Brianna Luce and Devin Graham win Rebuilding Home Student Design Competition and $2,500 for skilled nursing home plan

Four Cuesta College architecture students from San Luis Obispo were honored in a national student design contest — including two whose proposal for a skilled nursing facility was judged best in the nation among two- and four-year college and university students.

Brianna Luce, 23, and Devin Graham, 21, won the Rebuilding Home Student Design Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architecture Students and the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments.

Their entry, “Evergreen: A Sustainable Community Promoting Successful Aging for the Elderly,” netted the duo $2,500 and bested entries from students at such schools as the University of Oklahoma, University of Cincinnati, University of Wisconsin and the University of Oregon. The pair made a presentation about their project on March 20 at the Environments for Aging Conference in Atlanta.

Jessica Esteban and Joseph Ariente, both 22, also of San Luis Obispo received an honorable mention for their entry and a prize of $250.

The students were part of architecture instructor David Fernandez’s architecture design fundamental class that entered the competition as a class project.

“What does this mean to the program?” Fernandez said. “It’s up there. It’s says a lot about what we do here at Cuesta. It’s quite an honor. I’m super proud of these guys.”

While the contest was announced last November, his students had only about five weeks to do research and come up with a design, build a model and produce renderings before the March 5 deadline. They were asked to design a 50,000-square-foot nursing facility for 60 people that included passive solar heating and cooling systems to deal with the hot, humid weather found in Ocoee, a city of 25,000 in central Florida.

“We had to make it feel like a home rather than an institution,” said Graham, who in 2008 moved from Clovis attracted by Cuesta’s architecture program. “We wanted to create spaces that they could use in a more life-fulfilling way rather than to just get stuck in a room by themselves.”

“So we focused a lot on interiors and making the daily lives of the residents better,” added Luce, who moved from Paradise, Calif., to attend Cuesta two years ago.

Their design included four specific areas. The Town, or the public area, is “a destination space,” Luce said. The residential area, called The Households, was sectioned into four pods, each serving 15 residents. Community Support included dining rooms, the main kitchen and maintenance. The cluster of administrative offices was dubbed the Business Establishment.

“The building is shaped like a V,” she said. “The ends and center is common space. So when you walk down a hallway you’ve got this big, open nice space to one side and doors to the other — not just a long corridor of doors.”

The pair, who tend to finish each other’s sentences when talking about their project, each logged more than 70 hours in the week before the entry deadline, including one day where they slept only an hour.

But it was worth it, they agreed.

“You joke around about it, but you don’t know,” said Luce, who has been accepted to UC Berkeley and California College of the Arts and is awaiting word from Cal Poly. “We were really stoked about what we did with this building. I think we both really loved this project. I still love it.”

Released March 29, 2011