Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara

By Zach Rosen   |   February 6, 2020

The architecture of a city tells of its past, present, and future. The buildings and homes that construct a town speak of the area’s materials, design influences, history, and culture. And in this area, the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (AFSB) has made it their mission to share the stories that this region’s architecture has to tell. With walking tours, school outreach programs, and art exhibits, the AFSB explores the historical buildings of the area while showcasing modern art and introducing architecture to the next generations. Naturally, the AFSB is housed in one of the area’s historic structures. The AFSB was founded in 1983 and moved to their current location in the Acheson House in 1990. The house, located on the corner of Garden and Victoria, is in the Victorian Italianate residential design and was built in 1904. The house went through an extensive restoration in 2012 that reintroduced a historical color scheme in addition to the repairs.

For 30 years, the AFSB has been leading walking tours through the architectural gems of downtown Santa Barbara. They now give two different tours each weekend from 10 am to 12 pm. On Saturdays, docent guides give the El Paseo tour which takes guests to sites like the Lobero Theatre, Casa de la Guerra, and the Santa Barbara Recreation Center. The La Arcada is held on Sundays and explores such structures as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Granada Theatre, and La Arcada with a focus on Santa Barbara architecture after the 1925 earthquake. These tours remain as popular as ever and help introduce the history and architecture of the area to both locals and tourists.

Education is another focal point of the organization and the AFSB offers a range of programs to students of all ages. Each year the AFSB hosts a design competition for high school students. Over the years these competitions have tested students with design challenges from residencies of different scales and functionalities to more public spaces like last year’s focus on the State Street Paseo System. This year the competition will be held on March 10 at two locations. The students do not know what they will be designing beforehand and enter to an intensive all-day charrette where they draft the surprise design challenge in the medium of their choice. After the finished work is judged by a panel of architects, twelve finalists are invited to a juried review where the winners are selected. In addition to the cash prizes of this competition, the AFSB has been providing scholarships since 1983 with a total $1,300,000 awarded to date.

For 20 years the AFSB has operated the Kids Draw Architecture (KDA) program each spring. This hands-on program brings together volunteer architects and artists with children for free sketch sessions at the area’s architecturally relevant locations. Each year the best sketches are chosen to be featured in an official KDA calendar that is released at an annual year-end KDA Show and reception at the Acheson House. During the summer, the AFSB in partnership with Kidz Engineering 101hosts a summer camp at their facilities. This program incorporates LEGOs and actual building materials into architecture and engineering principles into a program for students from the second to ninth grade. The Built Environment Education Program (BEEP) introduces elementary school children to architectural programming and design processes as volunteer architects teach these students about scale, space planning, and environmental considerations during a five-week program. Students learn how to draw, measure, and build while they create an imagined environment for their final project.

Visit for more information on hours and the AFSB walking tours and programs.


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