KU students creating an outdoor classroom

photo by: KU Architecture Studio 509

University of Kansas students in the architecture school's Studio 509 class are working to complete the construction of the Rock Chalk Prairie Acre classroom (RCPA), seen here in a rendering. The project was formerly known as the Prairie Acre Ribbon Classroom (PARC).

Megan Kelly stood on the slope of a hill overlooking the University of Kansas campus, pointing to several stakes in the ground where a pavilion will stand in a month.

Kelly and 19 of her classmates in the School of Architecture & Design must build the pavilion, pour the concrete around it and pave a walkway.

But, no worries, these students have blueprints.

Kelly, a fourth-year architecture student, is working with classmates to complete the construction of the outdoor classroom as part of a studio project this semester.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Megan Kelly, an architecture student at KU, discusses on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, the outdoor classroom that she and her classmates are creating south of KU’s Watson Library.

A different class of architecture students started the project last spring, but those students ran out of money and time. The goal now is to complete the project. Kelly touches the top of a concrete bench, causing it to wobble. She admits there are things they need to fix.

“These seats will be made stable with steel channels,” she said. “We are building the pavilion out of wood and steel and keeping materials cheap.”

Along with creating the design, students will do the construction. Although Kelly has never built anything of this magnitude, she does know her way around a drill.

“We must have the project finished Nov. 2,” she said.

The ribbon-shaped seating was constructed last spring, and now they are adding the pavilion. The students have named the outdoor classroom Rock Chalk Prairie Acre. It’s south of Watson Library, with the chancellor’s residence visible through the trees.

The pavilion will serve as an information booth for a garden that was planted and is used by the Center for Sustainability and the Environmental Studies program.

“Environmental studies have the demo garden, and we are building the outdoors classroom which they will use,” Kelly said.

All architecture students in the professional degree program at KU take what’s known as a design-build studio, which focuses on experiential learning, providing an opportunity for students to work at full scale, said Paola Sanguinetti, associate professor of architecture.

The scope of the projects varies. Some are outdoor projects like the Rock Chalk Prairie Acre classroom; others are interiors like the new classroom space in Marvin Hall (home of the architecture school), and others are community design projects.

“This part of our program is grounded on the work of Studio 804, a design-build studio at KU for over 20 years, which is recognized worldwide,” Sanguinetti said.

To pay for the project the students set a goal of raising $10,000 and have established a fundraising page, https://www.launchku.org/project/11537.

“We want the space to be a place classes can come learn firsthand and where individual students can peacefully study,” Kelly said.

Plus, she likes the thought of leaving something she helped to create on campus.

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