CAED Hosts Annual Design Village Competition April 26-28

Cal Poly’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design to Host Annual Design Village Competition April 26-28 in Poly Canyon

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A temporary community of unique, student-built shelters will spring up in Poly Canyon April 26-28 during Cal Poly’s Design Village competition, hosted by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

One of the college’s largest and most-anticipated events, the annual competition draws nearly 400 students from 14 schools throughout the Golden State to participate in Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy as they design, build and inhabit structures in rural Poly Canyon, located about a mile from the heart of campus. 

This year, 52 projects will be constructed — including 23 by Cal Poly students. 

Competitors include first-year students from Cal Poly’s architecture and architectural engineering programs, and others from the University of San Francisco and community college programs based in California. Architecture students from Alan Hancock College in Santa Maria and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo will be participating. 

Other participating schools include: Bakersfield College, Cal Poly Pomona, Cosumnes River College, Diablo Valley College, East Los Angeles College, Laney College, Mount San Antonio College, New School of Architecture, Orange Coast College and West Valley College.

Designed by teams of students, structures must be built or reassembled within 12 hours, using hand- and battery-powered tools (and off-the-grid electricity), and must shelter the student team for the weekend. As an added challenge, each team must carry or push their building materials up to the Poly Canyon construction site.

This year’s theme, “Synthesis,” encourages designs that integrate into the natural environment “in a manner that creates a compelling sensory experience” that appeals “to one of the five senses through the integration of systems thinking, with an emphasis on sustainable design phases.”

Entries will be judged on their craftsmanship, sustainability, design excellence, suitability to the theme of “Synthesis,” and public response. 

“Design Village introduces first-year students to making things at large scale by working with both hand and mind,” said Dale Clifford, a Cal Poly architecture faculty member. “Really, Design Village is about knowledge building through design consensus as each team is composed of a diverse student population. Together, students think, listen, design, build and exercise tolerance. 

“During the project, students are often amazed at the power of creativity and collaboration as they glimpse their potential as young architects. The lessons from the project are broad and useful and are intended to enable students to make future significant and humane contributions to society through design.” 

The Cal Poly students involved are taking the course Architecture 133. 

The competition is free and open to the public. The ideal day for public viewing is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, organizers said. A free shuttle service will be provided to Poly Canyon on Saturday, during those same hours, leaving from the intersection Village Drive and Poly Canyon Road. Visitors to this hillside event are encouraged to wear hiking shoes, a hat and to bring their own water and lunch if desired. 

For more details visit


Note to editors: Although the public viewing day is Saturday, April 27, members of the media may be interested in covering the movement of teams Friday, April 26, as they hike up Poly Canyon Road with their building materials. The Cal Poly teams will assemble on Dexter Lawn (near Building 34) on Friday at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. — about eight teams at each time. The teams will depart approximately 30 minutes later at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively.

Onsite contact

Dale Clifford, architecture faculty member 


Team coordinator:

Emily White, architecture faculty member


Photo Information: Structures from a previous Design Village. College students from around the Golden State will travel to Cal Poly this weekend, April 26-28, to participate with Cal Poly students in the Design Village Competition. Students have designed structures to the theme “Synthesis” that they will build and inhabit in rural Poly Canyon, about a mile from the heart of campus. (Higher-resolution images are available upon request.)


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