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An academic building without a lecture hall on a college campus is a little bit like a police station without a holding tank. It just doesn't seem to fit the mold.
But Kansas University's Marvin Hall, which houses the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, has been without a central lecture hall and large social gathering space for its entire 100-plus year life. Now, a team of KU students is at work with shovels and hardhats to change that.
The architecture school's Studio 804, a yearlong workshop that puts KU students to work designing and building new structures, has begun work on an addition that will act as a 120-seat lecture hall and commons area. The students worked to design and plan the structure and will labor through the entire construction process, expected to last until next summer.
Students started initial construction work during KU's fall break earlier in October. The project began with the demolition of Builder's Yard, a steel and concrete structure behind Marvin used for research and fabrication until the school acquired a new 70,000-foot warehouse in the East Hills Business Park. Renee Brune, a KU architecture student in the Studio 804 class, said she and her cohorts were smashing the wall around Builder's Yard with sledgehammers until they were able to push it over by hand.
Day one of demolition was "really fun," Brune said. The fun, however, was followed by more days of grunt work, followed by body pains. That's all part of their daily life now, though. The team wakes up before the sun every day to work on the building. And some of the hardest work is still to come.
Every project is the most challenging
Dan Rockhill, a distinguished professor of architecture at KU and the Studio 804 instructor, said one of the biggest challenges will be getting the foundation in place. Work on the foundation must go as quickly as possible before nature has a chance to dump rain or snow into the construction site. The team has already lost time searching by hand for Marvin's utility lines, which are many, and many are antiquated or defunct. Rockhill said the team hopes to have the foundation in before Christmas. The structure as a whole is slated to be finished by next June.
The building, the third Studio 804 has built at the university, will be a sort of "elevated box," as Rockhill describes it, jutting out the back of Marvin, standing on pillars. Dual glass exterior walls are meant to trap sunlight during the winter to keep the building warm. Inside, vertical wooden louvers, or blinds, will adjust to let in or keep out light depending on the temperature and humidity. Along with the energy-efficient design, the addition will include a "living wall" with vegetation along it to purify the air, a water harvesting system that will route precipitation to a cistern, and solar cells on the roof. With the building expected to cost $2 million, the school and KU Endowment are raising funds.
The size and prominence of the project might make the Marvin addition the most ambitious and challenging project by Studio 804 to date, but, as Rockhill says, "Every project when we're in the middle of it is the most challenging."