Form & Function


The sun rises on the canyon and with it comes not the sounds of birds singing but the whirring of drills.

Hammering echoes over the hills that are covered in grasses nearly waist high in some spots. A breeze caresses the curves of the hill and causes the grass to wave lackadaisically in cool of this early Saturday morning. The continuing of construction interrupts the tranquility that usually falls over the area on day two of California Polytechnic State University’s Design Village competition.

Architecture schools from all over California are participating in an annual competition in San Luis Obispo to test their designs and construction abilities as well their teamwork when teams spend two nights in a shelter they set up after hiking a mile. This is Pierce College’s first year participating, and students are excited to see what they can pull off.

Xenia Bran is the president of the Pierce College Architecture and Design club. She likes the idea of incorporating architecture into the environment.

“The core of the competition is sustainability, so basically we have to design a structure that we can carry uphill for a mile,” Bran says. “We have to be really conscience of the damage that we have on the environment and I don’t think a lot of people focus on that.”

Bran has always been interested in architecture and remembers the “Brady Bunch” as one of the sources for her passion.

“On the show the “Brady Bunch,” it always fascinated me how Mike Brady would sit at the table and do his blueprints,” Bran says. “And that particular house that the Brady Bunch lived in always caught my attention. As a kid I would draw these futuristic buildings.”

Associate Professor Beth Abels teaches in the Art and Architecture department. She describes the requirements that will be placed on the teams participating and says that as an architecture event the design of the structure is just as important as its functionality.

“Students have to build a structure that they can sleep in for two nights with up to six people and a minimum of two. They have to stay there all of Friday and Saturday night. They have to walk a mile to carry their materials up and build it on site,” Abels says. “It basically has to be lightweight, it has to be small enough and easy enough to put together for students once they get up there and it has to be aesthetically thought out and well-designed because it’s an architecture school that’s holding the competition.”

The creation process will also involve incorporating the theme of an Aura, which has been chosen by the event.

“We have three or four groups that are working. And each one has a different process, but my suggestion to them was that they start by researching and looking around and seeing what other people have done.

The SLO came up with Aura as the name of the project so they have to think about what that means for them,” Abels says. “What is an aura and do that kind of research and then come up with a concept and start to think about what that three dimensional form might look like and how it might address that concept.”

Bran knows that when it comes to group efforts the help of having a team can also lead to difficulties.

“The thing that has been most difficult right now is getting everybody to meet on the same day because all of us work and all of us come to school,” Bran says. “As far as the building of it, I’m really confident.

The people on my team, we’ve worked together before on the open road project so the dynamic, respect and the honesty is there.”

Bran anticipates transporting the materials to the build site will prove to be a challenge.

“I think we’re going to be in for a surprise as far as like hauling the materials and finding out if our location is going to be flat or if it’s going to be on a slope,” Bran says. “But I think that the design should incorporate an element from everybody. Then I think we can all walk away satisfied.”

The design the group ended up using includes lightweight, water proof fabric with a zipper to create an entrance.

“Of the designs we came up with I feel this has elements of each of our original sketch models, but it’s a lot more interesting than just regular flat walls. We used lightweight MDF, a waterproof fabric that we got from Downtown L.A. in the fabric district. ”

The DYI culture has inspired people to take matters into their own hands when it comes to consumerism. There is a new pride that comes not from the band of your shoes or the name on your label but from your own accomplishment.

Pierce is one of 19 schools participating in the competition. Other schools in attendance inclu Long Beach City College, Allan Hancock and El Camino College. Diablo Valley College’s team Ascension won the Best Craftsmanship this year.

After the announcment of the winner Bardia Shafiei shared his final thoughts

“The process was fun it’s a new experience because it was the first time for Pierce College,” Shafiei says.“We started getting all these new ideas of what we could work on better and improve. I know we didn’t win any awards but I don’t feel sad. There are students who want to do this again. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be here next year and I look forward to that.”

Looking back on the experience Bran takes inspriation and hope for next semester.

“I can’t wait to come back I think all four teams from Pierce are winners because this is our first time and everyone came through and pulled their weight.”

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