemson Architecture Alumni Achievement Award, elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, and most recently, received the Medal of Distinction from the American Institute of Architects South Carolina. For his teaching, he was awarded several national awards from the National Council of Architecture Accrediting Boards for his academic work. In addition to teaching at the CDC.C, Huff held the distinguished Bishop Chair at Yale University’s Graduate School of Architecture and has lectured at numerous educational institutions, professional societies and elsewhere. He has also been a keynote speaker at AIA conventions in Minneapolis, San Juan, Nashville and elsewhere.

Kimberly Dowdell is a licensed architect and frequent speaker on architecture, diversity, sustainability and the future of cities. In her role as 2019-2020 national president of NOMA, she worked to increase opportunities for women and people of color in the building professions. She also more than doubled the organization’s membership and significantly raised NOMA’s profile during her two-year presidency. Dowdell’s career aspirations are rooted in her Detroit upbringing, where she was initially driven to utilize architecture as a tool to revitalize cities. She earned her Bachelor of Architecture at Cornell University and her Master of Public Administration at Harvard University. Her professional experience spans from architecture to government and teaching to real estate development. Dowdell is a Principal in the Chicago studio of HOK, a leading global design firm. She co-founded the SEED Network in 2005 and has been a LEED accredited professional since 2007. Her overarching mission is to improve people’s lives, by design.

Michael Arad is a partner at Handel Architects LLP. His design for the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site, titled “Reflecting Absence,” was selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation from among more than 5,000 entries submitted in an international competition held in 2003. Arad joined Handel Architects as a Partner in April 2004 where he worked on realizing the Memorial design as a member of the firm. A native of Israel, Arad was raised there, the U.K., the United States and Mexico. In 2006 he was one of six recipients of the Young Architects Award of the American Institute of Architects. In 2012, he was awarded the AIA Presidential Citation for his work on the National September 11 Memorial. In 2017 Arad was selected to design a memorial to the victims of the 2015 Charleston church massacre at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

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