In order to support students who otherwise would not find entry into architecture an obvious or easy path, the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) founded Project Pipeline in 2005. NOMA designed Project Pipeline to encourage students’ pursuit of architecture through hands-on experience and exposure to the field. Initially, this was accomplished with summer camps hosted by local NOMA chapters and small workshops at schools. This model enabled participants to have direct mentorship from those who had recently passed through the same stage of development. The first ten years of Project Pipeline brought hundreds of participants annually across various cities including New Orleans, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.
In 2017, the Illinois chapter alone hosted 150 participants at its Project Pipeline Summer Camp. Additionally, it organized a dozen workshops at schools in the North, West, and South sides of Chicago. This chapter has expanded “the Pipeline” to encompass all stages of development, from the earliest age a person can decide to pursue architecture through becoming a licensed architect. I-NOMA piloted a sixteen-week design-build program last year for early high school students. These students then matriculate into a local partner organizations. After high school, student chapters at Illinois universities support students throughout their college years. Finally, those preparing for licensing are supported with resources through an initiative launched in 2017.
It is important to note that working professionals accomplished all of this. Seeing themselves in the younger generation or a peer compels them to help others realize their goals. One member, Christian Pereda, said in an interview, “Born to undocumented parents from Mexico, I saw myself as an inspiration to young students that are living with the same challenges but want to succeed. I was able to step into leadership roles and make a commitment to help my community.”
Lorin Jackson (BFA Interior Architecture, NCIDQ Candidate) is a designer providing interior architecture and design services primarily in Chicago with Inhabit Interiors. She has been a member of I-NOMA since 2016 and serves as comarketing coordinator. She looks for ways to leverage her roles to create community benefit and develop solutions for urban living in underserved communities.