Cal Poly’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design to Host Annual Design Village Conference Virtually on April 17

An image from the 2019 Design Village competition. This year, Cal Poly’s Design Village Conference, hosted by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, has gone virtual, with presentations and judging taking place Saturday, April 17.
SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly’s Design Village Conference, a spring ritual for Central Coast architectural students and their counterparts across the state, will be virtual this year.

One of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design’s (CAED) largest and most-anticipated events, the annual conference typically draws hundreds of students from colleges and universities throughout California and beyond to participate in Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy.

This year’s event will be at a smaller scale with 10 schools and 15 teams, but there will be a wider range of student perspectives brought to the event. The public is invited to view the entries and student presentations and to vote online to determine the winner of one of the categories.

Because of the virtual nature and since traveling to Cal Poly is no longer a constraint, schools from across the country are participating. These include Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Houston’s Rice University, and University of Memphis, Tennessee, who will compete against California Baptist University and a half dozen community colleges from San Diego to Sacramento.

Cal Poly architecture faculty decided that their first-year students will not participate, and students from other Central Coast community colleges similarly are not taking part.

In the past, each team designed, built and inhabited portable structures for a weekend in rustic Poly Canyon, located about a mile from the heart of campus. While the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of last year’s Design Village, will prevent these novel and colorful designs from populating the canyon this year, the spirit of the event lives on in an online format that is free and open to the public.

This year’s competition will be held via Zoom starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 17, when all projects will go live for viewing on the Design Village website. Presentations and judging will begin at 10 a.m., followed by the 5 p.m. awards ceremony — with all links available on the Design Village website.

Although projects will not be physically constructed or carried into the canyon, designs are expected to keep in mind those limitations as well as the onsite conditions of the rural canyon. Students will present their design to a panel of judges, made up of CAED faculty, who will provide feedback and select projects to receive three awards. The public will vote for the fourth honor, the People’s Choice Award.

This year’s theme, “Perspective,” asks students to contemplate how their views, both literally and figuratively, affect their designs. How can physical positioning change the needs of a structure? How can the experience of the user change what the structure becomes? A change of view could alter everything.

Entries will be judged on habitability, design excellence, suitability to this year’s theme and public response.

This year’s conference will be exciting to participants and members of the community. Without a construction requirement, participants have even more freedom to design, innovate and experiment.

Design Village is a long-held tradition hosted by Cal Poly, said Ricardo Villanueva, president of the Design Village Planning Committee.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to work as a team to design a unique structure for assembly in Poly Canyon,” said Villanueva, a fourth-year architecture student from Arleta, California, reflecting on his experience at the 2018 Design Village. “Several schools and first-year Cal Poly students get to meet each other for the first time and learn from each other’s works.

“Looking back, I have fond memories of my group where we experienced fun mishaps and satisfying successes. By organizing the event, I hope to foster an environment where future participants can have a similar experience.”

The event draws on its past as it moves into the future, said Dale Clifford, an associate professor of architecture.

“Design Village is a student-run operation that is extraordinary in its scope and impact,” he said. “This year’s organizers, Ricardo Villanueva, Margarita Ku, Andrew Hensen, Daisy Penaloza, Rashmi Pradhan and Anthony Choe, deserve credit for continuing the event in these troubled times. Through their initiative, they have helped secure the future of Design Village.”  

For more details and links, visit

Photo information: An image from the 2019 Design Village competition. This year, Cal Poly’s Design Village Conference, hosted by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, has gone virtual, with presentations and judging taking place Saturday, April 17.


Ray Ladd, special projects

Dale Clifford, architecture faculty member

April 8, 2021

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