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July 18, 2018

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High schoolers tackle Raiders stadium parking problem

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Chris Kudialis

Southeast Career and Technical Academy seniors Deangelo Mortel, 17, Renae Sebastian, 18, and Spencer Ossa, 17, stand with local architects at the AIA Las Vegas High School Design Awards on April 18. The students were awarded $500 for their project, Radiant.

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Radiant, a project that includes a parking garage and retail space across Las Vegas Boulevard, was designed by high school students to keep Las Vegas Raiders fans around the stadium before, during and after the team’s games.

It’s a puzzle that government officials and professionals in the architecture and engineering fields are trying to solve: gameday parking at the future site of the Las Vegas Raiders stadium.

Local high schoolers may have the solution.

Almost three dozen Las Vegas Valley junior and senior students—tasked with designing a parking facility at the stadium site—were honored April 18 at UNLV’s School of Architecture for the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ High School Design Awards. The 45th-annual awards included more than $2,000 in prize money distributed among five award winners.

“We try to make this as relevant and interesting as possible,” said Ryan Sisti, the awards show’s chairman, who came up with the task this year. “Complicated or not, we want the students to be passionate about the project they’re working on.”

High school architecture students in the competition had about two months to craft a full proposal project, including a name, description and graphic rendering of the structures adjacent to and across the street from the future football stadium. Entrants could be from architecture or specialized art classes at any high school in Southern Nevada, not just public schools in the Clark County School District. Prizes were given in both team and individual categories.

Smiling with a certificate in hand and $500 promised in prize money, Southeast Career and Technical Academy seniors Renae Sebastian, 18, Deangelo Mortel, 17, and Spencer Ossa, 17, posed for pictures with teacher Rosemary Czar. The trio of students represented a team of 10 Southeast Tech students that worked each day for almost two months to design Radiant, a project that included a parking garage and retail space across Las Vegas Boulevard to keep Las Vegas Raiders fans around the stadium before, during and after the team’s games.

The Southeast Tech team credited its project’s success in part to clear renderings and graphic design produced by Adobe Photoshop, a program team members learned on the fly while creating their project. Radiant came just one year after the now-senior trio said they tried, but failed, to submit an adequate project for last year’s High School Design Awards.

“It felt great to win this year,” Ossa said. “I think last year we were just feeling out the waters and seeing how the competition is.”

“They have worked so hard for this,” added Czar, the Southeast Tech architecture teacher. “They went above and beyond and really earned it.”

Northwest Career and Technical Academy junior Genesis Villar, 17, worked for just one month on her project, but used after-school hours and weekends to design 17 graphics for her parking facility. The extra time and hard work earned Villar $1,000 and the competition’s honor award—the highest individual prize of the evening.

Villar, who took architecture class as “something fun on the side,” said she aspires to be a computer engineer.

“There’s always the chance that something goes wrong with a project this big, but I thought everything came out really well,” she said. “I wasn’t sure at first if I would win, but this is an amazing feeling.”

Sisti, who works for the Las Vegas branch of San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler, said the sheer challenge of this year’s project—compared with last year’s task of developing the land on the former site of the Riviera resort—resulted in fewer submitted entries for the awards than previous years. About 35 entries were submitted in 2018, down from as many as 200 at the awards show’s peak several years ago.

Mike Del Gatto, now a professional architect in Southern Nevada with Carpenter Sellers Del Gatto Architects, won an AIA High School Design award in 1992, and continues to mentor participants in the program.

Del Gatto, who graduated from Valley High School before studying at UNLV’s School of Architecture, said winning his award in high school was “instrumental” in fueling his passion for a career in architecture, and the profession has allowed him to learn about different clients’ businesses and touch lives through designing and constructing buildings.

“The places where we eat, sleep, work and play have a big impact on our mood, how we interpret things and our quality of life,” Del Gatto said.

UNLV landscape architecture professor Danny Ortega said some of the competition participants will be future UNLV School of Architecture students and community leaders. He hopes the awards show was just the beginning of a successful road for many local architects to come.

“If it were up to us, we’d want all of these bright students to come here,” Ortega said. “I just hope we get to see more of them in the future.”

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly identify the Southeast Career and Technical Academy. | (May 4, 2018)