KU’s Studio 804 gets shoutout from industry

Studio 804 students at work on the EcoHawks facility. Photo courtesy of KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

A national industry publication recently praised a project by Kansas University’s Studio 804 as one of the best of 2013.

Based in KU’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Studio 804 puts students to work on every phase of a building’s construction. That actually includes construction — hammer, nails, cement, waking at sunup and the rest.

This year’s team is currently at work on an addition to Marvin Hall that will house the 100-plus-year-old building’s first-ever lecture room.

In late December, a previous Studio 804 project, the engineering school’s EcoHawks Research Facility on West Campus, made its way onto the magazine Architect‘s list of the “Very Best Projects of 2013.”

EcoHawks is a student research program run out of KU’s engineering department that focuses on alternative energy in the transportation sector. The Ecohawks facility on West Campus was meant to help test new energy technologies on vehicles, including different methods of charging electric cars.

The upper part of the building is composed of aluminum strips woven between horizontal tubes that had to be hand-welded at the corners. The aluminum came from surplus supplies left over in the aircraft industry. The glass came from a failed building project in Kansas CIty, Mo.

Staff of Architect, which is published by the trade group American Institute of Architects, singled out the EcoHawks project as a “beautifully crafted pavilion, made all the more laudable by the fact that it was crafted entirely by the students of Dan Rockhill-led Studio 804.”

Rockhill is a distinguished professor of architecture at KU and the instructor and executive director for Studio 804. Rockhill has said that Studio 804 gives architecture students a chance to get their hands on materials they use in designs as well as an opportunity to learn firsthand about the process of construction, a phase of building that finds most architects sitting on the sidelines.

Rockhill described to Architect how the class organizes the workload of the construction process. It’s not quite as simple or easy as drawing straws:

I start design the first day of class
in late August. The goal is to lock
down the design as soon as possible,
begin construction documents, and get
consultants involved. We’re required
to have consultants–we’re not treated
differently than any other
professional firm working on a project
on campus. I start by asking every
student to declare an area of
interest. So somebody will rather
meekly say “I’ll sign up for
structure” or “I’ll sign up for
siding”–basically you take Master
Format and dice that up. But it’s not
as though if you signed up for
structure you sit back in your lounge
chair after we get the frame up.
Everyone is a part of everything.

Neither can I sit back in a lounge chair and wait for the news of the day to happen (much as I might enjoy that). That’s why I need your KU news tips. Send them my way at bunglesbee@ljworld.com

Studio 804 students at work on the EcoHawks facility. Photo courtesy of KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

The EcoHawks Research Facility on West Campus is a Studio 804-built project devoted to researching alternative energies for vehicles. Photo courtesy of the KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning.