NOMAD is a design challenge, hosted by AIA Arkansas Central Section and StudioMAIN, aimed at addressing the social challenges of homelessness and displacement in Central Arkansas. NO, this is not another homeless housing competition and our goals are simple: 

  1. Challenge the roles of the built environment in aiding the social and mental health, recovery, and placement of homeless residents. 
  2. Encourage dialogues between designers, planners, politicians, artist, residents and institutions about innovative solutions to social issues in our communities.

When we say “Nomad” many images come to mind. There is the image of a big burly caveman foraging his way through the forest. There is also the image of a free spirited twenty something figuring out life and living in multiple places. So what does a challenge about homelessness have to do with nomads? Nomads are people who live without a fixed sense of place, whether by choice or by circumstance. We associate the word with a person first. We associate homeless with shelter or a lack of a home first. In theory, the definitions are relatively the same, but in order to focus on the other issues and interactions that happen in public spaces we are taking “home” out of the equation.  

Our challenge to you: 

  • Step One - Meet a Nomad. Go out on your own or with you team to a local shelter and meet someone facing the issue. Learn about their story, their hobbies, their passions, and their goals towards recovery. Ask them to be your design liaison as you dream up a design for and inspired by their story. 
  • Step Two - Accept the challenge. Go to our webpage and click “Accept Challenge”  Fill out the form with the required information including your name, or all the names of your team members. Once you have accepted, you will receive a follow up email from us with a project number specific to your project entry to be associated with all submitted information. 
  • Step Three - Enter your Design. We are asking you to envision the design and program of a public space that intentionally dual functions as a civic hub for community activity and a safe haven for homeless .

There are no material restrictions to your design. It is up to you and your team to decide both the function and aesthetic of your proposal, however, there are a few guidelines to steer your design.  

Your design should be placeless, adaptive, and inclusive. 

  • Placeless_ Having no predetermined site or immediate context. 
  • Adaptive_ Having the ability to be modified to suit various conditions. 
  • Inclusive_ Having no restrictions on access and availability.   

Your design should respond to issues of vagrancy, security, and nimbyism.  

  • Vagrancy_ Include a “safe haven” accessible to chronically homeless using standards set by HUD Exchange (See Resource Section). 
  • Security_ Consider placement of security personnel and the overall sense of security in your design.  
  • Nimbyism_ Consider opposition to your project’s program and aesthetic.

Eligibility: Open to design professionals and students affiliated with the state of Arkansas, having lived, worked, or attended school in the state. Collaborative projects are encouraged, however, there is a 3 person team limit per entry. A maximum of 2 entries will be allowed per person whether submitted as an individual or as a team. Professionals and Students are also encouraged collaborate with artist and non professional community members as long as 1 member of the team is an active member of the American Institute of Architects, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Society of Interior Designers, or an equivalent organization.