Cornell student chapter wins first prize at NOMAS conference

News
December 24, 2008

The Cornell University student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architect Students (NOMAS) took first prize during the association’s thirty-sixth international conference and exposition, “Evolving Design Excellence Through Cultural Identity,” in Washington, DC in October. This is the third consecutive year the Cornell chapter has won the competition. 

“We applaud the commitment and resolve of the students to consistently perform at such a high level,” said Carlton T. Smith, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects, NOMAS’s parent association. “We know that each and every one of them will make their mark on society and the profession.”  

For the competition, student chapters were asked to design a national memorial and interpretive center commemorating the Black civil rights movement on the National Mall at the foot of the U.S. Capitol building. The project also challenged the students to understand how the civil rights movement affected them, their families, and their communities. The competition required that the design included: a place of memory, contemplation, and reflection; a place for interpreting history and educating the community of visitors; an outdoor landscape for meditation or celebration; a place or marker of remembrance, depicting an important moment in the movement; an auditorium; a multi-purpose demonstration space; café; bookstore/gift shop; and idea center. 

“We wanted to create a place in a world displaced by injustice — an architecture which would resonate under the lens of those who underwent the trials and tribulations of the movement as part of the visitor experience,” says Clayton Henry (B.Arch. ‘12). “We designed a long rectangular walkway which gently penetrates the ground on one end and ascends into the sky on the other end — expressing itself as a dislodgement from the ground. The connection of the two domains, earth and sky, and the walkway as an interface between the two, becomes the medium in which the memorial manifests itself between the present and past and tying to the narrative of the civil rights movement.” 

The project is designed to be located at what is referred to as the “Capitol Site,” a 229,000 square foot parcel set between Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, and 1st and 3rd Streets NW, just north of the reflecting pool. The site directly mirrors the U.S. Botanical Garden site on the opposite (south) side. It sits diagonally across from the Museum of the American Indian and next to the east wing of the National Gallery of Art. 

A number of Cornell students worked on the competition including a major contribution by Andrew Nahmias (B.Arch. ’09). The 13 students attending the conference were: Kristina Alford (B.Arch. ’13), Marco Andrade (B.Arch. ’10), Elita Cochrane (U.R.S. ’09), Clayton Henry (B.Arch. ’12), Justin Hui (B.Arch. ’11), Hoang Viet Nguyen (B.Arch. ’12), Marvine Pierre (B.Arch. ’11), Wajeha Qureshi (B.Arch. ’13), Julio Torres Santana (B.Arch. ’11), Mauricio Vieto (B.Arch. ’13), Stephen Whitaker (B.Arch. ’11), Charles Williams (B.Arch. ’13), and Lester Yu (B.Arch. ’09). The five student presenters were: Andrade, Henry, Hui, Torres Santana, and Yu. The group's faculty advisor was Vince Mulcahy. Visiting Critic Alex Mergold was instrumental in guidance in the design concept. Additionally, Leon Lawrence, the staff advisor, accompanied the students to the conference.