April 19, 2023

San Diego Mesa College Student, Renee Smaldino, wins first place with her team in the International Interior Design Association Student Charrette Competition

By Office of Communications

Renee Smaldino

San Diego Mesa College student, Renee Smaldino, competed in the International Interior Design Association Southern California Chapter Student Design Charrette on March 11 at the HLW International Office in Santa Monica. Renee was nominated by Mesa College for a chance to win cash awards and move on to the Regional Student Charrette Competition in Arizona.

Renee was placed into a team with three other students from different colleges, making her the only Mesa College student. The team placed first, moved on to the Regional Competition, won first place, and was awarded $10,000 dollars. The team will be honored on May 12 at the Calibre Design Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

According to IIDA SoCal (, “Twenty-eight students were divided randomly into 6 teams and challenged to design a new Headquarters for the Mental Health America of Los Angeles in an existing adaptive reuse building – The Dairy – in South LA. They were asked to fulfill a long list of intricate program requirements that considered structural constraints and the connection to the surrounding community. Designs should also consider the culture and mission of the MHALA.”

The teams had to organize and depict a design for an adhesive concept in just 4.5 hours. A third way through the challenge, a twist was added to make the competition more intense. They included a former undisclosed component into their design.

Read more at IIDA SoCal (


Renee reflects on the concept that her and her team came up with that resulted in them winning the competition:

“My group and I focused heavily on keeping consistency on the design and concept. Our concept statement was rooted in inclusivity, fluidity and diversity. We wanted our design to reflect the community while also offering solace to those who were entering the building to utilize the mental health services. We were inspired by the local landscape of Los Angeles, specifically the Los Angeles River, with all of its fauna and flora and its unique ability to be in constant flux. We developed a reflected ceiling plan that highlighted the winding curves of the river and our material selection encompassed all native plants such as Blue Yarrow and Sage and highlighted local sculpture artists. We added a seed bank at the front desk so that anyone seeking mental health can take a native plant home and tend to it. We believe that our existence is ultimately rooted in taking care of ourselves and others which was integral to our design approach because we did not want the integration of care to end when the patient left their therapy session.”


About the Mesa College Interior Design Program

The Interior Design program at Mesa College offers a comprehensive curriculum to prepare you for your Interior Design Certification and career in interior design. With an introduction to space planning, elements and principles of design, and the history of interior design and architecture, you will learn how to create unique design solutions that foster productivity and wellness. From custom millwork and lighting design to residential and commercial interiors, you will learn to apply critical analysis, knowledge of building codes and standards, color theory and material, and finish selection to a broad range of projects. Design courses emphasize hand-drawing, hand-drafting, and model-making, and utilize industry-standard software, including computer aided design (CAD) and 3D modeling, which will help you effectively communicate your design solutions to clients.

 To enroll,


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