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Students view a presentation in newly renovated studio classroom.

Photo by Bruce Silverberg

CuestArc students Brianna Luce (l) and Devin Graham (r), winners of national student design competition.

Photo courtesy of the Cuesta College Marketing Department


CuestArc student Michelle Loeb shows her homeless shelter design.

Photo courtesy of the Cuesta College Foundation


Jessica Leung's award-winning ‘Hole on Hole’ cardboard chair design

Photo courtesy of the Cuesta College Foundation .



CuestArc Instructor Addresses National Organization

May 2015—CuestArc faculty member Bruce Silverberg addressed the annual meeting of the Coalition of Community College Architecture Programs (CCCAP), in Atlanta, Ga., in mid-May. Titled "CuestArc: The Pleasures (and Perils) of Articulation," his talk enumerated the many advantages of being fully articulated with the architecture program at Cal Poly SLO, while also acknowledging a risk.

"CuestArc's two-year articulation with one of the top undergraduate architecture programs in the nation has been the engine of growth for our department," Silverberg said. "When one steps outside California and sees how many community college architecture programs are still trying to establish transfer pathways to accredited architecture schools, they realize just how special Cuesta's program really is." Students who complete the CuestArc program can actually enter Cal Poly as third-year architecture students, a rarity even within California.

And the perils? Really, there is only one drawback, according to Silverberg. "When you articulate with one institution and align your curriculum with theirs, you generally foreclose on similar agreements with other institutions whose curricula don't match," he said. This does not mean students cannot transfer to other institutions, only that such "student-initiated" transfers are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with no guarantee their credits will be accepted. "Our students can, and do, transfer successfully to a number of other institutions, sometimes receiving close to full credit for the courses they completed at Cuesta," noted Silverberg.

CuestArc is one of the founding members of CCCAP, a new national organization whose mission is to promote community college architecture programs as an alternative route to the architectural profession. They work to strengthen linkages between community colleges and universities through transfer and articulation agreements, and to increase diversity—racial, gender, cultural, and socioeconomic—within the architectural profession.

Classroom Upgrades Benefit CuestArc Students

August 2013—Architecture students arriving at Cuesta for fall classes entered two upgraded classrroms that will enhance their studio experience. Funded through a grant from the Cuesta College Foundation, the improvements included new tack surfaces on the walls and rewired lighting.

Classroom renovation showing new tack boards.The walls of both studios are now lined with white tack surfaces that extend nearly from floor to ceiling, for the first time providing adequate space for the kinds of design pinups that are a staple of architectural education. The modifications to the lighting enable the room to be dimmed properly for digital projection during lectures and demonstrations, while preserving enough light for students to take proper notes or follow along at their desks.

CuestArc instructor Bruce Silverberg worked for several years to bring about these changes and is delighted with the results. "The impact of the tack surfaces on classroom instruction was immediate and palpable," Silverberg said. "The ability to display an entire class's work properly and gather in front of it for a group discussion is an important aspect of design education, be it at Harvard or Yale or at a community college. Student engagement increased dramatically."

One of the classrooms also received new drafting tables and stools, which replaced aging furniture that was so large that it hampered an instructor's ability to circulate around the classroom and engage individual students as they worked. The new furniture is smaller and lighter, which frees up more space and allows desks to be easily rearranged for special pinups and group activities. The new furnishings were funded through a government grant under the Career Technical Education Act (CTEA).

'Life-Fulfilling' Design Earns Cuesta Architecture Students National Title

Brianna Luce and Devin Graham win Rebuilding Home Student Design Competition and $2,500 for skilled nursing home plan.

March 2011—Four Cuesta College architecture students from San Luis Obispo were honored in a national student design contest - including two whose proposal for a skilled nursing facility was judged best in the nation among two- and four-year college and university students.

Brianna Luce and Devin GrahamBrianna Luce, 23, and Devin Graham, 21, won the Rebuilding Home Student Design Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architecture Students and the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments.

Their entry, "Evergreen: A Sustainable Community Promoting Successful Aging for the Elderly," netted the duo $2,500 and bested entries from students at such schools as the University of Oklahoma, University of Cincinnati, University of Wisconsin and the University of Oregon. The pair made a presentation about their winning project on March 20 at the Environments for Aging Conference in Atlanta.

Jessica Esteban and Joseph Ariente, both 22, received an honorable mention for their entry and a prize of $250 from a judging panel that included industry professionals.

The students were part of architecture instructor David Fernandez's architecture design fundamental class that entered the competition as a class project.

"What does this mean to the program?" Fernandez said. "It's up there. It's says a lot about what we do here at Cuesta. It's quite an honor. I'm super proud of these guys."

While the contest was announced last November, his students had only about five weeks to research senior living and develop a design, build a model and produce renderings before the March 5 deadline. They were asked to design a 50,000-square-foot nursing facility for 60 people that included passive solar heating and cooling systems to deal with the hot, humid weather found in Ocoee, a city of 25,000 in central Florida.

"We had to make it feel like a home rather than an institution," said Graham, who in 2008 moved from Clovis attracted by Cuesta's architecture program. "We wanted to create spaces that they could use in a more life-fulfilling way rather than to just get stuck in a room by themselves."

"So we focused a lot on interiors and making the daily lives of the residents better," added Luce, who moved from Paradise, Calif., to attend Cuesta two years ago.

Their design included four specific areas. The Town, or the public area, is "a destination space," Luce said. The residential area, called The Households, was sectioned into four pods, each serving 15 residents. Community Support included dining rooms, the main kitchen and maintenance. The cluster of administrative offices was dubbed the Business Establishment.

"The building is shaped like a V," she said. "The ends and center is common space. So when you walk down a hallway you've got this big, open nice space to one side and doors to the other - not just a long corridor of doors."

The pair, who tend to finish each other's sentences when talking about their project, each logged more than 70 hours in the week before the entry deadline, including one day where they slept only an hour.

But it was worth it, they agreed.

"You joke around about it, but you don't know," said Luce, who has been accepted to UC Berkeley and California College of the Arts and is awaiting word from Cal Poly. "We were really stoked about what we did with this building. I think we both really loved this project. I still love it."

Cuesta Architecture Students Display SLO Homeless Center Designs

May 2009—Fifteen Cuesta College architecture technology students showcased their designs for a new homeless center at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo.

Graduating second-year students in architectural design classes “put together design proposals for a new homeless center in San Luis Obispo,” said instructor David Fernandez. “We did some research, did some site visits to the existing facilities and talked to the people who work in those facilities. Then students went off and designed a new campus for the homeless center.” Students displayed their designs to the public May 21 at the Orcutt Road homeless center. 

Michele Loeb's Homeless Shelter designCommunity Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County Inc. (formerly known as EOC) and the Friends of the Prado Day Center are seeking to upgrade facilities for the area’s homeless, Fernandez said. They operate the existing homeless centers: the Prado Day Center, which offers breakfast and lunch, and Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, which provides dinner and 49 beds nightly year-round. “They are all approaching it differently,” he said of his students’ work. “Some have more controlled environments: You check in and it’s a ‘once you’re in, you’re in’ kind of thing. Others have a more of a ‘you can come and go’ thing.”

Cuesta students took on the assignment to also foster a dialogue about the need to create a better homeless center in the community. “It’s like planting a seed,” Fernandez said. “This is a way to put some designs out there and give it a visual in terms that this project could actually become reality.”  

Cuesta Cardboard Chair Design Gets Standing O-vation

April 2009—Cuesta College architecture student Jessica Leung won a national furniture design contest. The 20-year-old of San Luis Obispo won the fourth annual student Chair Affair design competition for her “Hole on Hole,” the American Institute of Architecture Students and the International Corrugated Packaging Foundation announced May 5. Classmate Brad Smith also was named a contest finalist.

Hole ChairChair Affair challenges students, working individually or in teams, to design a chair using corrugated cardboard and glue. It rewards excellence in design that integrates function, aesthetics, structure and ergonomics.

Leung, who hopes to attend USC’s School of Architecture, was a bit surprised after learning she had won the award, which includes a $1,500 prize.

“Because when I saw the other designs I thought that they were all really cool,” she said. “They were on the technical side whereas mine was more free and artistic.”

Leung’s design, which resembles a bean bag chair, began when she envisioned a 12-inch hole at the center of the piece that took her 50 hours to complete.

“I wanted to make something that was comfortable,” she said. “I used to be a gymnast and then I hurt my back. When I sit on a chair a long time my spine kind of hurts. So I really wanted a hole that wouldn't be pushing back on my spine.

“When you sit on the hole it’s not like some concrete thing that you are sitting on. But this hole — this space — is holding you up. I started by wrapping strips around the hole — like a donut. And then I saw that it wasn’t really strong, so I started doing horizontal strips and found that it looked good.”

Cuesta architecture instructor David Fernandez, AIA, said this is the first time a student from the Cougar campus has won the national contest.

Leung’s classmate Smith received an honorable mention and $350 for “Caterpillared,” a chair and table with flat surfaces that are supported by a trellis of rolled cardboard spires.

“Cardboard has two ends and the corrugation in the middle,” said Smith, 25, who is transferring to the University of Oregon. “I pulled off (the top surface), and I rolled it up and noticed there was a lot of stability on a pillar, vertically. I just thought about a few different designs from there.”   To see photos and descriptions of Jessica Leung’s winning design, “Hole on Hole,” and Brad Smith’s “Caterpillared” visit:  

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