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Studio 804 begins construction on Marvin Hall Forum

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

LAWRENCE — While many University of Kansas students were relaxing over fall break, those enrolled in Studio 804 were hard at work demolishing the Builder’s Yard, a large steel and concrete structure behind Marvin Hall.

It’s the first step the class has taken in construction of the Forum, an addition to Marvin the students are designing and will build over the next eight months.

The Forum will provide something Marvin has needed since the architecture program began here a century ago: a commons space, which John Gaunt, the dean of the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, says will be “a place for interaction, discovery and exhibitions.”

Studio 804 is a yearlong class in design-build offered by the Department of Architecture. Every year its full-time students design and construct a building under the guidance of Dan Rockhill, the J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture.

Once complete, the Forum will be the third building that Studio 804 has constructed for the university. The others are the Center for Design Research and the Hill Engineering Research and Development Center on west campus.

The Forum will be the largest project that the class has built. The entry of the building will include a commons space that will have multiple uses, including “pinups,” which are reviews of work by architecture, design and planning students. It will have an area for presentations that will seat 120.

The glass-clad addition will be an extension of Marvin’s second floor and will stand a story above ground level on concrete columns. Timber columns and trusses will support the wood deck ceiling, a stylistic nod to the exposed structure that supports the roof and ceiling of Marvin’s fourth floor.

Although the use of glass for exterior walls has become controversial in recent years, these exterior walls will be prototypical and constructed of two layers of glass separated by about 3 feet. “It’s called a naturally ventilated façade,” said Rockhill.

During the months when cooling is needed, the space between the inner and outer glass walls will opened to prevent heat from building up there. In winter, the sun’s heat will be absorbed, cloaking the building in a warm blanket. Large, repositionable vertical louvers will be used to control the amount of light entering the space.

“This is the first of this highly advanced type of facade constructed in the Midwest. They’re very difficult to do correctly, but that’s what Studio 804 does. We make an effort for everything we do to be on the very cutting-edge, particularly in the area of façade design,” he said.

The ventilated façade is being designed with the assistance of Transsolar, one of the world’s most experienced and innovative façade consultants, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Gaunt said there is a special connection between the just-demolished Builder’s Yard and the Forum.

“Almost 18 years ago, not long after I became dean, a group of Studio 804 students came to my office,” he said. “They needed $20,000 and permission to build a structure that could be used as an outdoor fabrication shop, that they proposed putting on the back of Marvin.

“I told them if they raised half the money I would somehow find a way to match it. I never thought they’d do it. The very next week they came back with the funds. That’s when I realized what Studio 804 students could do, and they’ve been exceeding everyone’s expectations ever since,” he said.

“Every year I say, ‘This is the most ambitious project Studio 804 has ever done.’ Undoubtedly the Forum tops everything else, and it will be our most ambitious fundraising effort,” Gaunt said. “However, I haven’t any doubt that this building is well within our reach in every way, from raising the money with the help of our generous, supportive alumni, to doing the most advanced building envelope in the Midwest.

“It will be an inspired showpiece, for the ingenuity and energy of our students, for the benefit of the whole school and KU. We are in an exciting time at Marvin Hall, and looking forward to a place of interaction, innovation and celebration of all that we do. I believe it will transform the culture of our school,” he said.   

KU Endowment and Gaunt are working with alumni and friends to generate private funding for the addition, which is expected to cost about $2 million.

Gifts will count toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.


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