SMC design students on top with first place prize in design competition

Dreams came true April 2 for two Santa Monica College students. For the first time ever, SMC's Interior Architecture Design Program took home first place in the annual American Institute of Architects / Los Angeles Interior Architecture 2005 Design Competition, beating out 18 other two- and four-year schools.
James Butterly and Carlos Munoz, two students in the architecture program at SMC, sat behind the drawing boards that created the award-winning masterpiece that pleasantly stunned colleges and industry professionals all around Southern California.
Butterly was approached by Denise Travis, a professor from the Department of Design Technology, to pick someone he would feel comfortable working with in the competition.
"I wanted to pick someone who had similar ideas. I didn't want to fight with someone new over carpet samples and layouts - there's no time for that during the competition, which is why I picked Carlos," said Butterly. "On past class assignments we've worked together on we've had the same color schemes and similar color palettes. We just worked well together."
Both Butterly and Munoz made the early morning trip for the one-day industry-juried competition. Upon arriving, each team is informed that they are given six hours, beginning at 9 a.m., to produce the required piece.
This year's theme was to create a commercial space of 6000 square feet on the 3rd Street Promenade for the median ages of 21 to 28 that would double as a secret government recruiting site for the CIA.
Munoz spoke about his mind state during the six hours of creativity, "I wasn't thinking of winning. There's no time for that! I was just thinking on how to solve the problem at hand," he said.
The award-winning board that Butterly and Munoz created involved two distinct aspects. The first story, inspired by an ocean wave, is a modern, sleek bar with keypads and cryptic codes that operate the elevator leading those who can decipher the code to the second level of the bar - the recruiting office for the CIA.
The name they both decided on for the board Butterly said was, "'Cipher Bar,' because of all the codes you would have to decipher to reach the second-level recruiting offices."
At 3:30 p.m. the teams were informed that their time was up and that they must submit their boards. The students were then bused to the new Cal-Trans building and the judging began on the student boards, unknown to the students.
"While we were on the bus driving to the Cal-Trans building I kept going over what I could have done better or could have changed, but then I realized that it didn't matter because I had such a great time doing the project," said Munoz talking about the contest.
Once the students returned from the tour of the Cal-Trans building, the top six boards were picked and the student pairs were asked to present them to the judges.
"It was quite funny because I told Carlos to throw a blazer in the trunk of the car just in case we were asked to present, but when we were actually picked we unknowingly had the same color blazer and sunglasses. We looked like official CIA agents-sort of like men in black," said Butterly. As the presentations came to an end, the room fell to a thick silence.
"When the judges announced that SMC won first place the faces on all the other schools dropped into complete shock," said Butterly.
Munoz and Butterly were awarded $5,000 each, with the second place winners from CSU Long Beach given $6,000 total and the third place winners from Sci Arc awarded $4,000 total.
"It was truly amazing - I mean we beat out some of the top universities and schools. Woodbury University, CSU Long Beach, Design Institute of San Diego and Sci Arc are top schools and for Santa Monica College to beat them is inspiring," said Munoz.
Butterly also found other opportunities at the event. He said, "This was great networking for me. I received a lot of business cards from several industry professionals telling me that when I finish my program to look them up."
Travis felt that the school gained, too. As he said, "Winning this award is a big thing for the college because it shows that SMC is just as good as any four-year university."
Although Munoz and Butterly are in the process of completing their studies they are adamant about returning next year to help mentor the next team throughout the process of the competition.
"This was the first competition both Carlos and I have done, so we really didn't know what to expect. We want to help the next team in any way possible," said Butterly.
For those interested in the awarding-winning "Cipher Bar," it is available for viewing on the second floor of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology campus, located at 1600 Stewart Street.
"This puts SMC on the map. It's hard to finish the architecture program in a timely manner due to the lack of computers, equipment, classes and money available," said Munoz. "Maybe with this achievement people will see the potential of Santa Monica College."