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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

KU school celebrating 100 years of architecture education — and late nights of work

April 26, 2013

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On display

Visitors can see the history of KU's architecture programs on display at Marvin Hall in conjunction with this weekend's events.

• A wall-sized graphical timeline of events in the program over the past century, plus events from around the world, is on display in the main hallway of Marvin Hall.

• A gallery of student projects as far back as the 1920s is viewable in room 216 at Marvin Hall.

The building will be open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Kansas University architecture students work in a Marvin Hall studio in 1915, three years after the program's founding in 1912. Some 98 years later, the KU architecture program has moved from the School of Engineering to its own standalone School of Architecture, Design and Urban Planning, but it's still based in Marvin Hall — and the room pictured, room 403, is still used as a student studio. The school is celebrating the 100th year of architecture education at KU with a reunion event this weekend.

Kansas University architecture students work in a Marvin Hall studio in 1915, three years after the program's founding in 1912. Some 98 years later, the KU architecture program has moved from the School of Engineering to its own standalone School of Architecture, Design and Urban Planning, but it's still based in Marvin Hall — and the room pictured, room 403, is still used as a student studio. The school is celebrating the 100th year of architecture education at KU with a reunion event this weekend.

Kansas University architecture students work on projects this week in room 403 of Marvin Hall — a room still used today as a studio by the School of Architecture, Design and Planning just as it was 98 years ago. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas University architecture students work on projects this week in room 403 of Marvin Hall — a room still used today as a studio by the School of Architecture, Design and Planning just as it was 98 years ago. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas University architecture student Culin Thompson, a Chicago freshman, puts his head in his hands in a moment of frustration while working on a model in Marvin Hall on Wednesday.

Kansas University architecture student Culin Thompson, a Chicago freshman, puts his head in his hands in a moment of frustration while working on a model in Marvin Hall on Wednesday.

The lights are always on at Marvin Hall, or so it is often said among people who’ve passed through the Kansas University architecture program over the years, John Guenther says.

That’s because Marvin’s architectural studios are open 24-7 to students working feverishly to meet a deadline the next morning or sketching plans after getting some late-night inspiration. That’s certainly how Guenther, a 1977 KU architecture graduate, remembers it. And that’s the way it still is, said John Gaunt, dean of KU’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

“Creativity doesn’t sleep,” Gaunt said, and neither, at times, do KU architecture students.

The school is celebrating the 100th year of architecture education at KU with a reunion event this weekend, and Gaunt said he expects about 200 to 300 alumni, who attended as far back as the 1940s, to come. Marvin Hall has been the home quarters for the architecture program ever since it was founded in 1912, and because of that oft-repeated maxim about its studios, the theme for the celebration is “The lights are still on for you.”

Guenther, who has his own architectural firm now in St. Louis, is one of the alumni making the trip back for the events that start Friday. The long hours he remembers spending alongside his classmates in the Marvin studios with the pressure of encroaching deadlines are something he looks back on fondly now, he said, because it prepared him for what he does now and helped him build friendships that still continue.

And that, he said, is what he guesses students from throughout those 100 years have in common.

“I think that’s probably something that transcends all generations,” Guenther said.

The KU architecture program began in fall of 1912 as part of the School of Engineering, at the behest of an architect who was hired by Chancellor Frank Strong to help design a building that would become Strong Hall, KU’s administrative center. According to professor of architecture Stephen Grabow, who has studied the school’s history during his 40 years on the faculty, Strong sent the engineering dean eastward to find a leader for the new program, and he didn’t return until he’d hired Goldwin Goldsmith, who had served as an apprentice for Stanford White, a legendary turn-of-the-century architect in New York.

The program’s faculty have continued to come often from the East Coast, Grabow said, including many in the mid-20th century who’d been apprentices for Frank Lloyd Wright.

“I think for a school right out here in the middle of the plains, it’s a little surprising,” Grabow said.

In 1967, the architecture program grew large enough to form a school of its own. It remained part of the School of Architecture and Urban Design until 2010, when the school added KU’s design department and took its current name. Architectural styles have changed from the classicism of the turn of the 20th century to the modern movement pushed by Wright to a present-day emphasis on sustainability and energy. Studios once filled with tidy desks arranged in orderly rows now contain expansive desks stationed in clusters, covered with clutter and dotted with laptops.

But the level of work has remained consistent, Gaunt said.

“The architecture program is intense, and it always has been,” Gaunt said.

Guenther recalled an example of that. His sophomore year, he was part of a group assigned to design a temporary structure where he and a few other students would have to spend a weekend at Perry Lake, northwest of Lawrence. Their site was supposed to be a peninsula, but it happened to be a rainy year, and the lake took on so much extra water it became an island. But their instructor, Guenther said, said the assignment still stood.

“He said, ‘They should have thought about all of this,’” Guenther said.

So the students used boats to take their materials out to the newly formed island, where their structure did indeed support them for a weekend, learning a thing or two about problem-solving along the way.

That’s the sort of thing that makes you build some bonds, he said. And that’s the sort of thing that might lead hundreds of alumni to come back for a centennial celebration.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 3 months ago

What a pleasure to read about John, he lived in a house Ed Tanner designed as a student project.
Ed. Tanner later designed Danforth Chapel and went to work for J C Nichols who was a classmate. Tanner graduated from the first Architecture class.

JW needs to highlight stories about Tanner, Goldsmith, Joe Kellogg all tied to the architecture school. Kellogg designed Emporia State student union. more on Kellogg later, hopefully.

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LogicMan 1 year, 3 months ago

Here's more on Danforth Chapel from KU:

http://admissions.ku.edu/~build/cgi-bin/danforth-chapel

It says his degree was in engineering, though.

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LogicMan 1 year, 3 months ago

Thanks. Using Google Books I quickly found some interesting readings in the early "Kansas Engineer" which often mentions Goldsmith. He did much for KU in those early days.

In volume 4 (1917-18) and earlier it talks of "architectural engineering" students and degrees, but on pages 60 and 61 mentions the desire to start a "course" in "architecture".

In volume 6, number 1 (1920) page 26 it then for the first time lists architecture and architectural engineering students separately. With the war ending in 1919, it appears they were able to populate the new architecture degree program at all levels with returning soldiers in 1920.

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arch007bak 1 year, 3 months ago

I spent more time in Marvin Hall than any dorm room or apartment getting my degree. Even though we all referred to it as 'architorture', still those were good times.

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Aileen Dingus 1 year, 3 months ago

I've had many architecture students work for me, and they've all been hard working and conscientious. I always knew, though, that March and April were killer months for them. Walking Dead? hah. Try architecture!

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StanHernly 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes oneeye, Harriet Tanner financed (and likely designed) a house for Prof Hoad in 1908, which eventually became the Varsity House and is now the corner stone of a brand new apartment complex of the same name. Ed Tanner worked summers for Constant Construction who built the house; it's likely he was on that job. Thanks to LPA and HRC the house was saved, even though much of the original material was lost in its "move".

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frankfussman 1 year, 3 months ago

The Varsity wasn't "saved", it was martyred by Thomas Fritzel. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/oct... “The truth of the matter is, something has to be made right up there,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “The building that is being built up there is not the same building that was taken down.”

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fiddleback 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, the martyr complexes of architects indeed never sleep...

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