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A Sunday Afternoon in Design+Make Studio //
Alex Palmer


Being architecture students, we have been exposed to detail drawings, typically through internship, or previous studio projects. However, as construction on the JoCo Pavilion begins, we have gained a new appreciation for details, understanding of materials, construction, and cross studio collaboration.


The JoCo Pavilion started as a design from el dorado inc, that was later taken over by the Design+Make studio in attempt to finish out detailing, and reconfiguration of glulam beams fabricated for King Louie West Lanes in Overland Park, Kansas. After finally fleshing out details(1), we had to prepare for the construction phase, including welding.


With only one member of the Design+Make studio with experience in welding, we all had the chance to work with Chris at el dorado to have our first exposure to the process. We learned it was a skill some excelled at, while others gladly would take on other roles. Taking on welding, we continued to practice in our metal shop at Kansas State, along with receiving lots of tips and advice from Shaun, an IAPD shop supervisor. Eventually a handful of the team went through the process of becoming American Welding Society certified in order to complete the structural welds for the JoCo Pavilion in a timely and cost effective manner.

All set to weld, we started to receive the steel orders, and quickly realized how deceiving  a 30’ piece of steel can be on paper, and it is not until you try to move said 700 pound beam into the shop that you appreciate its true size. This was merely the first hurdle we encountered, as our hands on experience with metal and welding was still fairly minimal. Our first series of welds included 40 ribs for the pavilion, of 3/8” steel. To prepare for final welds, we had to test our patience, and make sure we took the time to become comfortable with our welding skills. All critical factors in welding range from concerns about the angle we were welding at, the speed, the voltage, the gas, and the specific wire we use. The most difficult part is that all of the factors that contribute to welding require very minimal tweaks to correct for the best weld, but each person also has a unique way that works best for them.

With practice… and more practice… and more practice, we decided to move forward to the actual welds(2). Taking shifts on welding, advice, information, and understand of how the steel reacts during the process grew each day, as well as our confidence in our skill. Although we are just in the early phases of construction, having the hands on experience in building is becoming invaluable. Being pushed to learn new skills, such as welding, is beginning to help inform our decisions not only on the JoCo team, but the other teams as well

Working in collaboration(3) with the Alma team, we have been able to help inform constructability, as well as more realistic projections for scheduling. Both projects, while very different in client, context, and budget, do have similarities, and in order to be as efficient as possible, we have to be open to sharing our knowledge. An appreciate for fabrication and the time and effort it takes to weld on site helped inform the Alma pavilion to become a set of prefabricated pieces, all that can be welded in house and connected by bolts on site, minimizing factors that could delay the construction process.  From the studio space we designed(4) to teaching of skills to our fellow design+make members, collaboration has become a key to the studio dynamic.


Taking the time to understand detail in the sense of it being material has begun to bridge the gap between designer and builder, but also our appreciation of the wealth of knowledge each individual can contribute to the whole. Thinking back to the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Cameron is looking at Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte , a pointillism painting by Georges-Pierre Seurat, the scene continues zooming in, taking the full painting down to the individual dots that compose the painting. Design is the same way, and the more we can understand about the smallest aspects of what we are building, the better we can develop and then build. Sometimes(5) it is all in the details.

(1) designing never ends

(2) time may have persuaded us to move on as well

(3) at times by eavesdropping

(4) refer to Studio Desk 101 post

(5) no, always

Written by Alex Palmer

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