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The distance between architectural drawings and the reality of the new addition to Marvin Hall on the Kansas University campus is quickly closing.
With the essentials of its floor, roof and walls in place, the building's main structure has taken shape behind the 105-year-old Marvin and is getting more detailed every day.
"It went up pretty quick," said Renee Brune, a KU master's student in architecture and part of the team building the addition. "The hardest part has just been our time — trying to stay on top of everything."
The KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning's Studio 804 has been at work since fall building the $2 million extension to Marvin, dubbed "The Forum." It will be Marvin's first lecture hall and commons area.
Studio 804 takes students through every phase of the building process, from design through construction, a phase that architects generally cede to contractors and others.
The team laid the foundation shortly before Christmas and then had to wait out bad weather and the state permitting process, all the while working on doorknobs, handrails and other design features in the studio's shop.
"We've rallied since the slowdown in our early start with the bad weather," said Dan Rockhill, a KU distinguished professor of architecture and the director of Studio 804.
The Forum's designs call for energy-saving features that also complicate the building process. Two glass walls will form the building's exterior facade. Together they will work to trap warm air that can be circulated through the walls to warm the building and can also be ushered out of the building to help cool it in warmer weather.
Moveable panels, or louvers, within the glass walls will let in or shut out sunlight, depending on the temperature and season. Still-to-be-planted vegetation underneath the structure, which juts out from Marvin's second floor, will help cool the air circulating in the ventilation system.
These design features are relatively rare in Midwestern buildings, and they're not easy to build, or they might be more common.
The interior glass walls went in recently. Studio 804 members had to maneuver more than 60 glass panes, weighing up to 360 pounds, into place using levers with large suction cups on the ends. "I didn't realize how hard it was going to be to install the glass," Brune said. "We did it on our own. We didn't have contractors."
Rockhill said the team is on pace to finish on time. The Forum is set to open for the fall semester. The construction period will carry through graduation, when many of the Studio 804 students would otherwise be leaving. But a majority of the students have signed on to stay through July.
"What's surprised me was the turnaround in the commitment" to the project, Rockhill said. "A couple months ago it was kind of hard to get everybody to understand the enormousness of what was ahead of us."
With the project taking shape, that's changed, Rockhill said. The students' willingness to stay on to see it through is "a testimonial to their commitment."
As they head into the home stretch, that commitment will be crucial. There's plenty building left to build. "I know we're going to finish eventually, but it seems so far away still," Brune said.