Staff Report

Forty-three students from nine high schools competed in an almost eight-hour architectural design event when the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara held its annual High School Design Competition on March 13 at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

The competition devised by program organizers required students to design a new fire station in a fictional Southern California city. Each student produced a site plan, floor plan, elevation and an additional drawing of their choice.

Vivian Zhan, 12, of Dunn School was the overall winner after the top 12 designers were chosen to come back as finalists on March 17 at The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in Solvang. There the finalists presented their work to a panel of four judges. This professional tradition in architecture provides students with an additional educational experience.

The finalists won a combined $1,200 in prize money donated by the Architectural Foundation. They were:

  • First place – Vivian Zhan, Dunn, 12
  • Second place – Sullivan Israel, Laguna Blanca, 11
  • Third place – Lucy Cao, Laguna Blanca, 10
  • Honorable Mention – Blanca Diaz, St. Joseph, 12
  • Honorable Mention – Theo Soderman, Dos Pueblos, 11

The competition began in the 1990s, founded by Solvang architect David Goldstien and his wife Linda, to introduce students to the importance of design in the built environment and expose them to the architecture profession.

Several past competitors have gone on to study architecture in college and become practicing architects, including one of the Architectural Foundation’s members, Jake Niksto, who won the competition in 2000 and is now working in Santa Barbara.

Key sponsors of the design competition are the Santa Ynez Valley Rotary Club and the Santa Barbara County Education Office. For more information, send email to