Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, a principal in HOK’s Chicago studio and president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), has dedicated her career to championing diversity and triple-bottom-line sustainability.
The AIA Young Architects Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers. Dowdell and the other honorees will be recognized at the 2020 AIA Conference on Architecture in Los Angeles in May.
Excerpted from Architect Magazine:
Her contributions to the profession began during her undergraduate years at Cornell University, when she co-founded the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network in 2005 during an internship with the chief architect of the General Services Administration. A global movement that set standards for economic, social, and environmental justice for design projects, it boasts more than 2,000 pledged members and is featured in The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice.
She co-founded HOK IMPACT, one of the profession’s first corporate social responsibility programs. Since 2010, the program has given employees a greater sense of connectivity and provided venues in which to engage the community in a meaningful way.
Dowdell left HOK in 2011 to pursue her master’s degree in public administration at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She later worked for Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department, where she helped developers navigate the city’s departments to build high-priority projects. After this, Dowdell assumed a leadership role with the start-up residential development company Century Partners and was an adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Last year, she returned to HOK. She is the co-chair of the firm’s diversity advisory council, which aims to create a more diverse and inclusive firm culture.
Currently, she is NOMA’s 2019–2020 president, and her “ALL in for NOMA” platform has already produced significant results, including a 47 percent jump in membership since her election. Dowdell’s future goals include boosting NOMA’s funds by $1 million by December 2020 and growing the number of licensed African-American architects in collaboration with the AIA Large Firm Roundtable.
As our cities continue to become more diverse, Dowdell believes architects can play a central role in gathering all people through spaces that promote peace and harmony. Her eagerness to explore real problems and provide creative, thoughtful solutions is helping her deliver the change she wants to see in the world.