Student Wins Prestigious Architecture Award

Most students use their first couple of years at the University of San Diego to explore their options, take different courses, and figure out where their passions lie. During their sophomore year, students usually declare a major, but for the most part are still getting accustomed to upper division courses.

Angela Vanella, who will be a junior in the fall, experienced things a little differently. Even before college, Vanella knew that she was intrigued by the concepts featured in architecture.

“I’ve always been interested in rethinking the layout of spaces,” Vanella said. “It’s really just something intuitive for me.”

Vanella who is from Temecula, just north of San Diego, wanted to stay close to her family after high school so she searched for architecture programs in San Diego when looking for a university to apply to. After finding out more information and seeing how successful the young architecture program at USD had been, along with the fact that university was a Catholic institution, Vanella knew that attending USD would be a perfect fit.

At first, “I came into the major a little unsure because I had no prior experience with the discipline,” Vanella said. But just after finishing her first upper-division architecture class during her sophomore year, Vanella took her completed project and applied for the 2013 Harriet Gill Award, presented by the Friends of San Diego Architecture. The award honors the late Gill and was created for students of architecture or related design who demonstrate creative and innovative design ability towards positive social impact.

Vanella’s project proposed a mass housing program for a site in Tijuana, Mexico. Through her design process, she experimented with different architectural characteristics and designed a functional apartment complex that closely followed the contours of the Mexican terrain around her specific site.

Vanella’s design creates a living space that residents can identify with and offers personal patio spaces that “accommodate the possibility of using units as markets or community gathering places.” Her innovative design led to the 19-year-old Vanella being the youngest recipient and first student from USD to receive this prestigious award and the $1,000 prize.

Winning was “surreal [and] it’s such an honor,” said Vanella (pictured with Gill’s daughter, Emmy Garnica). She still believes that she has a lot to learn but the Friends of San Diego Architecture said her process and narration of her work stood out. ”I have the theoretical basis of USD’s architecture program to thank for that!”

This summer she will travel to Cambridge, Mass. where she was accepted into a prestigious six-week Harvard Career Discovery Program.