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High School Architectural Design Competition

The Architectural Design Competition is only a week away: Next Tuesday February 28th.  It’s not too late to sign up, and no prior experience is necessary.

Again, this competition is not only free for high school students, but all 12 finalists are rewarded with cash prizes.  But beyond that (and more importantly) we really feel this is a great opportunity for students who are interested in art, architecture and/or engineering to get a taste of a design-charette experience that they might soon come across in college and eventually the real world beyond.

Santa Barbara County High School Design Competition

Get Creative

Have you ever imagined how much fun it would be to design a home for yourself or create a really unique building in town?

Be the first of your friends to take part in a Design Charrette (pronounced Shuh-ret): A fast-paced, exciting, mind expanding and totally creative experience designing a building or space in a limited amount of time.

Past Design Charrettes have challenged students to create everything from:

  • a home for returning recovering war veterans
  • a community center
  • a youth hostel
  • a desert research center for a University
  • a tiny house community for homeless families

You find out what you will be designing when you arrive at the Charrette and you will individually to originate a building design based on an entirely new written design program.

Although you may be one of 50 designers at the charrette, no two solutions will be alike.  There is no right or wrong design.  Each student will address the issues presented in their unique way bringing experiences and insights to their work.

You can draw, sketch, paint or use any media to illustrate your ideas on paper.   Architects will then evaluate your work and select 12 finalists, who will later be invited to appear at a Jury Review to present their design to a panel of four design professionals and educators. Competition winners will then be determined.

  • The Competition is open to all 9th to 12th grade students in any Santa Barbara County school.
  • There is no cost to the students or their schools to enter.
  • Food is provided for students during the Charrette and for those attending the Jury Review.
  • “Certificates of Participation” are awarded to all participants, with special cash awards and prizes for the 12 finalists.
  • Designers must arrange to be dismissed from regular classes the day of the Charrette and for transportation to and from the event site.
  • This is an “open book” competition. You may bring reference materials, even Google.
  • Your completed work will be done by hand on paper provided to you. Drafting skills are not required, however you must draw with drafting tools or freehand to Scale.  That means that your drawings have to be measured.  This is required so you can be sure that the room you design, for example a bedroom, is actually large enough to contain a 6’-0” x 5’-0” bed, and a dresser, etc.


Page 1 of 4

When: Design Charrette:       Tuesday, February 28 2017; 7:45 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Juried Review:            Saturday, March 4  2017; 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 pm

Where: Design Charrette:      Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Hwy. 246 and Refugio Rd. Ynez

Juried Review:          Dunn School Library

You are invited to view material on the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara website (, look for the High School Design Competition tab.  You will find several helpful movies produced to explain design creativity, scale, and drawing techniques and other competition material.

You may also contact the Executive Director of the Architectural Foundation directly for more information:  Allison Marcillac at (805) 965-6307


Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can you sign up to participate in this Competition’s Design Charrette?

It’s easy, let your teacher, counselor or advisor know that you are interested in participating by Wednesday February 22, 2017 and have them notify the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara office


…    or you may call directly, it is important to let the competition sponsors know so they can prepare the Charrette site to be ready for you.

How should I dress for a Charrette?

What, are you kidding?  A dress code?  Well, dress comfortably, it’s a long day, but in layers.  The competition site can be quite chilly in the morning and get fairly warm in the afternoon.

What can I expect upon arriving at the Design Charrette site?

  • A cold, as has already been mentioned, large High School Gym with 25+ long tables set up, some posters and notices mounted on the walls and 40 to50 other student designers all wondering what will happen next.
  • You will choose a workstation at the ends or middle of one of the long tables and set up your tools for the event.
  • You will be welcomed, given an introduction of the Charrette and will then be read the 2017 Design Program, this is a written description of the building or structure you will be designing.
  • You will be given a design packet including a copy of the Design Program and the drawing paper for your presentation.
  • You will spend the next 6+ hours designing, sketching and drawing your project.
  • At the end of the day, you will leave the building, judging Architects will review your design and score them on a numerical basis. The 12 highest scoring designers will be invited to participate in the Juried Review on Saturday, March 4th.

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What will I have to draw to complete the design Charrette?

You will receive 3-18”x24” sheets of drawing paper in your design packet.

  • One will be have a preprinted site plan of where your project will be built.  It will show roads, site slopes, trees and whatever else might impact your design.  You will draw the building you design and other site elements on that sheet.
  • The other two sheet will be blank. On those you will draw the following:
  • Floor Plan at ¼” per foot scale of your design
  • One exterior elevation of your design
  • One other drawing to illustrate your design idea. This could be another elevation, a sketch, a perspective or whatever you thing would get your idea across to the judges and jury.

You will be expected to draw site plan, floor plan and elevation to scale with drafting tools or freehand.  That means that these drawings must be measured.  This is required so you can be sure that the room you design, for example a bedroom, is actually large enough to contain a 6’-0” x 5’-0” bed, and a dresser, etc.

The judges also have to gauge whether your design fits the criteria of the design program.

There is some helpful information on the Architectural Foundation’s website, more on that later.

How do I get to the Charrette site?

You must arrange for your transportation, through your school or individually, to the site.  Carpooling is encouraged.

You can Google-Map or GPS the site or do it the old fashion way and follow the attached paper map.

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

2975 E. Hwy 246

Santa Ynez, CA  93460


What do I need to bring to the Charrette?

Registration Form – (see attached) bring the registration form to the Charrette site the day of the event.  Fill it out completely, especially as to whether or not you will be able to attend the Juried Review on Saturday, March 4th if you are selected as a finalist.  This is extremely important.

Design Tools –     Drawing Board at least 18”x24” and not much larger

  • Straight edge (T-Square) if you intend to draft your drawings
  • Triangles and templates, as needed
  • Eraser and erasing shield
  • Scale, Architectural, 1/8” and ¼”
  • Sketching and scratch paper
  • Dusting brush
  • Drafting tape
  • Any reference material

Creativity – Yourself, your insights, experiences and individuality.  Your critical thinking and reading skills and your desire to do the very best you can.

You may bring an iPod or other musical device with earphones.

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What don’t I need to bring to this event?

Food – The sponsors will provide, at no cost, morning and afternoon snacks for you as well as a healthy and nutritious lunch.  Drinks are included.  You may, however, bring food of your own, if you wish.

Paper for your final design presentation – 18”x24”paper, either plain sheets or graph paper, will be provided to you by the sponsors of the competition

What if I don’t know anything about drafting, scale, design or architecture but I really want to design a building?  or  How can I prepare for this event?

Well, glad you asked that.  There are 3 ways you could prepare for this Charrette

  1. Go to the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara website

…   and look for the High School Design competition tab.  This will get you to some interesting “movies” which will introduce you to basic ideas about design, creativity drawing and presentation and scale.

  1. Contact the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara office

805.965.6307 or [email protected]

…   and a workshop led by a or several local architects can be arranged at your school or at the Architectural Foundations office in downtown Santa Barbara or other convenient locations throughout the County

  1. Go through 2 or 3 years of an Architecture Program at an accredited University and then enter the Competition with a fake high school I.D.

What’s in it for me?

A “Certificate of Participation” will be issued to all designer completing the Charrette.

The 12 finalist, in addition to receiving a “Finalist Certificate” have an opportunity to win awards and cash prizes as follows:

First Place                                                              $ 300.00

Second Place                                                         $ 200.00

Third Place                                                             $ 150.00

Two Honorable Mention Awards                   $ 100.00

Finalist Awards                                                    $   50.00

Who is responsible for this event?

Our three very generous and helpful sponsors:

  • Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara
  • Santa Ynez Valley Rotary Club
  • Santa Barbara County Education Office, Regional Occupation Program

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