Architecture Students Redesign Local Homeless Shelter

Students recently presented the results of their semester-long project.

Architecture StudentsDECEMBER 11, 2013 -- Often called the forgotten population, homeless individuals and families in Santa Maria were given a voice last week through the Allan Hancock College architecture program.  Students presented the results of their semester-long work to develop an expanded homeless shelter as part of a design course offered for the first time this fall.

Architecture instructor Saad Sadig challenged students in his Architecture 151 class with redesigning the Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria.  Sadig became aware of the shelter’s needs when one of his former students lived in the shelter for six months.  Students visited the facility and spoke with volunteers and clients about the shortfalls of the homeless shelter’s design. 

“We spent a lot of time visiting with volunteers and clients at the shelter,” said architecture student Aryel Alcaraz.  “We wanted to give the clients more privacy, more space, as well as create areas so people had more flexibility to do their jobs.”

After weeks of research and design, Alcaraz and his partner Daniel Pena (shown above from left to right), along with 10 other classmates unveiled their redesign projects last Friday.  Hancock Superintendent/ President Kevin Walthers, Santa Maria City Councilman Jack Boysen and Sylvia Barnard, Good Samaritan’s executive director, were among the invited guests to see and learn about the six designs.

“The students’ work is amazing.  It’s great to see them address a real problem in the community and come up with innovative ways to solve it,” said Boysen, who commended the students and Sadig for showing the importance of project-based learning.  “These are the types of programs and projects the community needs to endorse and encourage because they are trying to solve actual societal problems,” Boysen added.

“I’m so happy with their work,” said Sadig about his students.  “They learned the homeless population in Santa Maria includes families and children.  They witnessed capacity and design issues at the shelter.  Most importantly, they wanted to help the situation and learn in the process,” he added.

Alcaraz and Pena described their redesign as modern and flexible.  They designed a three-story, 50,000 square foot building to increase the clients’ quality of life and the staff’s ability to provide services.  “We added more beds and created work spaces to help people get back on their feet,” said Alcaraz.  They included a computer lab, an atrium with a playground and a space with tables on the first floor to serve as an afterschool program for children.

“I absolutely love the computer room and daycare area in their design,” said Barnard, who added the number of beds at Good Samaritan has jumped from 28 to 400 since she joined 16 years ago.  “I’m so inspired by all of these students for understanding there’s such a need for our services in Santa Maria and wanting to help,” she said.

While Alcaraz and Pena designed the work space areas on their ground floor, Pedro Ornelas and Eddie Perez sketched theirs on the third story.  “We wanted our job search and work space areas to be symbolic.  So we put ours on the third story so people walked upstairs and felt their spirits and optimism rise at the same time,” said Ornelas.

Ornelas and Perez also focused on the shelter’s detox center, which is where people receive treatment for withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol.  “We designed four more rooms and added space in the detox center to help everyone feel more comfortable in their time of need,” said Ornelas.

Anthony Wentz designed a three-story building to increase capacity, function and resources at Good Samaritan.  “I love this project because it has real-world application.  It’s not an imaginary problem.  We are solving an actual issue at an actual site to benefit actual people,” said Wentz.

After the success of his first design lab, Sadig plans to assign more community-based learning projects to his students.  One possible assignment for his next class is a mixed-use project for an actual site in Santa Maria.  Students would design a building with retail space on the ground floor, offices on the second floor and apartments on the third floor.  

“I’m very happy with the work all of the students did this semester.  I can’t wait to see what future students come up with down the road,” said Sadig, who will teach ARCH 152, an advanced design studio course, in the spring.  Registration is now under way.  Classes begin the week of January 21, 2014.  Go to for details.

- AHC -

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Last Modified Jun 30, 2017