A $400,000 gift from a Southern California couple committed to architecture education rewards the efforts of Cal Poly Pomona students designing real-world projects in a comprehensive housing design studio.
The gift, which provides 10 $5,000 merit awards to architecture students, is to honor the wishes of the late Jack and Marilyn Zuber. Cal Poly Pomona was selected to receive the funding following a nationwide search conducted by Mark Eskander, trustee of the couple’s John A. Cariello Charitable Trust. The gift will be distributed over the next eight years to students to support their tuition fees and educational expenses.
“Since third year spring is the most intensive term in the program, and for some a major hurdle to leap over, the merit awards offer something to look forward to, which will no doubt elicit friendly competition for the rewards that will come with great effort,” said department chair George Proctor, who teaches the housing design studio.
The studio is themed around a “crisis” subject: housing. A microcosm of the state’s housing instability and insecurity, Los Angeles County’s housing demand outpaces supply, resulting in high costs that are one of the major reasons California has the nation’s highest rate of functional poverty and the second-lowest rate of home ownership.
Projects conceived in the housing studio are located on properties throughout Southern California. Past designs have been realized as mixed-use projects in carefully selected sites in Los Angeles, North Hollywood and Silver Lake.
This year’s studio project was a mixed-use building at 1650 Silver Lake Blvd. in Los Angeles. After a two-tiered juried competition in May, the inaugural Jack and Marilyn Zuber Remembrance Award winners are: Chris Caracena, Ahmad Chehab, Miguel Cruz, Geraldin Quinteros Gudiel, Ryan Jose, Daniel Li, Ryan Panganiban, Asli Sungur, Angel Torres and Kenneth Truong.
The studio challenged students to integrate design concepts with structural, environmental and construction systems. The students then developed their designs into a package of professional drawings ready for “official” city approval. The studio is a required course taken in the spring of their third year, and it is a demanding program. It is also the culmination of their core curriculum — the “hinge year” before the exploratory final two years of the five-year undergraduate program.
“It’s very rewarding to have all the hard work recognized,” Panganiban said. “There was a big pivot in the way we had to approach design this semester and definitely a lot of new things we all had to learn very quickly. Of course, with new challenges there’s always a learning curve, so it’s great to be able to have something to show for all the hard work this semester.”
That meant reconciling beauty with regulation and code requirements, underscoring why good design is so difficult – and scarce – in housing projects.
“There is definitely a trade-off because housing gives the architect the opportunity to make a very positive difference in shaping the community,” Panganiban said. “It’s often forgotten that at the end of the day the role of an architect is a public servant and that an architect’s often very narrow understanding of the community they are designing for is not enough to put together a place that can change the lives of a myriad of individuals and families throughout the city. I think designing housing is a great opportunity for architects to listen and interact with the people they are designing for and to engage with the wants and needs of the community.”
Panganiban’s career aspirations are rooted in a personal philosophy that good architecture and natural environments are a balm for emotional wellbeing and psychological health, and an affirmation for a sense of belonging. Architecture can help fulfill people, “and that’s a privilege not many other professions share.”
“There is certainly a long journey still ahead of me in this field, and the reality is that architecture is driven by the economics of the buildings and often not by the quality of the spaces,” he said. “However, my hope as an architect is that one day there will be an opportunity in my career for a middle ground: that the right client will come along that is just as fascinated with these ideas as I am and through impactful architecture, we will be able to contribute to the betterment of people’s lives and help make the world a more beautiful, belonging, and enriching place.”
View the work of the 2022 Jack and Marilyn Zuber Remembrance Award winners at https://cpp.conceptboard.com/board/k22m-f2tk-yrxq-o51q-eiig.