LTU student team wins NOMA student design competition

Release Date: November 2, 2015

Accepting the top prize in the university student competition in New Orleans are (L-R) Breanna Hielkema, Sara Alsawafy, adviser Tiffany Brown, Andreea Vasile, Yacob Nigatu, Randy Butler, and Mateo Diaz. Not pictured: team member Rawan Ita.

The LTU student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS-LTU) won the Barbara G. Laurie NOMA Student Design Competition during the national conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) held in New Orleans in October. The first-place prize was $1,500.

NOMAS-LTU was established in January 2014 and now has 15 dues-paying members. It has been closely collaborating with the professional chapter of NOMA Detroit, which is moving its offices to the Woodward Willis Building in Midtown Detroit where LTU’s Detroit Center for Design and Technology is located.

NOMAS-LTU promotes excellence, community engagement, and professional development of its members, and is open not only to ethnic and racial minorities, but to anyone who champions diversity within the design profession. The founding president, Andreea Vasile, is from Romania, and she was recently appointed to a two-year term as one of two student members of NOMA’s national board.

Planning for the university design competition began almost a year ago when the brief was first released. The LTU team tackled the task of redesigning part of the urban neighborhood Tremé in New Orleans by eliminating an elevated highway that disconnected an entire community.

Vasile said the team’s primary focus was considering the needs of the community and implementing the solutions in the overall design of the site. “We also learned a lot about directing and working in a large team consisting of people with different approaches,” she said.

In the past the competition has usually been won by teams from much larger universities.
The LTU team benefited from the support of NOMA Detroit members who provided valuable feedback at design charrettes and review sessions.

The chapter’s main advisor who also worked with the competition team is Tiffany Brown, an LTU alumna who is vice president of NOMA Detroit and also serves as the Midwest University Liaison to the NOMA National Board.

The faculty advisor is Interim Dean Amy Deines of LTU’s College of Architecture and Design who has supported the group from the beginning and obtained partial funding for nine members to attend the conference in New Orleans.

Students interested in joining NOMAS-LTU can contact Andreea Vasile at

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