This month, the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (AFSB) is holding its 30th annual architecture design competition for the county’s high school students. Ordinarily an in-person event, this year it is a take-home competition with a kick-off meeting on Zoom on March 11 at 4 p.m., and it ends at 4 p.m. on March 15 when designs will be uploaded for review by a panel of architects. Registration is free of charge using this link:

The competition was conceived back in the 1990s by architect David Goldstien, and he remains a driving force on the organizing team. It is organized by the AFSB and supported by sponsors and donors throughout Santa Barbara County. The competition requires high school students to create a hand-drawn solution to a design challenge. From its inception thirty years ago, the competition has always provided the student a rich experience that comes from holding a pencil, and imagining and illustrating an architectural structure or outdoor space. Over the years, many competitors have gone on to architecture schools in California and beyond, and many have returned to Santa Barbara County to pursue their careers as architects. Some of these ‘alumni’ serve as organizers of this competition today.

How Will the Competition Work?

For the competitors, the competition kicks-off on March 11 with a Zoom meeting. At that meeting, an architect will unveil and explain this year’s design program and site, and be available to answer questions. Competitors will then have until March 15 to draw a design solution that includes a site plan, floor plans, an elevation or section view, and an additional sketch invoking character. Competitors do not require drafting experience, just a curiosity about the built environment and a desire to imagine interesting spaces. During the competition, architect volunteers will be available by Zoom to answer questions. By 4:00pm on March 15, competitors will photograph or scan their drawings and email them to the AFSB ( website. Then, three architect volunteers (judges) will review those images via Zoom and together on March 16 select twelve finalists from the 40-50 participants expected. Those finalists will be contacted by AFSB and on March 20, each will have fifteen minutes to present and discuss their design via Zoom with a jury of two local architects and architectural educators plus two volunteers from the UK. Thanks to our Zoom format, the juried review will include Dr. Zeynep Zezer, a Turkish architect teaching design and architecture history at Newcastle University, and Dr. Tania Sengupta, an Indian architect who leads the History and Theory program at the Bartlett School of Architecture at the University College London. That jury will work together via Zoom to identity first, second, and third place winners, as well as two honorable mentions and will present the prizes to the winners that afternoon.  Each finalist will receive a cash prize.

To make this competition possible, the AFSB partners with the Santa Barbara Rotary Club, the Santa Ynez Valley Rotary Club and the Santa Barbara County Education Office Regional Occupation Program.

About AFSB

Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara. Enhancing our community’s appreciation of the built environment. Since 1983. We are located in the historic Acheson House at the corner of Garden and East Victoria Streets in Santa Barbara. Regular gallery hours are Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:00 pm and by appointment.