CPP students among top 50 architecture undergrad winners in North America

by Coco Chica, March 4, 2021

Metropolis magazine’s Future 100 list named three Cal Poly Pomona students. The list recognizes 50 interior design and 50 architecture students, both undergraduate and graduate, nominated by mentors for outstanding leadership, design and advocacy for equity and inclusion.

The winners’ works are posted on the Metropolis website and appeared in the magazine’s March/April issue.

Selected from a diverse pool of nearly 300 candidates, Henry Chu is one of the representing Cal Poly Pomona; Chu was recognized among students from other giants including Harvard, Columbia and Rice University.

Chu is a fifth-year architecture student and the president of CPP’s National Organization of Minority Architecture Students. Before ever imagining receiving this award, Chu was involved in the structural stone-industry back in Xiamen, China. According to Chu, the stone-industry handles raw stones from all over the world that would be for processed and then redistributed to companies.

Chu never saw architecture for what it really was and how it could aid the community and its people until he moved back to America and decided to pursue a degree in the field.

“I always had an interest for architecture and saw it as just an interesting field to explore and be surrounded by as I worked in a similar industry as this,” said Chu. “When I moved back to America, I had some down time and decided to enroll in community college for architecture and transfer to Cal Poly Pomona to further pursue a degree in the field.”

The nomination that awarded Chu this national recognition is thanks to Professor Wendy Gilmartin, who saw the hard work and dedication Chu was putting into the course and wrote his letter of recommendation for his entry into the contest.

“A big part of our success is due to all the staff and faculty, and they have shown tremendous support throughout the year by helping us. We have staff that will show up at six in the morning and leave at 10 at night. They don’t have to do that. This is all in their own time,” said Chu.

Cal Poly Pomona is the only university in Metropolis’ Future 100 list with more than two winners, making this not only just an individual achievement for the selected students but also a recognition to the school’s program and staff.

Airene Dizon, a fifth-year architecture student and vice president of NOMAS, was also awarded a recognition. Dizon recalled the support and motivation she received from her family back home that ultimately inspired her to pursue a career in architecture leading her to the top 50 list for Metropolis this year.

“When I was little my grandfather taught me to draw, and I always had an interest toward home renovation shows on television,” said Dizon.

Dizon was born in Manila, Philippines and moved to America at the age of 14 where her interest in architecture started to bloom as she was introduced to a new metropolis in the City of Los Angeles.

“Every time I would pass by nice houses, I would get jealous since where I’m from buildings are not that nice. It created a sense of jealousy that I later on turned into inspiration that makes me the student and leader that I am today,” said Dizon.

Dizon was nominated by Sarah Tolenzen, a registered architect and professor of ARC 403L Education Topic Studio in the architecture department.

According to Dizon, Tolenzen is aware of other student architects and their passion for the craft as she teaches them to consider the people who they are designing for.

“I’ve always known I’ve wanted to design for the people. That interest exponentially grew when I took that class with her,” said Dizon. “She was able to incorporate an artistic side of architecture and how certain designs affect the people about how they live and how they maneuver with the design.”

The recognition comes as a validation of the hard work, dedication and advocacy these students have been implementing into their projects and designs with the help of their community and faculty on campus. This award comes just before hiring season approaches, but architecture student, Sophia Le, is using the recognition as a push for their new academic aspirations.

Sophia Le, a fifth-year architecture student, will be pursuing a master’s in architecture at Columbia University where she hopes to reach her goal. Her nomination for the Metropolis Future 100 list came from Achille Michellizzi, an Italian architect studio professor at Cal State University in Firenze, where Le traveled for her study abroad program last year prior to the pandemic.

“He saw my dedication towards designing and creating a safe space for people, whether that was a home, a library, a public space. He always pushed me to use the resources surrounding me there and push myself outside of the limited knowledge of architecture we have when studying in America,” said Le.

Her submission was inspired by single parent homes she grew up in with a focus on alleviating mental illness with intentional design.

“The relationships architecture students have with their faculty are really special since we spend so much time with them learning and being helped by them. Coming from a school like CPP, it humbles you to have such an amazing faculty that can push their students so much and help students like me and Henry, as well as Airene, to reach these awards,” said Le.

For more information about the Metropolis Future 100 list, visit https://info.metropolismag.com/future100

Feature image courtesy of Ryan Ancill. 

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