Design for the Future

An interview with Blake Stephens

Blake Stephens, Architecture and Drafting Technology Department Chair at Saddleback College, has designed 2,200 buildings and taught 35,000 students to be architects of the future while addressing affordable housing issues in the state of California. We asked him to share his thoughts on the future of Southern California as we grapple with the challenges of keeping our communities intact and forming new ones in the face of climate change and ever-rising costs.

New and sustainable. When it comes to the future of architecture, I encourage my students to create a legacy that is situated comfortably between these two directions. Coastal Southern California may have great weather, however, as we move inland, the architecture has not been adapted to climate or context in the most efficient way. We need to be more sensitive to this as our globe experiences extreme temperatures. We also need to respect the solar path. Craftsmanship also needs to be elevated to last longer than 10 to 20 years. 

In Southern California, we are feeling a housing pinch because more than 50% of our homes are designed for the upper middle class, ignoring the needs for housing of single people and those of lower income levels.  The majority of families pay 50% or more towards their mortgage, which is an equation that does not foster community. Right now, many Southern Californians are priced out of the neighborhoods where they grew up. And the economics for student housing and lease housing need to be there so that valuable square footage is not sacrificed for 2.5 parking spaces that can, very often, fetch more income than the homes that could be built in that space.

 We have stepped back on housing for the mentally ill and new hospitals are scarce in Los Angeles.  There is also a scarcity of studios under 300 square feet for 1 or 2 people.

There is a need for housing for young families who may want something smaller than a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. We need a better mix of housing where cultural identity and communities thrive. In the 1980s, I worked on a successful mixed-use project, the Third Street promenade project in Santa Monica, and I am constantly emphasizing the success we experienced there with my students as they work on their projects.

As architects, we have a civic responsibility to form a diverse and sustainable community as we build.

As the Architecture and Drafting Technology Department Chair at Saddleback CollegeBlake Stephens manages 17 faculty members and class schedules for architecture, drafting technology, construction inspection and rapid digital manufacturing courses. Mr. Stephens was recently named the 2017-2018 Faculty Member of the Year by Saddleback College in honor of his contribution to the Saddleback College Veterans Education and Transition Services Program. He also serves on the Science and Math Building design review committee, Saddleback College Foundation Board, and as LEED AP advisor for the new college fitness center. Blake Stephens AIA is an award-winning architect with a specialty in residential practice. He has designed more than 220 custom homes in California in Bel Air, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, Redondo, Hermosa, Huntington, Laguna, Long, Manhattan and Newport Beaches.


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