We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the 1st prize winners of our "Vancouver Affordable Housing Challenge" competition – Xian Chris Li, Elitsa Vutova and Nadthachai Kongkhajornkidsuk from United States!

1st prize winners from United States

Chris, Nadthachai, and Elitsa are friends that met while studying at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

Xian Chris Li

A designer based in Los Angeles, Chris maintains that the built environment can celebrate human experiences as the backdrop for vibrant and proud communities. His international background - including formative years spent in Vancouver - has made him particularly attuned to cities’ needs for sustainable growth and positive designs that are accessible to groups of all social, economic, and cultural backgrounds.

Nadthachai Kongkhajornkidsuk

Nadthachai Kongkhajornkidsuk is a designer who grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. He recently graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a Bachelor of Architecture, and is currently working for The Cohousing Company, in Nevada City, California. His interest in architecture, especially in community design, is long-standing and truly started to flourish when he began pursuing his senior design thesis, which focused on housing as an everyday space and its social ability to create collectivity within a community. He truly believes that consciously designed housing not only can provide shelter for its dweller, but also can foster growth in their connections with others and community as a whole. Through his work, he strives to grow as a prosocial architectural designer, who uses his knowledge and experience to provide architecture that advocates social equity and human connections.

Elitsa Vutova

Elitsa is a recent UCLA graduate with a Masters in Earthquake/Structural Engineering. Her undergraduate experience at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Architectural Engineering program and architecture minor exposed her to design thinking. Through her classes and friendships, she has maintained her passion for design and its impacts. Although math and calculations are still top in her professional goals, she hopes to continue to participate in architectural competitions, honing her communication skills with architects and furthering her flexibility in her structural engineering.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/ individuals have been involved?

Xian Chris Li 

At CannonDesign, Chris has worked on a variety of educational and healthcare projects within California, spanning from Napa County to Santa Monica. His experience in design ranges in scale from construction detailing to site and master planning. Most recently, Chris is helping design and deliver a large-scale skilled nursing facility for veterans.

Nadthachai Kongkhajornkidsuk

In his professional career at The Cohousing Company, Nadthachai has worked on designing new cohousing communities in the United States, as well as assisting his firm’s principal in facilitating participatory design workshops with the future residents. He also has experience in affordable housing and childcare design.

Elitsa Vutova

In her professional career, Elitsa has worked on mainly healthcare and education projects at Buehler Engineering. She is currently working with the City of Alameda on a grant proposal to seismically retrofit the remaining soft-stories in the building.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

Architecture is a social act. By defining and creating spaces for people to inhabit and occupy, architecture can provide a sense of belonging, empathy, and empowerment that can be experienced physically and emotionally. As a result, we believe that good architecture is a product of conscious design that meticulously considers every aspect of those spaces to improve not just the quality of people’s lives individually, but also promote social equality, sustainability, and resilience of a community. An architect should not only advocate for these principles, but also help interface, coordinate and balance the goals of their community using their technical knowledge of the built environment.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

We participate in architecture competitions to improve our design knowledge and to challenge our ways of thinking. Through the speculative lens in which we propose solutions to a competition prompt, we often discover new ways of practicing that we tend to oversee. Combining this with exposure to real world project delivery, we’ve always learnt something new that we carry with us into future pursuits.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions?

Do it (, just do it)! It may be stressful and it may take some all-nighters, but all the challenges help you develop both professionally and personally. The freedom of creativity you are exposed to, not only from yourselves, but from other project teams across the world, can really push you to stretch your design muscles to their limits!

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