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Studio Desk 101 // Meredith Stoll


What!? No red boxes? What is studio without red boxes?


As architecture students at Kansas State University APDesign we are accustomed to these items that house our computers and our belongings for an entire year. When we were told that there would be none of those in this studio due to a college wide shortage, we were shocked. In desperate need of a functional work area, our first project in the Design+Make Studio, was to design our desks…..but wait…..for only $700. Desks were the “make” focus but the desk was just a part of the bigger design problem: the programming and design of the entire studio space. As a class we divided and conquered into a studio competition. After many renditions, critiques and passionate discussions amongst ourselves, we decided on one large desk; a desk that would span the entire length of the room giving each of us 4’ x 3’ to work. As a collaborative studio, the singular desk was the best fit, since our studio is built upon collective group work. This design enables us to partake in spontaneous design charrettes and advise one another on design challenges. Needless to say that there was some skepticism about working in such close proximity, the capability to build a singular desk and the ability to stay within budget.


As our trips to Menard’s became a weekly ritual we slowly developed our first prototype of the desk, consisting of a plywood tabletop paired with IKEA table legs. As the first desk was stood up, we could tell that the flimsy legs would not stand up to the amount of shear pressure placed upon them by the plywood top. This created an intriguing dilemma that took the team awhile to solve. We moved through many iterations for the design of the legs using the completed tabletop as a testing ground for the varying leg systems. The goal of this process was to create a system that would support the weight of the tabletop and its contents while also remaining light and airy in appearance. After many renditions and assistance from a local steel shop, we arrived at a solution: a tubular steel leg welded to a steel attachment plate. The resulting leg system provided enough support for the table surface, while remaining delicate enough to give the monolithic tabletop the appearance of floating above the concrete floor below.

After ironing out several small design problems, production began in full force. Now, mid-October our studio began getting anxious to discard all temporary work surfaces and move into our permanent desks. With a four person construction team, sixty hours of manpower, eleven sheets of plywood, 480 screws and $683.26 later, we were able to transfer all of our computers and supplies on to four complete desks. After a small adjustment period, we all began working as one unit, becoming more like a design firm than a typical academic design studio. 


Now that four months have passed since the introduction of the new desk system, some minimal design issues have become apparent. While overall the desk system has been successful, clutter has become a major issue. Walking into the Design+Make Studio loose papers, writing utensils, and other objects of office life can be seen to cover the tabletop. While part of this clutter is based on the working habits of studio members, an organizational system would still be of great help. This could be implemented through the addition of a drawer system making the cavernous cubby space below each desk accessible. Additionally, many of us would prefer to elevate our PC towers off the floor, as Seaton Hall is known for the unanticipated water infiltration during inclement weather. However, with advances in technology the use of a pc tower may soon be an element of the past, making such an alteration unnecessary.

Although there was some skepticism from faculty and architecture peers, the desk resulting from this process is highly functional and utilized the abilities of the Design+Make team to create an effective product. As student designers we constantly wonder, what comprises good design? Throughout this design make process, we as a class, merely uncovered a sliver of what a design/build process entails. I continually ask myself as this year progresses, what makes an effective design/build process?  

Written by Meredith Stoll

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