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Enthusiasm With a Lack of Understanding
... Studio Style // Taylor Rice


Abstract: “You don’t know, what you don’t know.” How can we learn the things that we don’t yet know? I don’t have the answer in this blog or even for myself, but I am fighting every day to enrich myself in becoming a better person, both in what I know and how I live. Design+Make is my current vessel, time to get back on site where the experience is a personal hands on crafting of the Waldo Affordable Housing duplex.


Audience: To the classmates seeking more than to just become an ‘expert’ in this one industry. I challenge you to get outside and talk to others whose path is different from yours. Learn to think differently, as you can apply the same lessons and fundaments to your own work. You’ll become that much better at your own craft. The world is not compartmentalized and neither should you be.

"Enthusiasm With a Lack of Understanding ... Studio Style"


I will not generalize this studio’s opinions into one, as someone wise once told me, “I don’t like stating your enthusiasm… I am enthusiastically enthusiastic is how that sounds.” As the Design+Make Studio Six, we are thirteen different individuals, with completely unique backgrounds. We all see this studio in our own light but I cannot help but think about how truly enthusiastic we all are every time we step on site at 7509 Pennsylvania Ave Kansas City, Missouri. The reality and fruits of our labor, throughout not just the past 6 months but these last 5 years of architecture school, have finally put a real building in front of us. After all, this project will be the first built project of our architectural career’s. One that we all helped to design and now build. Creating this duplex has been a very complex learning process, where the learning is nonstop but the proactive acquisition of knowledge has been elusive. We are learning in reverse. Because we are all unique individuals, we all learn in our own way but I believe that nothing can ever compete with hands-on, one-on-one experiences where knowledge is truly acquired by doing. Through active participation, everyone learns and the value is undeniable.

Design+Make Studio site at 7509 Pennsylvania Ave, Kansas City, Missouri. Left: Foundation walls and compacted gravel, prepping for pouring of foundation slab. Right: Exterior framing complete, trusses going in.

This is where things get interesting. This is a studio built on the very essence of hands on learning, where students work with a practicing Architect to better articulate thoughtful design and then experience learning how to craft those carefully articulated ideas into something real and tangible. But here at the Design+Make studio, we seem to be experiencing a major disconnect. The disconnect is that we as students are being pushed to complete a building without having the proper daily hands-on collaboration of knowledge. Starting from day one during the design development to now during the construction details, there is too much of a gap in between when learning is happening. As students, we only know so much and can only learn through each other so much, every week we always seem to run into the issue of needing direct help from the professionals in order to move forward with the project.  I joined this studio knowing that I knew close to nothing about how to truly build a design idea. Nevertheless, enthusiastic knowing this year was going to be filled with thousands of new experiences in design and construction that I wanted to have a greater understanding of and the ability to make actually it. But why is the breadth and depth of knowledge that I am supposed to be gaining only happening in small increments? My classmates and I are actively engaged in a design and construction that is beyond our knowledge base. We don’t know what we’re doing.


How is one supposed to learn what they do not know, when they don’t know what they are supposed to know? Maybe a confusing question but is accurately described by the saying, “you don’t know, what you don’t know.” Google doesn’t help find answers in this case, especially when we’re not even sure what the questions are. Whether through person-to-person teaching or one-on-one conversations, the vital key is the situational real time experience of being there and being engaged to learn through seeing, hearing and doing. Googling or rote book learning can only go so far in creating understanding, like American author John Naisbitt said, “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”


Currently, we have Owner/Architect/Contractor meetings that occur in Kansas City at the El Dorado Inc office at 8:30am every Friday. These meetings are an important aspect of the design and construction process for us, as they are a key means of updating all parties involved. It is here that so many questions and conversations occur that are so crucial to the design and construction of a building. These meetings can be extensive and long but are critical to the well-being of the project, often when design issues arise compromises have to be determined on the spot. In practice on a typical project, these meetings happen either bi-weekly or monthly. However, for us these weekly meetings happen to some of the only times we are truly mentored through hands on, one on one conversations. The professionals who have the experience we need are consistently telling us to research issues or questions we have. With the students being based in Manhattan and the jobsite being in Kansas City, our team is 150 miles apart trying to learn and understand how to properly put together a whole house via email and one, maybe two weekly meetings.


At the end of the day, we can all be more proactive in seeking out the one-on -one interactions that we all so desperately crave. I find myself seeking the subcontractors and craftspeople on the jobsite who are so openly enthusiastic to help us learn, where I am on site using a nail gun, hanging the wood and putting the house together with my bare hands. I have learned more about how to put together a construction drawing set by being on site than I would have had looking at past project drawing sets, books and researching. On site, I am growing in knowledge though experiencing by watching and then doing, the way I learn best. I am me, but I know my classmates will reiterate that in-person hands-on, one-on-one involvement is our priority. We want to learn and understand every detail. We want to experience new knowledge to be a better professional in a field that sometimes looks down upon the blue collared men and women who often make our ideas come to life. We can only learn so much from a computer or even a book. We can put an idea down on paper but they cannot be realized unless we have a thorough understanding of how that idea will actually stand up. Please help us get out of our chairs, to show us your knowledge as a practicing professional.


“Sharing knowledge can seem like a burden to some, but on the contrary, it is a reflection of teamwork and leadership.” – Unknown.

Written by Taylor Rice

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