Young Designers Become JEDI at SoCal NOMA Summer Camp 2021

By Zachary Sherrod

The future of the architecture profession is in good hands.

For the 2021 SoCal NOMA Summer Camp, aspiring young designers across the US reimagined Exposition Park, an urban park in Los Angeles with a collection of renowned museums, including the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center and the California African American Museum. Over just three Saturdays in July, teams of middle- and high-school campers worked together virtually in “zones” to design seven new museums imbued with the ideals of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI). On the fourth and final day, their work was revealed in an immersive “Digital XXPO” where viewers can experience the projects in 3D.

Digital XXPO created by IBI Group to showcase the campers’ work.

Hosted virtually for the second-straight year, the incredible planning efforts of the SoCal NOMA team resulted a camp packed with valuable learning activities. The planning team wove together a Star Wars-themed architectural experience using everything from TikTok and Minecraft to virtual whiteboards and 3D design software, illustrating the purpose and process of architecture. Most importantly, the camp carried a compelling message of empowerment. Each day, campers were presented with extraordinary examples of architecture designed by minority architects. Following the presentations, the campers were asked to envision how they could contribute their unique and important perspectives to the collective cultural identity brought to life by architects. This program was dubbed the “Designer’s Journey”.

The Designer’s Journey

Day 1, the campers began their journey by creating a diverse cast of Star Wars avatars that embodied their JEDI values.

Zoom session with all of the avatars!

Each camper developed a precedent study for a museum, including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County by CO. In teams, they discussed how to improve the built environment to better uphold JEDI values. They then took inspiration from the unusual shapes found in Star Wars spaceships to generate ideas for the design of their exhibitions and museums. With the guidance of a studio mentor, campers collaboratively determined the layout and shape of their museum designs, which they built in Minecraft on the third day of camp.

Zone 3 Minecraft group photo.

Presentations by design teams and curators of some very well-known museums were interspersed with the design activities, including presenters from LACMA, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland.

After completing the Designer’s Journey, campers turned in their projects, documented their achievements in presentation boards, recorded TikTok summary videos, and came together in groups to create banners for their JEDI values — all of which are currently on display at the Digital XXPO.

Zone 5 diversity banner.

Even the most well-intentioned Zoom meeting can fall flat, but this was not the case at the 2021 SoCal NOMA Summer Camp. The experience was interactive and engaging, with campers and studio mentors bringing energy and passion for design to every Zoom meeting. Throughout presentations, technical delays and even lunch, the chat was alive with commentary, messages of encouragement and bursts of excitement about the potential of architecture. The 2021 campers have something truly valuable to teach our profession about fearless design thinking that can bring about a more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive world.

CO Architects is a proud Silver Sponsor for this year’s SoCal NOMA Summer Camp, and we look forward to next year!

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