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Students Sail to Victory in Design Competition


This year, nine high school students – all from San Francisco public schools – walked away with top prizes in the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco’s 2011 Design Competition in early May. The event attracted 64 entries from across the Bay Area, with San Francisco students proving to be the ones to beat in the annual competition.

Architecture and Design

The contest, which takes place over several months, involves the creation of a series of hand or computer-generated architectural drawings and a physical scale model. This year, students had to design a youth pavilion for the America’s Cup race complex on the San Francisco waterfront.

 “This was a ‘real world’ challenge because in 2013 San Francisco will be the host city for the America’s Cup Race, the third largest sporting event in the world,” says Will Fowler, program director for the Architectural Foundation.  

 “The waterfront presents challenges in space, orientation, daylighting, and other environmental factors,” stresses Fowler. Daylighting relates to a building’s orientation to the sun, and how many windows or how much glass to use for natural light, heating, and solar power installations. Too little or too much sun can be problematic  for a building.

“This [race] will require substantial renovation and construction along the San Francisco waterfront, including a series of pavilions similar to the design program offered to the students,” adds Fowler.

San Francisco Students Win Big

Judges selected winners in four categories, with first place in Overall Superiority going to Cole Skaggs of Lowell High School. The grand prize for Skaggs is a four-week, pre-college summer program scholarship to the California College of the Arts.

While all the winners receive a cash prize, the top contenders in each category will get to ride the 40-foot catamaran Shadow around the San Francisco Bay, courtesy of the America’s Cup Organizing Committee.

Exceptional Teachers

Fowler credits the students’ exposure to San Francisco’s varied architecture with helping them to find innovative and unique solutions to the particular design challenges of the competition. “And while there are quality instructors in the various programs around the bay, the instructors of the respective winning programs – Julian Pollack of Lowell High School and Julia Jones of Build San Francisco – are exceptional teachers and deserve much credit for their work.”

Best Design, Overall Superiority
First Place: Cole Skaggs, Lowell High School
Second Place: Erina Yamada, Academy of Arts and Sciences/Build SF
Third Place: Matthew Lew, Lowell High School/Build SF

Best Model
First Place: Mohammad Eid, Academy of Arts and Sciences/Build SF
Second Place: Sophia Li, Lowell High School
Third Place: Priscilla Ng, Lowell High School

Best Graphic Presentation describing Design Solution
First Place: Sean Gowin, Lowell High School
Second Place: Samantha Chang, Lowell High School
Third Place: Laurence Lau, Lowell High School

Revit Presentation (computer software presentation)
First Place: Erina Yamada, Academy of Arts and Sciences/Build SF
Second Place: Matthew Lew, Lowell High School/Build SF 
Third Place: Priscilla Ng, Lowell High School

Build San Francisco Institute, part of the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco (AFSF), is a half-day high school program for students interested in design, construction, engineering, and architecture. It is a partnership between AFSF, SFUSD, and more than two dozen major San Francisco firms. The program combines a rigorous academic program with mentorships in the partner firms; students not only gain new knowledge but also have the immediate experience of applying that knowledge in a real world setting.