An Afternoon of Design|Access

Sugra Panvelwala

October 14, 2021

This year marks the 10th anniversary of AIACV’s annual Experience Architecture festival. Design|Access – in its fifth year running – has been part of the annual festival since 2017. I, along with Felicia Reyes, founded and developed this event based on the goal of creating a platform to annually showcase existing landmarks and new additions to the architectural landscape of the Central Valley region. Through architect-led tours and ‘behind-the-scenes’ access in some cases, attendees get an insight into the design of a variety of project types and enjoy a unique perspective on the profession. This is what I find exciting about Design|Access and it is also the reason for my continued contribution towards planning and organizing it.

Early this month I had the pleasure of touring several architectural projects as part of this years’ annual Design|Access event. The group of projects included a thoughtfully-built, affordable multi-family housing project in Roseville; two different carefully planned and creatively designed offices in midtown Sacramento; and a virtual tour of newly built student housing complex in Davis.

Main Street Plaza Apartments
My afternoon began with a tour of a new 65-unit apartment complex in Roseville by Mogavero Architects. As indicated on the Design|Access brochure, “Main Street Plaza is a mixed-use, affordable multi-family project located on an active corner in Roseville’s Old Town neighborhood, just northwest of downtown Roseville”.

The project also includes offices and 3,000 SF of retail. A walk through this housing project and conversation with the architect showcased the project’s thoughtful incorporation of its context and well-programmed interior.

Office of Studio W Architects
The next tour location was the newly completed midtown Sacramento office of Studio W Architects. Located on the north-west corner of H and 20th Street, the project involves a carefully crafted interior and exterior renovation of an existing property.

The tour allowed for an inside look at the open and inviting interior that will encourage collaboration and creative exchange. The building also happens to be right across the street from my last stop.

AIA California Headquarters
Last on my tour was the AIA California Headquarters (AIACA), completed by Dreyfuss + Blackford in 2020. This project involved reuse of a 1930’s building with tremendous character – concrete floors and exposed wood trusses. It was great to see the original brick interiors compliment the contemporary color palette and furnishings. Chris Holt from our office was on-hand to give tours too.

One thing that caught my eye was the compendium of AIACA meeting minutes (going back decades!) – available for perusal within the inviting and comfortable reading nook that forms part of the library and waiting area.

Shasta Hall Student Housing
The event also included a virtual tour option with a video. It showcased a new, 809-bed student housing complex at UC Davis, completed by DPR construction and HKS, Inc. (Video Tour link: It was great to learn about the efficient, pre-fabricated construction techniques and interior programming strategies incorporated by the team in this project.

This year’s event – like past events – provided a glimpse at the existing and ever-changing landscape of Sacramento region. Attending the event allows you to pause for an afternoon, observe, take in and reflect on your built environment, helping you to better understand the context that surrounds you.

In the past year and a half, Design|Access has grown and changed to cater to COVID-19 requirements by adapting an entirely virtual format in 2020, and then evolving into a hybrid model (virtual and in-person tours) in 2021. It has been great to have this program continue to be part of the Experience Architecture festival. This event would not be possible without the continued support of different firms, AIACV, and other participating individuals that have agreed to showcase their projects and host Design|Access tours. As an organizer and attendee, I am grateful for their participation and willingness to share their project stories and I look forward to Design|Access 2022!

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