Studio 804’s latest project, the third in Pinkney neighborhood, features weathered metal exterior — and a familiar neighbor

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Studio 804's latest project is located at 436 Indiana St. The home, designed and built by graduate students in University of Kansas distinguished professor Dan Rockhill's capstone course, is located right next door to the Studio 804 build from last year.

You don’t have to look too far away from the last home Studio 804 built on Indiana Street to find its newest project — in fact, it’s located right next door.

The Pinkney neighborhood has seen multiple projects from the KU architecture capstone course pop up since 2022, with the first of now three homes located just down the block.

With the two newest homes quite literally next door neighbors, it’s no surprise that the past work of graduate students in University of Kansas distinguished professor Dan Rockhill’s course has influenced the work of this year’s crop of 28 students at 436 Indiana St.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Studio 804’s latest design-build project is located at 436 Indiana St.

“I don’t think there’s every been a Studio 804 house that’s been directly next door, so it was great in terms of we got to reference some of their details, some of their site analysis things, so it’s kind of a collaborative process in that way,” graduate student Madison Schaefer told the Journal-World Monday. “But there was also a tall order of how do you complement something without taking away from it?”

The juxtaposing — yet harmonious — relationship between the neighboring Studio 804 projects was clear as Schaefer and her peers put the finishing touches on 436 Indiana St. earlier this week.

Though the two homes share a similar black and brown color palette, they’ve got distinctive exterior finishes. A previous graduate student described the neighboring home to the Journal-World last year as akin to a “house of mirrors” due to its highly reflective exterior, while the new home features matte black Richlite — a resin-based material made from recycled paper known for its durability and sustainability — and the especially prominent usage of “Corten steel,” a type of steel alloy that develops a rusted appearance if exposed to the elements.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Studio 804’s project at 432 Indiana St. is pictured in this 2023 file photo.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This 2023 file photo shows how the Japanese-made Nichiha fiber cement panels on the exterior of the home at 432 Indiana St.create a flat, smooth and highly reflective surface.

“One of the big things in Studio 804 is just the use of materiality and the richness of it, and I think that’s what distinguishes a lot of the projects is what the exterior cladding is,” Schaefer said.

That notion of complementary contrast extends to the new home’s form, as well. Schaefer said the class didn’t want to incorporate a gable roof, a common element in past Studio 804 projects, but instead something that would stand out in contrast. That led to the new home’s flat roof shape.

The home itself is 1,940 square feet in size, not including a detached garage space.

Inside 436 Indiana St., the layout has most of the main living spaces on the second floor. As you enter the home, you’ll encounter a mudroom, a guest bathroom, two bedrooms — one of them staged as a small office — and a mechanical room. In the open mudroom space, there’s another sort of office nook area framed by built-in cabinetry.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The first level at 436 Indiana St. includes an office nook area.

The cabinetry and stairs are produced by the class, and Rockhill told the Journal-World Monday that Studio 804 essentially doesn’t subcontract for much besides the heating and air conditioning and plumbing work.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

University of Kansas distinguished professor Dan Rockhill descends the stairs at 436 Indiana St. Graduate students in Rockhill’s Studio 804 class built all of the cabinetry and stairs in the home.

Up on the second floor is a largely open space with no real division between the kitchen, dining and living areas. Rockhill said the idea of placing those spaces on the upper level was, in part, to place them above any street noise and provide some privacy. Directly at the top of the stairs is the primary suite with an attached bath and walk-in closet.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The kitchen at 436 Indiana St. opens into living and dining spaces on the far side of home’s upper level.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The master suite at 436 Indiana St. also features a bathroom and walk-in closet, both of which are located out of frame to the left.

Like the studio’s other projects, the home was built to the U.S. Green Build Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Standards. That includes features like a driveway made with permeable pavers to filter and absorb stormwater away from the building, 16 roof-mounted solar panels to offset the home’s energy consumption and a garage ready to be wired for electric car charging.

Rockhill added that the home, like all Studio 804 houses, is “super-insulated” for high energy performance. That’s a feature that often gets top billing when visitors come to see the completed projects each year as part of a customary open house. He said it’s an opportunity to emphasize how the energy-efficient homes lead to lower utility costs.

“It works out well for everybody,” Rockhill told the Journal-World. “People are always interested in what we do because it’s so different. Some like it and some don’t, I’m sure, which I understand, but it’s nice to at least expose them — the visitors — to the nature of what we do and why we do it, particularly with the ‘super-insulated’ houses.”

Rockhill has led Studio 804 — a registered nonprofit that can utilize donated materials — for 29 years, which has led to plenty of beneficial partnerships. One of those relationships helped make another sustainable element possible: triple-sealed windows made from repurposed glass. The glass for the windows at 436 Indiana St. actually came from JE Dunn Construction in Kansas City, Missouri, specifically from the unfinished “West Edge” project near the Plaza. The firm served as the contractor for the development, which stalled and was eventually halted more than a decade ago.

The furniture staged throughout the home for an upcoming open house this Saturday shows an example of another partnership. Rockhill said Studio 804 has a long-standing relationship with Retro Inferno, a vintage furniture store in Kansas City, which provides the pieces.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The furniture staged throughout Studio 804’s newest project at 436 Indiana St. is sourced from Retro Inferno, a vintage furniture store in Kansas City, Missouri.

• • •

For as impressive as the homes themselves turn out to be, the students involved in Studio 804 are also getting an experience with plenty of practical value. The class spends the whole school year working on each project, starting with designing it in August.

In the time between then and graduation day in May, students also get vital opportunities to take ownership over specific parts of the building process. At 436 Indiana St., Rockhill said graduate student Jodi Gore has installed all of the tile work in the master suite’s bathroom. Schaefer was a co-lead for the framing of the home in the fall, and helped to pre-fabricate its walls in 16-foot sections at the studio’s warehouse in East Hills Business Park.

During the spring semester, Schaefer also led the process of cladding the exterior, starting with the Corten steel. She said the pieces were pre-weathered using a spray mixture of hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and salt to accelerate a process that typically would take a while to happen naturally. That helped to more quickly create a patina, a thin layer that forms as a metal oxidizes, which Schaefer said both causes the material to look darker and richer and heightens its durability.

“It’s been an absolutely incredible experience, and I’ve learned more in this one year than the rest of my architectural education combined,” Schaefer said. “I just feel so well-equipped going out into the real world to be able to talk through details and tangible things, and just have skills that will suit me not only in my profession but also personal life, to be able to own a home and know how to fix it.”

Rockhill said he sees the fruits of those efforts as his students set out into the field after graduation.

“What I’m finding is that we are very attractive to people in the industry who benefit by having students work with them that have had this kind of an experience in addition to (a degree),” Rockhill said. “They will get a master in architecture degree, so they get a professional degree, but then they will also have this kind of connective tissue back to everything they’ve learned in the classroom.”

After three years of projects, Studio 804 has embraced the Pinkney neighborhood in more ways than just adding new housing. When the Journal-World visited earlier this week, Rockhill and a group of students were in the process of picking up 16 art pieces from Jen Unekis, an artist who also lives in the neighborhood. Unekis’ pieces were hung around the home in preparation for the open house.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Throughout the house, 16 pieces of art created by Jen Unekis, who also lives in the neighborhood, have been staged for Saturday’s open house.

Schaefer said the neighborhood has embraced them right back as the group has spent six days each week working on the home.

“I think it was really nice to be in this neighborhood because people kind of knew us already, right?” Schaefer said. “There was already an understanding of what we were about and what we were going to be doing and things like that. That transition process, I think, was a blessing for us.”

The open house for Studio 804’s newest project at 436 Indiana St. will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees will be able to tour the exterior and interior spaces of the home and learn more about the design-build process from Studio 804 students and Rockhill.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

One of the bedrooms on the first floor of 436 Indiana St. is staged as a small office.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

A rear patio area is located behind the detached garage at 436 Indiana St.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The design at 436 Indiana St. includes a rooftop garden above the detached garage.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

One of the guest bathrooms at 436 Indiana St. is pictured.


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