BAC NOMAS Goes to Atlanta :: Day 2

Chris McIntosh, David Hansen, Delia Gott, Jahim Baskerville
(Photo Courtesy of Chris McIntosh)

BAC NOMAS Goes to Atlanta :: Day 2
by Christopher McIntosh, Vice President, BAC NOMAS

Day 2 of our trip to Atlanta began with the official opening of the NOMA Conference. Opening remarks made by NOMA President Sanford E. Garner, and NOMA Atlanta President Jerome Martin inspired the attendees to uphold the meaning of NOMA and to embrace the meaning of this year’s conference: “Architects as Visionaries.” We were also delighted to learn that our hotel has some relevant history of its own. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. referred to the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta as the “Hotel of Hope,” because it was the first hotel in Atlanta to host the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), an African-American civil rights organization formed in 1957, of which Dr. King was the first president. Now that same hotel is hosting one of the largest and most diverse gatherings of architects and designers in the world.

Opening Remarks (Photo Courtesy of Chris McIntosh)
Following the opening breakfast, we attended several of the day’s seminars to participate in discussions on topics relevant to design history, collaboration and future leadership. One of the interesting seminars dealt with how Disney Imagineering uses architecture to design and create many of the various worldwide attractions found in Disney parks and resorts. Architects and engineers work together with animators and artists to meticulously design attractions from the conceptual “blue sky” phase through design development, construction, and creation.

Rural Studio (Photo Courtesy of Auburn University)
Another highlighted seminar was a presentation on the University of Auburn’s Rural Studio program, the school’s live-work design-build program based in Newburn, Alabama, a very rural poor area in western Alabama where 85% of the population lives below the poverty line. One of their initiatives is developing models for the 20K House, a project building homes on an extremely low budget that are built to outlast and outperform the poor standards of rural living conditions in western Alabama.

The number $20K refers to total cost of construction of the house, from gathering materials to site placement, to user ownership. The project is driven by economics, environmental responsibility, and the idea that people should “have pride in where they live.” Their goal continues to be to “become a neighbor and facilitator” and be a model for social change through design. Rural Studio has also done several public projects including renovations to the Safe House Black History Museum and Lions Park, both in Greensboro, Alabama. Check out more of their work here.

David Hansen & Delia Gott (Photo Courtesy of Chris McIntosh)
The evening’s event took us to the Martin Luther King Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change, east of downtown Atlanta.  The awe-inspiring site includes the tombs of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, as well as galleries with memorabilia of the King family, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rosa Parks.

MLK Center (Photo Courtesy of Chris McIntosh)
The event was titled “Re-Visioning Atlanta,” a panel discussion focused on the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile mixed-transit system of light rail, parks and trails that forms a loop around downtown Atlanta. It is one of the most “wide-ranging urban redevelopment projects currently underway in the U.S.” The route of the Beltline consists of old railway lines with mostly empty industrial land that surrounds them.

Panel members included Ryan Gravel, Design Manager for the Beltline at Perkins+Will, whose 1999 Master’s thesis at Georgia Tech was the seed that ultimately became what the Beltline is today. Other panel members included Anthony Pickett, Executive Director of the Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative, and Tyrone Williams, Senior Development Director for Sustainable Neighborhood Development Strategies, Inc.

Discussion included ways to combat gentrification in redeveloped neighborhoods around the Beltline through community land trusts, a sustainable model for home ownership in lower-income areas.  We came away learning that repurposing existing infrastructure is a very sustainable model for helping to develop a new typology of an urban neighborhood.  It was also inspiring to see a diverse range of panelists, all with an architectural design education, taking very different career paths within the industry.