Attached photo shows the final winners from left to right; Kiersi Court (Honorable Mention), Quinn Gleason (3rd), Ellie Gleason (1st), Hailey Salas (Honorable Mention), Ava Warmath (2nd), Rylan Schaller (Honorable Mention) | Credit: Courtesy

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This past weekend, the Santa Barbara County 32nd Annual High School Architectural Design Competition of 2023 has once again successfully concluded. This competition is held annually by the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (AFSB), a non-profit organization that seeks to stimulate interest in the profession among high school students.

On February 28, after months of planning, more than 80 students from across Santa Barbara County gathered in two locations and were briefed on this year’s challenge. This year, the high school students’ challenge was the development of a new community center set in the midst of an existing neighborhood park located somewhere in Santa Barbara County. The goal of the project was the creation of the neighborhood’s new rejuvenated center of activity and community amenities, such as youth and family programs and recreational facilities. An additional element to the design challenge was that the community was mixed income with many low-income families in need of a safe public park and with access to recreational programs and facilities. Over the years the surrounding park has deteriorated and it is now poorly lit, making neighbors feel unsafe. Also the park has some existing mature trees that the community wants to save and there is an existing gazebo large enough to host weddings, birthday parties and other family-oriented celebrations that would ideally be saved.

The students had the day to complete their submissions for the competition after which a panel of architects selected 12 finalists.

On March 4, the 12 finalists gathered at the Dunn School in Los Olivos to present their proposals and answer questions before another group of architect judges. 

The winners of the competition were:
1st Ellie Gleason  – 12th grade Dos Pueblos 
2nd Ava Warmath  – 12th grade Dos Pueblos
3rd Quinn Gleason – 10th grade Dos Pueblos 
Honorable Mention went to Hailey Salas, 11th grade Orcutt Academy;  Kiersi Court, 10th grade Providence and Rylan Schaller, 10th grade Cabrillo

A Year of Firsts
For the first time in its 34 year history, a competitor won first place two years in a row (Ellie Gleason). Her younger sister took 3rd place (Quinn Gleason).

Dos Pueblos High took first, second, and third place, the second time in the competition’s history that DP swept the competition.

For the first time in its 34 year history the Tuesday charrette took place in Santa Maria. Alan Hancock College hosted 51 competitors, which was greater participation than both venues hosted in 2022 (in 2023 the south county venue hosted 31 competitors at Direct Relief in Goleta). The Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara is extremely pleased by its new partnership with Hancock, because it means this program is truly serving the entire county, north and south. Credit goes to Alan Hancock trustee and Rotary past-president Greg Pensa for connecting this competition with the college. The chair of Hancock’s Industrial Technology Department, Saad Sadig, served as one of the jurors on Saturday.

Nine of the twelve finalists were girls, and three of the four jurors were women. Five of the six winners were girls. Given that currently three-quarters of architects in the United States are men, this diversity is very encouraging for the architectural profession.

For the first time in its 34 year history, the legacy trophy has been lost. The trophy is engraved with the winner’s name and their school’s name, and then delivered to the winner’s school. There it resides for the year until the next finals. This year, Dos Pueblos High reported that the trophy has gone missing.
For the first time in its 34 year history a competitor left the charrette in an ambulance. They suffered a seizure on Tuesday but have recovered and are resting at home.

If the trophy is found, Elllie Gleason‘s name will be engraved for the second time, joining the names of past winners dating back to 2003.

The competition was conceived back in the 1990s by architect David Goldstien, and he remains a driving force on the organizing team. It is organized by the AFSB and supported by sponsors and donors throughout Santa Barbara County. The competition requires high school students to create a hand-drawn solution to a design challenge. From its inception more than thirty years ago, the competition has always provided the student a rich experience that comes from holding a pencil, and imagining and illustrating an architectural structure or outdoor space. Over the years, many competitors have gone on to architecture schools in California and beyond, and many have returned to Santa Barbara County to pursue their careers as architects. Some of these ‘alumni’ serve as organizers of this competition today.

To make this competition possible, the AFSB partnered with the Santa Barbara North Rotary Club, the Santa Ynez Valley Rotary Club and the Santa Barbara County Education Office Regional Occupation Program.


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