Design Village

For more information about registration and a look at past year's entries, visit the Design Village website at 

Questions? Email,, or the Faculty Advisor Dale Clifford at

What is Design Village?

As currently the only truly-native competition hosted by Cal Poly's prestigious undergraduate Architecture program, the Design Village competition has a long history and has become one of the most anticipated events of the year for the College of Architecture & Environmental Design (CAED). True to our "hand's on" experience, competitors design and build "shelters" in which said competitors inhabit their respective structures throughout the entirety of the weekend of Cal Poly's own Open House.

In addition to being the primary event for CAED during Open House, it has been opened to the public; to see the spectacle that it creates, tours are arranged by the CAED to allow for a shuttle ride all the way from Building 05 to the Poly Canyon specified area.

Design Village 2017 - Essence

Design Village 2017April 7-9, 2017 in Cal Poly Canyon

ESSENCE focuses on developing one central idea which is manifested in the project from part to whole. Competitors are challenged to experiment wih a core idea and focus on an essential quality of their design - light, material, space, or other theme of their choice.

For images from this year's event, visit


Check out this great video by ARCH first year student Ali Harwood of their group's 2017 Design Village entry from concept to completion!


2016: AURA

AURA Design Village 2016Cal Poly’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design invited students of all disciplines to participate in this year’s Design Village Competition. Exemplifying Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” philosophy, competitors were challenged to design, build, and inhabit temporary structures within Cal Poly’s outdoor Experimental Structures Lab, located in Poly Canyon.

This year’s theme, Aura, explored the metaphysical properties of designed space. Since the essential nature of any work of architecture always transcends its material and tectonic qualities, Aura underscores this distinction by invoking the idea of an immaterial essence to architecture. Competitors were challenged to orchestrate the material and tectonic nature of their designs so that they produce a transcendent and immaterial effect – a phenomenon, atmosphere, or idea that becomes the fundamental architectural experience, and which cannot be sufficiently described through only an objective description of the design’s physical qualities. Aura is the manifestation of the spirit of their designs – that which is generated by, surrounds, and ultimately becomes the project.

Cal Poly's Design Village: Behind the scenes from the SLO Tribune, 4/14/16


For more information and a look at past year's entries, visit the Design Village website at

Here are some videos highlighting the 2016 event!

2015: Clockwork

In 2015 the theme Clockwork highlighted the dramatic complexity of a complicated but precise system that relies on various integrated components. Beyond the attention to precise mechanical detail implied by the title, Clockwork explored the changing perceptions of time and space and the dialogue between organic systems and the technological ones developed to situate humanity within the environment. Clockwork invited participants to consider these ideas as they design, construct and inhabit temporary structures in the natural environment of Poly Canyon.

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2014: Biologics

In 2014 the Design Village theme was Biologics, which came from the increased focus on the natural environment as a source of new ideas and applications. Elements of nature surpass human constructs in both their range of application and their diversity, offering examples that are different from and sometimes preferable to those derived from human logic. We therefore challenged competitors to think creatively about the intersection of natural and human logic in order to discover new and innovative applications within the realm of architecture.

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2013: Make. Move. Play.

Design Village 2013In 2013 the Design Village theme was Make. Move. Play. This theme derived from the desire to return to a state of mind fueled by imagination and wonder. So easily do designers forget why they do what they do or temporarily lose sight of this quality of life that the profession often inspires. We challenged competitors to consciously be aware fo the process of making, moving, and playing once more and be inspired by everything. With this in mind, perhaps we might build a village community that is not only practical but also whimsical and lovely.

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2012: Metamorphosis

In 2012 the Design Village theme was Metamorphosis, which was based on the increasing need for adaptable architecture and flexibility in design. Each entry was required to morph into three different phases. In phase one, “shelter,” the structure had to house the team. In phase two, “engage,” it had to interact with other Design Village neighbors. In phase three, “afterlife,” it had to benefit the team’s hometown community.

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2011: Social Parametrics

Social parametrics defined the 2011 Design Village by requiring that each structure incorporate at least two physical connections to other structures on the competition grounds. To reinforce the idea of network building, each team had to consider the quality of the interstitial spaces that emerged within this temporary community. In the construction of structures informed by the concept of social parametrics, teams took cues from the canyon site and from the unknown environment presented by other teams and their structures. The exquisite corpse formed by the network of linked structures became a physical manifestation of the socially networked present and its ability to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

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2010: Landfill Luxury 

During the Great Depression, Central Park became a city of lean-tos and shacks, occupied by the populous that had been ejected from their homes due to their inability to pay rent. Shelters were thrown together with whatever they could find, re-used materials and some pirated (stolen) products. While they discouraged the theft of anything used in your structures, in 2010 Design Village based a large portion of the judging on the criteria of re-used materials, requiring no more than 20% of the materials used actually having been purchases, which means the teams had to scavenge for those materials that made up the other 80%.

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More Information

Design Village website:
Official Rules:!rules/c11dj
Email Contact:,, or the Faculty advisor Dale Clifford at


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