Architecture students win second place in national design competition

August 7, 2023

Office of Marketing & Strategic Communications

A team of three SAC students brought home a second-place award in a national architecture competition for community college students.

Carlos Lugo, Steven Esparza, and Ángel Castillo won second place in the 2023 Student Design Competition organized by the Coalition of Community College Architecture Programs (CCCAP). The three worked together to create a design for a center for conversation, the theme of this year’s annual competition.

It’s the second year in a row that SAC architecture students have placed in the top two spots in the contest. Last year, Carlos Sierra, a second-year architecture student, won first place for his entry.

This year’s competition challenged students to design a place that encourages people in the community to come together for interaction and dialogue. The team of Lugo, Esparza and Castillo created a plan for an indoor/outdoor gathering place called “Heart to Heart.”

CCCAP Design.jpgThe jurors selected their project for its excellence in all categories, including concept, formal expression, program, site, sustainability, and graphic presentation. 

“Everyone felt from midway through the project that these three had come up with something special,” said Dwayne Bohuslav, SAC architecture program coordinator and associate professor.

The three first met in architecture classes and reunited in Bohuslav’s design class in the summer of 2022. After successfully teaming up on an urban garden center design project in the class, they knew they wanted to work together again on the CCCAP project.

“We’re like the Three Musketeers,” Castillo said. “That’s what Mr. Bohuslav called us.”

At first, they weren’t sure what a conversation center should include. Each researched museums, libraries, parks, and other examples of architecture, then came back together to share ideas. They considered the site conditions of the proposed location, including the surrounding community, weather and wind patterns and sun exposure.

The team kept one question in mind as they planned the center: how will this bring the community together?

“Throughout the whole project we thought about that question over and over,” Esparza said. “We knew if we could get the answer we could help people more.”

When Esparza had the idea for an open-air sunken plaza, the group knew it would be a main focus.

“Right away we all liked it,” Castillo said. “I really wanted to have everything around the plaza as the main focal point, the heart of the project.”

From the sunken plaza, corridors and covered walkways lead to indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, such as an auditorium for presentations, a small museum, a library, a garden and private rooms. The project incorporated nature and natural materials throughout to create a calming and refreshing atmosphere with lush vegetation, water features and green walls.

“We just really thought of the community, how we would see ourselves in different scenarios, how we would want to start a conversation,” Lugo said.

Each student brought a unique strength to the team. In addition to each of them researching and contributing ideas, they credit Esparza’s freehand drawing abilities, Lugo’s passion for digital models, and Castillo’s talent with rendering software as contributing to the project’s success.

“I feel like the teamwork was really exceptional, along with the chemistry we had,” said Esparza.

The three will share an $800 prize for their winning entry.

Lugo graduated from SAC this summer with a degree in architecture and will continue his studies at UTSA this fall. Esparza is an architecture major starting his second year at SAC. Castillo is majoring in architecture at SAC and plans to graduate after the fall semester.