• on April 6, 2019

2019 NOMAtlanta NSPIRE Award Winners

The Atlanta Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects – NOMAtlanta – held their annual NOMAtlanta NSPIRE Awards on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 6-9pm at the Monday Night Garage (933 Lee St. SW, ATL, 30310). The event was held to celebrate excellence and diversity in design – specifically in the field of architecture. Please note our award winners below, whom we are all so proud of! Additionally, a big thank you to Curbed Atlanta for also highlighting our winners! Scroll down for further details about each one.

2019 NOMAtlanta NSPIRE Awards

Built Category

1st Place: Center for Civil and Human Rights by Marc Johnson
2nd Place: Atlanta Gas Light Resource Center by Goode Van Slyke Architecture

Historic Dedication Category

1st Place: Herndon Plaza Hotel Development by Syntony Design Collaborative
2nd Place: New Addition to Duke’s Historic Cameron Indoor Stadium by The Beck Group
3rd Place: Bankhead Bridge Regeneration by Studio SHAPE

Unbuilt Category

1st Place: Quest Center for Change by Cooper Carry
2nd Place: Peace Preparatory Academy by Studio SHAPE
3rd Place: Atlanta West Deck by Fitzgerald Collaborative Group

Unbuilt Category Honorable Mentions:
Xpression Exploratory of South Memphis by Jay Davis
Herndon Plaza Hotel Development by Syntony Design Collaborative
126 Renaissance Condominiums by Goode Van Slyke Architecture

Student Category

1st Place: Amalgam by Kennesaw State University NOMAS

Village Voice Award

Quest Center for Change by Cooper Carry

2019 NOMAtlanta NSPIRE Awards of Distinction

Ivory Lee Young, Jr. Community Pioneer: Quest Community Development Organization

Service to the Profession: Cheryl McAfee

Diversity Pioneer: Bryan G. Houser

Woman of the Year: Nicole Hilton

Lifetime Achievement: Oscar Harris

PLATINUM: Eco-Spec | Construct Connect
GOLD: Goode Van Slyke Architecture
BRONZE SPONSORS: Hammond Engineering | Stanley, Love-Stanley, P.C. | D/G Properties

Details about our Category Award Winners


Built Category: 1st Place
Center for Civil and Human Rights
Marc Johnson

Project Name: Center for Civil and Human Rights
Project Location: 100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
Date of Completion: June 23, 2014 Project
Total Square Footage: 43,000 SF
Firm Role: HOK in partnership with The Freelon Group
Owner’s name: Center for Civil and Human Rights
Project Architect: Marc Johnson, AIA, NOMA – HOK (Now with Fitzgerald Collaborative)
Project Brief: The Center’s mission is to educate visitors about the rich history of the civil rights movement across the US while helping them connect lessons of the past to present-day issues. The $75 million, 43,000 SF museum is dedicated to the achievements of both the civil rights movement and the broader worldwide human rights movement.
Program Description: There is to be no single threshold where the story begins. This serves two purposes: to make use of all the space available because gallery areas are limited and because the exhibit and storytelling techniques will encourage an immersive interactive experience for the visitor. Each gallery sequence begins from the lobby. A visitor can make a choice to start with either the more historical Civil Rights galleries or the more contemporary Human Rights galleries. The civil rights gallery is embedded in the heart of the Center. The galleries are a series of gallery spaces that tell the Civil Rights story in a chronological manner. The spaces make use of multi-media and are light and sound controlled theatrical immersive experiences. The media delivers a great deal of the content in order to tell the whole story in a compressed spatial footprint.

The Human Rights gallery is more thematically organized and not chronological and sequential. Visitors can wander among the exhibits and gallery in an open-ended manner. Interactives and narrative encourage personal connections to the story of Human Rights from a variety of viewpoints. Both stories end in the same shared gallery where the story of the positive outcome of the Civil Rights story is told and how to get involved with Human Rights is celebrated. The Civil Rights gallery entry and the Human Rights exit share the double-high lobby space that bathed in natural southern light.

The major design feature, the curved walls with multi-faceted façade, represents interlocking arms providing a visual clue to its purpose protecting three levels of unique content spread among the exhibits and galleries that cradle the central space symbolizing unity and harmony. The facades not only provide a visual clue to its purpose inside but are also protecting three levels of unique content spread among the exhibits and galleries as well as event spaces, a broadcast studio and a retail store. The central open space was inspired by public areas in cities around the world in which protests for civil and human rights have taken place.


Historic Dedication Category: 1st Place
Herndon Plaza Hotel Development
Syntony Design Collaborative

Project Title & Location: Herndon Plaza Hotel Development, 142-148 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30303. Site of historic Atlanta Life building.
Total Size: 71,163 GSF
Project Date: November 2015
Owner: HDDC | Historic District Development Corporation; Development Review Committee www.hddc.net
Client: Confidential
Principal Architect / Designer: Syntony Design Collaborative, LLC. Garfield Peart | MBA, AIA, NOMA, LEED GA President
Design Team Members: Bryan Houser | AIA, NOMA; Jereme Smith | AIA, NOMA, ED
Project Description & Problem Statement: The Atlanta Life Insurance Company complex – also known as Herndon Plaza founded by Alonzo F. Herndon – is one of the most important symbols of African American success in the City of Atlanta and the country. The Atlanta Life Company was one of the greatest financial institutions to come out of the twentieth century. The strength and economic power of the African-American spirit is also embodied in the Atlanta Life complex of buildings. However since the relocation of the Atlanta Life Company to another part of downtown Atlanta in the late 1990s, the Herndon Plaza buildings have fell into significant state of disrepair. A failing roof and exterior facade have exposed the interior of the building to significant water damage and interior structural damage. Also located on an adjacent site next to the Herndon Plaza was the Rucker Building, built in 1904 by Henry Rucker. The building had to be demolished in 2001 due to an unfortunate vehicle accident that crashed into building causing it to collapse. The project serves to honor, restore and rehabilitate these significant buildings in City of Atlanta’s African-American history while providing an needed amenity that continues the entrepreneur spirit and legacy of Alonzo Herndon.

The new Herndon Plaza Hotel Development provides a luxury boutique hotel and spa, with banquet space, and public facing amenities like the business center, music studio, and night club on a historically significant urban site, while incorporating the existing Atlanta Life Insurance Company historical landmark buildings. The architecture of new development uses a rich mix of materials that respects its historical context while introducing modern features and amenities to create a first class boutique hotel and entertainment complex. The design completely restores the Herndon Plaza buildings to their original beauty and introduces new spaces and functions that revives the buildings for a new generation of entrepreneurs to experience and enjoy. The new five story hotel tower that sits on the old Rucker Building site, draws its inspiration from the rich historical architectural features of the original Herndon and Rucker buildings while introducing a more contemporary and bold presence. The new tower in topped by “crown” of glazing with spectacular views to downtown Atlanta and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District.


Unbuilt Category: 1st Place
Quest Center for Change
Cooper Carry

Project Name: Quest – Center for Change
Project Location: Atlanta Westside
Project Address: 299 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd Atlanta, GA 30314
Square Footage: 27,312 SF
Intended Year of Completion: 2020
Role of Submitting Firm: Cooper Carry is acting as the architect, interior designer and landscape designer for Quest – Center for Change
Problem Statement: Creating a place that caters to each of the programmatic needs of Quest Community Developments as well as the other services hosted in their space and integrating the new building within local community.
Project’s Program, Solution & Concept Development Info: The good work of Quest Community Development is realized through a project that houses offices, community center, educational services and local retail that collectively provide a neighborhood center for everyone.
Owner’s Name: Quest Community Development
Architect / Designers’ Names: Torrance Wong – Staff Architect, Vivian Mogwanja – Staff Interior Designer Gwen Kovar – Project Manager, Interiors Mike Service – Project Manager, Architecture
Contractor’s Name: CD Moody
Other Names: Barnett Consulting Engineers, Johnson, Spellman & Associates, Inc. , KSi/Structural Engineers, Long Engineering
Founded in the early 2000s, Quest Community Development has established itself as a non-profit organization that builds affordable housing for the under-served homeless, recovering addicts and mentally ill members of the Atlanta community. Quest works diligently with their residents to reintegrate them back into society through educational training services, financial management services, and vocational training services. Quest’s next step is the Quest West 2020 Vision in which they envision shaping their historic community with the development of affordable housing, small businesses and local services for the Westside neighborhood.

Cooper Carry came on board to facilitate the realization of the Quest West 2020 Vision, with their central hub of this vision, the Quest Nonprofit Center for Change. With a mission to embody Quest’s ‘Live – Work – Play – Serve’ model, the Cooper Carry team and the Quest team worked together to design headquarters that are approachable, sophisticated and practical. The architectural language is rooted in Quest’s mission and values. Utilizing a brick skin that pushes and pulls along the street edge with integrated exposed structure, the facade establishes the building as a solid and stable pillar within the community and assimilates with the flash brick language of the neighborhood.

Approachability was a central design driver for the Center for Change; the Cooper Carry team wanted the space to be both visually and physically inviting to the community. This manifested in the design of open terraced seating along the front face of the street-edge facade and connects the street level to the second level. This feature provides areas for casual gatherings with wood seating and raised landscaped planters embedded into the stairs. There are landscaped areas for shade and hardscaped areas for outdoor activities incorporated into the site. Another critical idea was the aspect of transparency and security. In an area where bars on windows, security grilles on doors, and harsh lighting fixtures are prevalent, the Quest facility approached this issue differently. Full-height curtain wall allows visual connection between users within the building and the neighborhood. This allows visual security for the building occupants and mutual trust for the surrounding local community. Elevating and setting back the programmed space maintains the user’s privacy.


Student Category: 1st Place
Kennesaw State University NOMAS: Amalgam
2019 NOMAtlanta NSPIRE Awards

Project Name: The Amalgam, a mixed-use biophilic transit center
Project Description: The goal is to enrich the lives of the community, especially the youth of Woodlawn. Provide a safe space that would unite a community regardless of background. Educate the residents with helpful skills and knowledge that would enhance their daily lives. Motivate the youth to have goals and put them on the road to greatness. Infect the community with programs that would provide fellowship. Generating a biophilic environment. Create a space that would not gentrify the community, but enhance it with the skills and ideas people of the area had already embedded in themselves.
Designers: Kennesaw State University NOMAS (National Organization of Minority Architects Students)

Village Voice Award

Quest Community Development Organization

This award we’re particularly proud of this year because it’s purpose is two-fold. First, it gives the community exposure to the excellence and diversity in design that we seek to celebrate via these NSPIRE Awards. Secondly, it gives bonus inspiration to our award submitters to get their friends, family and colleagues pulling for them to win! Every Design Award submission was entered into the Village Voice competition and photos from each design were uploaded to Facebook and Instagram. The design that racked up the most likes between the two platform – WINS! Thank you to our Village Voice sponsor Cisse Contracting.

2019 NOMAtlanta NSPIRE Awards of Distinction

Service to the Profession

Cheryl McAfee

Cheryl McAfee

“I always try to figure out what can I do to make a difference…as an architect.” – Cheryl McAfee

Cheryl McAfee was born in 1956 in Lincoln, Nebraska; however, she spent much of her early years in Wichita, Kansas, during the 1960s at a time when Civil Rights law were just being enacted, white supremacist-inspired laws were being dismantled and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was a focal point for social change. This transformative period in American culture served as a major source of inspiration for her continued personal focus on addressing institutionalized social injustice in our society. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kansas State University and went on to obtain a Master of Architecture in Urban Design and Planning Policy from Harvard. She studied at Oxford Polytechnic School of Architecture in Oxford, England and is licensed in five states. She was the first female president of NOMA, the senior program manager of design and construction for all 33 sports venues of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and served as the JV and Principal Architect of the master planning and design for the $7B expansion of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (2000-2013). She is the CEO and Principal for
McAfee3 Architects, a full service architecture firm started by her father.

Lifetime Achievement: Oscar Harris

“As professionals, we have the obligation to not only design and create wonderful buildings, but to serve the community. My goal while leading Turner Associates Architects and Planners was to also serve the community” – Oscar Harris

Oscar Harris, FAIA is a notable architect, artist, author, and mentor. He is recognized as one of the most influential businessmen and prominent architects in the South with a successful career spanning over forty years. A serial entrepreneur, Harris has created hundreds of career opportunities for aspiring professionals through Turner Associates, OLH International, International Aviation Consultants, and the Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry. From his days as a young boy from a unique, supportive, community in Pittsburgh through his struggles to become one of the nation’s leading architects, Oscar Harris has seen it all and overcome seemingly impossible odds. Throughout his career, Oscar has struggled to bring diversity and equality to one of America’s most exclusive industries. Through his “give back and pay it forward” philosophy, Harris founded the Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to mentor, educate, and develop creative abilities in youth to promote greater diversity in the architecture, engineering and construction professions. He has repeatedly been recognized for his commitment to youth development. Recently, Harris has been featured on NBC as one of The Grio’s 100 Most Influential Businessman and has been awarded the 2014 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award by the Boy Scouts of America for excellence in leadership and mentorship.

Diversity Pioneer: Bryan G. Houser

Receiving this great honor further galvanizes my commitment to breaking down barriers and building bridges for others to make diversity the norm, rather than the exception.

The Diversity Pioneer Award recognizes the individual who personally and professionally supports NOMAtlanta’s mission to champion diversity within the Atlanta design professions while advocating for greater professional opportunities for its current and future members.

In the early 90s, diversity and design were not synonymous. NOMAtlanta recognizes Bryan G. Houser as an individual who has always been committed to illuminating the talents of highly capable minority candidates from diverse backgrounds. Not only does he promote the credentials of those like himself, but he also promoted the credentials of those with vastly different life experiences, revealing undeniable talents to a traditionally less-than-diverse industry.

“If you were fortunate enough to get a recommendation from Bryan, you better believe that you are a well-qualified individual with a strong work ethic and that you’re a genuinely good person.” – Garfield Peart, NOMA National Treasurer.

While at TVS Design for over 15 years, Bryan was able to help impact minority numbers within a firm of roughly 300 people to a height of 12 African-American professionals, 6 of which were Hampton graduates. This may not seem like a lot, but in the architecture/interior design world (particularly at that time), it’s unheard of for a non-minority firm. As a young professional, Bryan made numerous recruitment trips to his alma mater Hampton University to inspire students and help graduates connect with firms across the country, further displaying his commitment to helping others achieve their dreams.

His commitment to diversification has continued to the hotel franchise world at IHG where our recipient has expanded the net to include candidates within the minority community. Again, this is far from an empty desire to just fill seats with black and brown faces. There has always been a commitment to excellence, regardless of ethnicity or orientation. His drive has been to expand the search for inclusion, highlighting gems that have traditionally been beyond consideration.

Through his unrelenting efforts as the Director of PIP & Plan Review for the Holiday Inn Express Team, the Architecture + Design Team for all IHG Brands is nearly a majority minority group, but more importantly, an extremely talented group of diverse backgrounds. There is a saying back at Hampton University: “he’s not heavy, he’s my brother.” We are thrilled to honor one of our very own who lives and breathes this mantra: Bryan G. Houser.

Ivory Lee Young, Jr. Community Pioneer: Quest Community Development Organization

As it relates to NOMA, this organization plays an integral role in preserving housing affordability and submitting a helping hand to area residents by developing affordable housing units and commercial structures that focus on providing community services to the local residents. – Leonoard Adams, President & CEO

We felt it only appropriate to present the first award of the evening in Ivory Lee Young, Jr’s name. The Ivory Lee Young Jr. Community Award goes to a community organization, non-profit or individual who has worked to create responsibly designed communities – just as Ivory did. Quest Community Development Organization (i.e. Quest) has worked tirelessly to transform the many Westside communities that now are at the forefront of change and development. Similar to the ethos of NOMA, this organization believes in establishing coalitions of organizations and individuals to form joint venture relationships – like with Habitat for Humanity and Chris 180. They’re working together to establish affordable housing for youths aging out of foster care in the English Avenue neighborhood. They’ve completed three homes with Habitat and are slated to develop four more homes later this year. Their work with Habitat for Humanity, the development of their Non-Profit Center and their other developments help to promote the development of living and working environments of the highest quality, and their able to achieve these feats by working with experienced professionals such as Cooper Carry and CD Moody, all while being supported by their local and state government. We recognize this organization’s efforts to provide an equitable Atlanta for all residents as they tackle the many issues that affect the physical development of our neighborhoods and communities.

Woman of the Year: Nicole Hilton

“The key is for those in the profession to make a conscious effort to have a diverse project team. Excelling at your job will help others find it common to work with you as a counterpart. Focus on having a high-quality skillset; don’t limit yourself to only what you’re exposed to; and position yourself so that your voice is heard,” Nicole Hilton

A native of Austin, Texas, Nicole Hilton is the founding Partner and Design Architect of Cole Hil. An alumnus of Louisiana State University, she is honored to be recognized as the first African American female graduate of the LSU School of Architecture to become a licensed architect. Her decision to establish an architectural firm in 2014 with her partner, Tony Hilton, was based on the requirement to uphold 3 principles. The first principle, being a firm of excellence and follow through which leads to successful projects and long-term relationships. Second, fostering an internal environment of creativity, open exchange of ideas, integrity, and intellect, therefore breeding innovative passion which reaps a high quality service. Thirdly, creating signature, refined architecture that makes a positive impact on the community it serves. In addition to her architectural design expertise, Nicole advocates for diversity and inclusion within the design profession and design excellence. She is currently on the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Georgia 2016 Board and an active member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Atlanta Chapter. She enjoys giving back what she has learned by becoming a mentor through the AIA/ NOMA mentorship program and periodically participates in the Kennesaw State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Louisiana State University architecture school design reviews.


“Having Jay as our keynote is a fortuitous connection for us, given Atlanta’s relationship with the Russell family and our organization’s space of architecture, construction and engineering. We hope this will serve as a welcomed introduction to the Atlanta entrepreneur community,” said Ashley Hernandez, President of NOMAtlanta. Representing the minority architects of Atlanta, NOMAtlanta serves the Atlanta region in service, community and advocacy efforts with their signature, national Project Pipeline program for students and internal professional development opportunities for the minority architecture community.

“Having Jay as our keynote is a fortuitous connection for us, given Atlanta’s relationship with the Russell family and our organization’s space of architecture, construction and engineering. We hope this will serve as a welcomed introduction to the Atlanta entrepreneur community,” said Ashley Hernandez, President of NOMAtlanta. Representing the minority architects of Atlanta, NOMAtlanta serves the Atlanta region in service, community and advocacy efforts with their signature, national Project Pipeline program for students and internal professional development opportunities for the minority architecture community.

About NOMAtlanta

NOMAtlanta seeks to better partner with the community in service, community and advocacy efforts beyond what we already do with our signature, national Project Pipeline program for students and internal professional development opportunities we offer the minority architecture family of the Greater Atlanta Area. Having the event open to the public this year was an exciting time for the Chapter and one that they hope the community takes advantage of as well.

Our current president, Ashley Hernandez of IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group), along with our immediate past presidents – Sophia Tarkhan of Cooper Carry and Marc Johnson of Fitzgerald Collaborative – are all outstanding architects in leadership roles within their own right at their own companies. NOMAtlanta members have had influential roles in some of Atlanta’s greatest and most iconic architectural structures to date – like the Center for Civil & Human Rights, the Mercedes Benz Stadium and more.

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