Design Village 2016: inTENTse

“You have three weeks to design and construct a structure for you and four other people to sleep in for a night outside.”

That’s what our professors told us at the start of winter quarter. It was time for the biggest project of our freshman year architecture studio: Design Village.

I saw Design Village last year at Cal Poly's Open House but this year I got to participate in it.
Design Village is an annual event put on by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design during Open House in which teams of students sleep in projects they designed and constructed in Poly Canyon. The event has two parts, the official competition which is open to any group of college or community college students and the first year architecture studio project which is required for every first year Architecture and Architectural Engineering major.

I worked with four other girls and we started by analyzing the site. We looked at the slope of the hill and the direction of the sun and wind. 


Using study models and drawings, we developed a design that would use steel beams to support hammocks. Once we finalized our design, we modeled the structure in a computer drafting software called Rhino, prepared construction documents for our professors to review, and got started on construction.

Our main projects were to drill holes in the steel beams to bolt them together and to weld the axles for the wheels on. We drilled a lot of holes so that the structure could be adjusted to the slope more accurately. We set up pieces of it a few times to be sure it would work and support our weight.

Finally, it was the morning of install day. We transported our project into Poly Canyon. Four of us wheeled the steel beams and one of us carried a backpack with the other tools and supplies we needed. When we got to the canyon, we set up our project and although we had a few challenges along the way, we got it up fairly quickly and were able to enjoy the day. 

We spent the night in our structure and it held up perfectly. It was a memorable experience and definitely a highlight of our first year studio experience. In a few years when we’re all architects and engineers, we’ll look back on this project as our first real taste of designing and building a space to dwell in and remember that bittersweet feeling as the sun rose and you realized that your project stood up all night but that the project was over. All that was left was to lug it back down the hill.
This project was a once in a lifetime opportunity and definitely a dream come true.

The biggest lesson I learned: I learned more of what I don't know. I had no idea how to figure out what type of steel would support all five of us in this configuration and if it was going to fall down in the middle of the night or not, but with the help of my teammates and our professors, our project worked out. I'm learning how to identify what I don't know and who to ask to find those answers.

One thing I wish I did differently: I wish I had stuck around in the afternoon to talk to more people about my project. We all kind of abandoned it after set-up to shower and eat lunch before returning in the evening, but I wish I would've stayed there a little longer to talk to people who came by to see the projects.

My best advice for future design villagers: Trust your design instincts. Pick a team you'll get along with. Finish your project. The most disappointing thing is to put all this work in and then not get to live in your project. Focus on the big structure first so you'll have something to sleep in and worry about the details later because this is a really fast project. Don't just copy another project you've seen somewhere else, but be sure it'll work at some level. Oh, and rent a GoPro if you don't already have one. They're tons of fun. We made a time lapse of our project set-up and it was super cool.

 If walls could dream... they'd dream of spending a night in Poly Canyon.