Thesis Students Learn in the Napa Valley

The weekend of April 21st and 22nd brought warm weather to the Bay Area, and for Capstone Coordinator, Tom Collom and his IAD 810 and 812 students it also brought extraordinary new experiences. For their thesis, IAD 810 (Concept) and IAD 812 (Programming & Space Planning) students are tasked with the challenge of envisioning a new purpose for an outdated, preexisting building  bringing it new life and purpose, addressing current design trends and the needs of  the community. After recent field trips to the Museum of Modern Art and Airbnb headquarters, Collom and his students escaped the bustling cities’ modern spaces to more rural spaces that have been restored or repurposed.

Thesis Students and Capstone Coordinator, Tom Collom, in Healdsburg, CA. Photo by Ledevina deLara.
Adventures began in Healdsburg, California, where they visited The SHED, a local food-focused community hub. The SHED houses a farm to table restaurant, market, café, fermentation bar, retail home and garden shops and multiple communal eating and meeting spaces. According to their website (, The SHED is designed to “bring [individuals] closer to the way [they] grow, prepare, and share [their] food”. IAD 812 student, Hera Chen, appreciated the level of care that seemed to be placed on everything The SHED had to offer. “The SHED was in a busy part of Healdsburg, but had a relaxed atmosphere. Everything within The SHED was locally-sourced and shared a communal and homemade type quality that felt special” (Chen).

The SHED located in Healdsburg, CA. Photo by Ledevina deLara.
Collom and students next met at Real Goods, located in Hopland, California. In 1978, Real Goods opened and sold the first retail solar panels in the United States ( Real Goods aims to support off-grid living, renewable energy, and sustainable food. Their Solar Living Center in Hopland provided a space for students to explore Real Good’s work and see sustainable living and design first hand. IAD 812 student, Ruqayah Baroudi, said she “was interested in the berm that the center had built on site to filter the adjacent highway noise and also mask with white noise with a running water stream in order to connect to the nature of the site” (Baroudi). Located on land that was previously used as landfill for the California Department of Transportation, “Real Good’s Solar Living Center serves as the ultimate example of how a space can be transformed, repurposed and made better than before.” (Collom).

Real Good’s Sustainable Living Center in Hopland, CA. Photo by Ledevina deLara.

Students enjoying Real Good’s Sustainable Living Center atmosphere in Hopland, CA. Photo by Ledevina deLara.
Finally, Collom and the students travelled to St. Helena, California, where they saw many old farm and agricultural buildings that have been both restored and repurposed. St. Helena ( is known as “Napa Valley’s Main Street” with restaurants, cafes, art galleries, shops, and more. Most of the buildings that now house these amenities are historical buildings that have been restored and repurposed in order to address new needs and create a strong sense of community for the Napa Valley.
Students reflected on their getaway as an experience that really centered their design aesthetics and helped them in approaching their thesis project from a holistic lens. Students said they visited many sites that offered great examples of current design industry trends. Primarily, students saw a great emphasis on a balance and relationship between nature and design, sustainable design, all with a strong focus on communal design, and successful examples of restoration and repurposing. Collom said that both “[him] and the students had an amazing time and [he] looks forward to providing more experiential opportunities for IAD students” (Collom).

Thesis Students and Capstone Coordinator, Tom Collom, at Real Good’s Sustainable Living Center in Hopland, CA. Photo by Ledevina deLara.