Affordable Housing Design Star has “The Floor”

Discussion with 17 year-old Winner

Affordable Housing Design Star has “The Floor”

Des Moines East High School and Central Academy student Joseph Bahnsen was awarded a $2,000 scholarship and top honors for an affordable home he designed. 

Q:  You will be graduating this month and going to ISU in the fall to study architecture – as a child, what were some early indications that you had a passion for architecture?  

A:  As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by buildings and just about every picture I drew included buildings. One of my earliest memories regarding the beauty of a building was our State Capitol.  I believe I was four years old and we were downtown for the 4th of July fireworks. What a backdrop. To this day I still think it is one of the most beautiful examples of architecture I have ever seen. 

Q:  What was your initial reaction to when you heard about the Affordable Housing Design Star competition?  

A:  I was in the process of completing a community design project for my CAD course at Central Academy.  This caught my attention because I knew it would require me to get much more personal and detailed. Having a family to design for, even a fictional one, made it especially challenging and meaningful.  It’s not something many young architects get to do. 

Q: Before this competition how often had you thought about the need for Affordable Housing in our communities – scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being never and 10 being almost always?

A:  I would have to say a 2 or 3.  I had a little awareness but no personal experience.  I have a sister and parents, so we are a family of four that has never lived in an apartment or a house so small that we needed to share a very limited space.  The challenge of designing an affordable, 1200 square foot house to accommodate not just the lot size and budget, but also the interests, hobbies and needs of a family of six was really eye-opening. 

Q:  What would you tell teachers and students about this competition if they are considering being part of it in the future?

A:  Without a doubt I would encourage it. There are several things beyond the obvious that made it cool for me.  For example, being up against students from across Polk County and seeing different abilities, ideas and programs – and of course talking to them and listening to their presentations was wonderful.  I also thought it was cool that business professionals invested their time in making this happen and visiting our classroom.  For example, Brent Schipper of ASK Studio and Creighton Cox of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Des Moines visited our classroom part way through the process.  Then during the presentations the judges gave their time, expertise, feedback and made us all feel important. 

Q:  Any last thoughts?

A:  I just want to thank all the people who made this competition possible.  I know it took a lot of work and volunteer hours. They showed that they believe in us and what we can do.  I believe it was a good investment.  We will be the architects of tomorrow.

The competition included submissions from 50+ students and presentations from seven finalists at the Pappajohn Center April 20. The competition was organized by ASK Studio and part of the PCHTF’s 2013 Affordable Housing Week activities.  


Click here for the News Release sharing the finalists and winners.  

Click here for the Press Release sharing the Design Competition details and fictional family. 

Click here for PHOTO Gallery.