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The Architect Behind Jamaica's New Houses Of Parliament Tackles The Industry's Diversity Issues In The U.S.

Daimian Hines has been in high demand lately.

His firm, Hines Architecture + Design, recently won an international design competition for a major construction project in Kingston, Jamaica. Hines also serves as president of the Houston chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects during a pivotal time for conversations about diversity in the industry.

He runs his own firm, sits on five boards, advocates for architects of color to remain in the industry, takes calls from businesses and organizations seeking to improve their own diversity and works to amplify the voices of minority professionals in Houston. 

The trajectory of his career has shifted a great deal since his start at a small Chicago-area firm in the wake of 9/11, but his passion for communities and love of architecture hasn’t altered one bit.

Daimian Hines' mentor, Design Collaborative founder Evan Williams, and Hines.

Hines was born in St. Mary Parish, Jamaica, and moved to Detroit in 1985. He became interested in architecture during his school years, growing up alongside neighbors who worked in the profession. 

Hines graduated in 2001 from the University of Michigan with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in architecture. Fresh out of school and optimistic, Hines began to interview with various major architecture firms around Chicago.

Then, 9/11 happened. In light of the ensuing global uncertainty and economic pain, Hines accepted a role at MyefskiCook Architects, a small architecture firm in Glencoe, Illinois, that specialized in high-end residential.

“The plan was to be there for six months, until things settled down. But I'm a pretty loyal guy, I stayed there almost exactly three years,” Hines said.

In October 2004, Hines moved over to HOK’s Chicago office. All kinds of projects landed on his desk, from tertiary education buildings to hotels to corporate headquarters. When the Great Recession hit, Hines relocated to HOK’s Houston office in March 2010, taking on the role of senior designer.

After three years in Houston, Hines decided to broaden his horizons. He headed to Yangon, Myanmar, to work for SPA Design & Project Services, an affiliate of the Singapore-based conglomerate Yoma Strategic Holdings.

“In short, I saw an opportunity, and spent 2.5 years, taking eight people to 65, focusing on nation-building projects, housing for communities of 65,000, hospitals, schools, luxury estates, corporate office complexes and housing for no-income, no-housing communities,” Hines said.

A little over two years later, Hines returned to Houston and established his own firm, Hines Architecture + Design, in December 2015.

Daimian Hines with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Hines was involved with NOMA during college and while working at HOK in Chicago and was loosely involved with the Houston chapter prior to moving to Southeast Asia. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that he became more heavily involved, when Houston hosted the NOMA 45th Annual International Conference & Exposition.

Following the national conference, Hines was asked to take on the role of president of the Houston chapter, and he has been working since to transition the organization into a progressive, established and visible group that can support and mentor the next generation of minority architects.

This has proved to be a challenging year, amid a global pandemic and economic downturn that is hurting many communities, and disproportionately, people of color.

As president, one of Hines’ biggest challenges is ensuring that both young people of color and seasoned architects in Houston remain in the profession.

“Just like 2010, just like 2001, crises like this COVID-19 crisis — what tends to happen is, students of color and professionals of color end up leaving the profession permanently, because opportunities dissipate,” Hines said.

“A big part of our platform now is preservation of jobs, preservation of opportunities, really focusing on our networking, really focusing on what's going on.”

In the wake of native Houstonian George Floyd’s death and nationwide protests, Hines has been receiving calls from other architecture industry organizations.

“We've been fielding calls, me and my board, and we discuss ways to collaborate, establish actual [key performance indicators] that are measurable to create a stronger working relationship and actually create an environment where we can discuss openly biases that exist within the industry,” Hines said.

In lieu of creating new task forces to study diversity, Hines said NOMA has the information and expertise to help industry bodies navigate new conversations about race and equity.

“Perhaps you don't need to create all these task forces to figure out what to do — NOMA is that task force, we're here and we exist, and I think we've done a great job at letting people know that we do exist over the past few years, at least at the local level,” he said.

Hines strongly encourages the Houston members of NOMA to join a committee or a board if they have the opportunity, as a way to both showcase talent and lend a voice to the national conversation around race and opportunity.

“I personally think that's critical on the community involvement, the networking, and then letting people know that there are other types of architects,” Hines said.

An aerial rendering of the Jamaica Houses of Parliament project in Kingston, Jamaica.

When it comes to his own firm, Hines doesn’t like to compete with other minority businesses in Houston for the same piece of the pie. Instead, with his international experience, Hines often looks overseas for design opportunities.

Upon his return to Houston, Hines continued to do some work for SPA Design & Project Services in Myanmar, and since then has worked on numerous proposals for projects in the U.S. and overseas. That has ranged from a hotel in Cape Verde to a community development in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

His strategy has paid off. Last year, Hines Architecture + Design entered a competition to design the Jamaica Houses of Parliament in Kingston — and won. The project encompasses 52 acres, including the main parliament building, and will command the majority of the firm’s attention for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

“They are our main contract that we have, and that's scheduled to run through 2021, but I guess we've done a really good job, and there's some more work coming out of that,” Hines said.

Some of the additional work that may come out of the win includes projects like museums and parks in Jamaica. In addition to the Jamaica Houses of Parliament project, Hines has been collaborating with lauded architect Gordon Gill, founding partner of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, to re-envision the layout of downtown Kingston.

Daimian Hines presenting in Kingston, Jamaica.

Though he has worked on projects as large as the Chevron campus in Midland, Texas, or as small as reimagining a row of shotgun houses in Houston’s Fourth Ward, the most important factor for Hines is whether the project fosters a sense of community.

“I'm not wealthy, but having the ability to pick and choose right now, I focused on projects that I considered mattered, and those are projects that build communities,” Hines said.

Hines sits on five boards in Houston, providing his broad expertise in U.S. and foreign business and in diversity. However, he describes himself as essentially “boarded-out.”

“I want people who reach out to me for boards, I want them to understand, there are other folks that could sit at the table, not just the same two or three folks you call every time, that there's a network of qualified folks,” Hines said.

“I'm advocating to give them a shot.”