Christy Van Wagenen

Design Director and Lead Architect

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Christy began her career as a licensed Architect in San Francisco, working on educational, commercial, and multi-family residential projects following her graduation from Cal Poly. It was always her intention to progress her career and move back home to Santa Cruz, supporting and building the community through thoughtful design. 

Christy excels in finding an architecturally creative solution, is an extremely effective collaborator, and is meticulous when working through project details.  Beyond just the head of the Workbench design team, her colleagues refer to her as “mood manager”, since she manages the studio playlist and is usually first to chime in with a well-timed joke.

On choosing a career in Architecture

While most young girls growing up in the 90’s were busy playing with their Tamagotchis and American Girl dolls, I was designing forts and outdoor floorplans (constructed sustainably from raked leaf piles, rocks and bed sheets). Although it’s likely that none of these structures were ever built to code, my love of problem-solving and space creation was apparent from an early age. It only made sense that this creative energy was directed into a profession where this everyday play became the norm.

Why I love Santa Cruz

I love Santa Cruz because any day of the year you can find a great hike (either beachside or in the redwoods), enjoy a sunset sail, or play beach volleyball. If I’m not outside, you can find me in yoga class, designing a new home improvement project for our house, or spending hours at dog training with my dog Mara while attempting to re-gain “alpha” status in my home. 

Outside of Workbench

All of my favorite travels around the world have included a scuba diving destination; whether it be exploring shipwrecks, swimming with sharks or the occasional night dive. Though I’m inexplicably terrified of floating on top of a body of water, I have no issue with being fully submerged with a facemask and a tank. 


Bachelor of Architecture, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo