May 22, 2017

Contact: Ray Ladd
805 756-7432;

Cal Poly Architecture Graduate Wins AIA COTE Award in National Student Design Competition

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Karin Bjorkman, a Cal Poly architecture alumna, recently won an award for her design of a residential school in a rural part of India that aims to improve the poor living conditions for children there.

Bjorkman’s student thesis design, “A Residential School in Andhra Pradesh,” received one of 10 awards for exceptional student projects in the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE) competition. Her project was one of more than 600 entries nationwide.

Bjorkman’s school in Andhra Pradesh, located in the eastern coastal region of India, attempted to improve the conditions for children who would otherwise suffer from child labor, a low quality of education, and public disinterest. A residential primary school offers a quality education and a refuge from child labor, while seeking to maintain in students a passion for their local identity rather than spurring them to leave the area.

In addition to undertaking these challenges, Bjorkman visited the area and emphasized sustainable measures that she learned about during her one-week trip. She gained insight on cultural nuances and subtle programmatic needs, producing a more rounded, practical project. Through her research she created a mockup, to prove the effectiveness of her design.

She designed a 17,200-square-foot campus to enable the education annually of 200 children between the ages of 6 and 12. The school houses students in 10 dormitories and serves daily meals for the duration of the academic year. In addition, the program includes a playground, residences for administration and a vegetable garden for on-site food production.

“This project is well researched and fitting to the place and climate, with a positive community aspect,” the group of five jurors said of Bjorkman’s project. “The colors are beautiful and convey the delight of sustainable design. Wonderful use of traditional materials and vernacular architecture. The graphics are compelling and the image of building walls gives a sense of tactile exploration.”

The jury selected the 10 winners according to 10 measures: design and innovation, regional/community design, land use and ecology, bioclimatic design, light and air, water cycle, energy flows and energy future, materials and construction, long life/loose fit, and collective wisdom and feedback loops.

Bjorkman, who graduated in Spring 2016, was advised by Cal Poly sponsor Daniel Wiens from Journeyman International and Cal Poly Architecture Professor Sandy Stannard.

Visit for more information about the COTE competition and Bjorkman’s project. The competition was held in partnership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

Karin Bjorkman, a Cal Poly architecture alumna.

A graphic of Bjorkman’s project is available upon request.                  


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