For the first time in Cal Poly Pomona history, students earned the top honor in the prestigious Julius Shulman Emerging Talent Award Competition, named after the most prominent photographer of 20th-century Los Angeles architecture.
The title and a cash award of $5,100 were presented on June 18 to Kate Bilyk, Nicole Doan and Jeffrey Stevens at the Los Angeles Business Council’s 45th Annual Architectural Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The trio are recent architecture graduates of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design.
Sponsored by the Los Angeles Business Council, the annual competition sees all six of the Los Angeles area’s architecture programs face off in a design charrette juried by five leading Southern California architects. This year’s judges were David Martin of AC Martin; Bob Hale of Rios Clementi Hale Studios; Sabu Song of Gensler; Scott Johnson of Johnson Fain; and Clifford Selbert of Selbert Perkins.
“This first-place finish shows that when compared to the best of the very best, our students have the talent and discipline that set them apart,” said Michael Woo, dean of the College of Environmental Design. “They have brought great distinction to the department and the university. Also, the faculty members of the Department of Architecture deserve commendation for their tireless efforts to cultivate Kate, Jeffrey, Nicole and our other students to such a high level of performance.”
Teams from Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, USC, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Otis College of Art and Design and Woodbury University competed in a two-week design charrette that asked them to redesign for reuse the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park facility in downtown’s South Park District. A disused relic from the early 1900s, the 80,000-square-foot building formerly housed a bus and rail yard. The site is adjacent to the nine-acre South Los Angeles Wetlands Park.
Students were provided a list of programs for inspiration, such as market space, greenhouse, child care and community center. They were also required to present proposals incorporating a meaningful connection to the green space while preserving as much as possible the building’s historic structure.
“Our research on the demographics helped with the results,” Doan said. “The judges saw that we were actually getting to know the site.”
The South Park District has the highest poverty and school drop-out rates, and the lowest percentage of home ownership.
“At Cal Poly Pomona, we work hard to give students a comprehensive understanding of the discipline, not to be at the service of conventional practices, but to give them the necessary grounding for them to question, reconsider and shape architectural conventions,” said Sarah Lorenzen, associate professor and chair of the Department of Architecture. “Kate, Nicole and Jeff clearly got the message.”
The trio conducted a thorough research of the area’s demographics, from population density (21,638 people per square mile on a 1.41-square-mile district) and median household income (less than $30,000) to education attainment levels (only 3.4 percent of residents 25 and older have four-year degrees). The team proposed a community center that can accommodate various programs with spaces devoted to a study center, multipurpose rooms and a café.
“The competition entry they produced, entirely on their own I might add, took a building that no longer had purpose and made something new, strange, beautiful and useful,” Lorenzen said. “What shows real depth in thinking is that these students were able to make something ‘new’ whilst making evident the processes and external forces that shaped the building’s previous incarnation.”
Aside from removing the south-facing garage space and replacing it with walls of windows overlooking Wetlands Park, the team’s proposed design kept the building intact.
“It was a really, really simple design in the end, and that’s what we’re very proud of,” Stevens said.
“Other teams proposed plans that involved demolition and restructuring,” Bilyk added. “We decided to keep the building as it is. We actually did not touch the structure itself, aside from opening the windows. So what’s built inside does not intervene with the actual building.”
Learn more about the Cal Poly Pomona team’s experience at https://cargocollective.com/nmdoan/South-LA-Wetland-Park-Facility and https://archinect.com/nmdoan/julius-shulman-emerging-talent-award-winner.
A video announcing their victory can be viewed at https://www.labusinesscouncil.org/2015-LA-Architectural-Awards-Winners
The College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona is one of the few university-level programs bringing together architecture, art, landscape architecture, and urban and regional planning. DesignIntelligence ranks Cal Poly Pomona’s undergraduate architecture program in the Top 5 in the West and in the Top 20 nationwide.