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Students Participate in Design Village Competition


Each year, the Design Village architectural competition is held by Cal Poly in the experimental structures lab, better known as the Architectural Graveyard, on the weekend of Open House. 

This year’s theme “make, move, play” allows student teams to explore the building process, creating innovative life-size structures that serve as beds and shelters to camp in. Groups of four to eight students from  Cal Poly and colleges throughout California and beyond were challenged to design habitable structures to be utilized and entered into the competition on Saturday, April 20th.

Students carried their projects up a mile-long dirt road into Poly Canyon to be displayed, judged, and slept in overnight if so desired.



Some teams chose to build separate beds for each member while other groups constructed one large structure that aimed to fit everyone. Not only were everyday materials such as bungee rope and canvas used to create hammocks, unique supplies like pool noodles and a trampoline came into the scene as students incorporated them into individual designs. 

With competition award categories such as “Most Innovative,” “Best Recycling,” and “Best Structural Design and Craftsmanship,” professors encouraged students to think out of the box and utilize community space and materials efficiently. Teams had less than three weeks to complete the project, coming up with unconventional solutions that explored the nature of dwelling. On presentation day, a panel of local architects and professors judge the structures based on flexibility, execution, and overall design.

In the design process, students work to brainstorm ideas that were aesthetically appealing, spatially unique, cost-efficient, and relatively lightweight. After initial sketches and model building, a team of professors must approve the students’ proposal in order to issue a permit allowing construction to begin. Students had access to the architecture department’s support shop, which provides all power tools necessary to cut wood, weld steel, and assemble projects. 


A free shuttle that ran from the base of the canyon to the competition grounds was provided throughout the day from 10am-4pm for parents and visitors to view student work as part of the architecture department’s Open House exhibit. 

Although some projects did not turn out as desired, all students admit they learned a lot from the experience. At the completion of the project, architecture professor Joann Moore said the “projects were quite successful and inventive.”


Learn more about the competition and see galleries of past projects by visiting designvillage.calpoly.edu.


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Sophia Liu

Cal Poly '19

Sophia Liu is a second-year architecture major and media arts minor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She grew up in a little town in Los Angeles County. A wild dreamer, she loves photography, fashion, and big cities.
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