As we rebalance and meditate on the events we’ve endured over the past year, community vibrancy continues to be my core thought. We have experienced a societal awakening within our industry, and the call to action that followed has helped us to pave the way forward, elevating the communities we serve through design education and empowering the growth of our profession. As creatives, we are naturally drawn to innovate in the ways in which we collaborate with others; working together, we can indeed create strategies and solutions to build more vibrant communities.

Building the Talent Pipeline

Creating a more diverse and inclusive industry is a critical part of that work. LS3P was privileged this summer to be a part of Project Pipeline, a design camp led by the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) to immerse students in the field of architecture. Design is an inherently inclusive process, and giving students a glimpse into the profession can inspire a curious mind to pursue a great future career path. Jason Pugh, the current NOMA President, is leading with a platform to “Educate, Elevate, and Empower” to diversify the profession. Given the staggering gap of minority talent in the architecture industry, we need to champion a collective effort to create opportunities for underrepresented populations to grow and develop. To have a real impact, we must start with our students; strengthening partnerships with architectural programs, student groups, and nonprofit organizations is a great first step.


Project Pipeline, now in its 15th year, has a mission “to empower young people to affect change in their community through design.” The camps are held regionally, and were held virtually this year to keep leaders and campers safe. The Southeast Region camp was held July 19-23 in a collaboration with five NOMA chapters, with 100 students and 10 participants from LS3P acting as coaches and guest speakers along with representatives from other firms across the region.

The challenge was teaching the fundamentals to a collective group of students in grades 9-12 – in five days. We also had to think outside the box to maintain engagement with a virtual delivery method. In the weeks leading up to the camp, we had to detail carefully how each sequence would flow to present a cohesive presentation that allowed students to build skills over the course of the week. Just like how we approach design, the process for campers is iterative and involves constantly evolving and improving each prototype until the solution is met, reminiscent of the 200 or so 30-second napkin sketches all designers are accustomed to cranking out. Speed encourages innovation.


Theoretically, the process is intended to elevate the audience by sharing our different career perspectives. However, the true result was that the perspectives of our students elevated the way we approach design. The innovation and enthusiasm of our next generation of practitioners is always inspiring, and they bring fresh ideas to the table unfettered by constraints and assumptions.  The inclusive nature of design harnesses the power of multiple viewpoints, making diversity a powerful tool to inform thoughtful and intentional design.


The process of design is empowering in and of itself, as students begin to learn how to translate an idea into a reality. When we build that design confidence in our future designers, we can empower change for individuals, our communities, and the industry. We can teach students to use their technology skills through design tools which help to overcome barriers and solve problems. We can help our younger generations to be their best selves, with potentially life-changing impacts.

What’s Next?

Architects have the responsibility to build a space that benefits the entire community, and this applies to our workplaces as well as the buildings we create. We need to build upon successful initiatives that are already in place, and further define how we as professionals can enhance and elevate the good work in progress. We need to continue to look within our teams, our firms, and our communities to ensure we are creating environments that are inclusive and open to change. If we do, we are paving the way for the future of design, and we are creating vibrant communities that encourage everyone to thrive.

About Dan

Dan Mai, NOMA, serves as the firmwide Recruiter on LS3P’s human resources team. He has previously practiced architecture in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Washington DC metro area, and earned his Master of Architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design. As his career has evolved, he offers expertise in both technical and university recruiting, corporate partnerships, and program development, and his deep understanding of architectural practice continues to inform his work. 

Dan is an active advocate for diversity and inclusion efforts in the field of architecture, and has been instrumental in helping to develop LS3P’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Atlanta Chapter of NOMA as the Academic Affairs Director to support architectural programs within the Southeast region. He is passionate about fostering an inclusive workplace culture, and champions opportunities for career development for people at all levels of the profession.