Studio Expansion: Wise or Not // Jared Hagadorn
The Design+Make studio is quickly becoming a trademark piece for the department of architecture at Kansas State University. What if the design studio became the trademark studio of the entire university? The studio is still in its infancy being just in its third year. As the studio becomes more popular to students in the upcoming years, is it the time to begin evaluating what the design class can become? Does the studio want to expand and become a college wide institution? This notion should be thoroughly explored because the identity of the studio may drastically change.
The advantages of a having a more diversified Design+Make class must be evaluated first. The initial item that comes to mind is the realm of possibilities begins to expand with the integration of more departments within the college. Looking generally at most of the projects completed by the El Dorado studio throughout its short lifespan, many of them could positively benefit from the help of the interior architecture department. But the opportunities do not stop there. Larger scale construction projects could profit from collaborating with the construction science and engineering programs. Projects of a larger magnitude would be better-organized and run more efficiently with educated students acting as contractors. This alliance would help open up the studio to possibly more client bases because of the contacts other colleges may have. This could allow more access for students within the studio to other facilities around the college. The equipment sometimes limits us in our shop that many other students have readily available on hand.
The expansion of Design+Make could come with some problems. The most important issue could be that the studio’s principles of students discovering through building could change because there may be more delegation. Larger projects may involve professional contractors and student’s possibility to construct. The next issue to address is a problem that we had within this smaller studio. If too many hands are involved with a single project, arguments and differences in opinion could be the downfall of a project. Projects would not progress at the demanding pace that is required to reach completion and some students may be left out of critical design decisions.
To fully understand how we could expand the studio, there are precedents of other established design build studios. Studio 804 from the University of Kansas has been in existence since 1995 and collaborates with local professionals to design projects around Lawrence and Kansas City. Their studio began as small art projects being fashioned on the lawn of the University of Kansas’ campus and now completes small building projects. Similar to us, the studio is available to students in their final year before receiving a Master of Architecture. As a studio, they complete one project a year. Students get the chance to interact with engineering and contracting consultants. Communication becomes even more important to them than our own studio teaming with other professionals. Contractors demand that a project run efficiently whether students are in charge or not. Students are tasked with completing all facets of a project from schematic design to fabrication and documentation. The single project seems to give the students some stability, so that they initially enter the studio and know exactly what project they are faced with. The final difference I find between our studio and Kansas’ class is their use of networking. Studio 804 seems to have quite a grasp of displaying their work through a well organized website and a blog that is photo updated almost daily. Our website is relatively new and many professionals do not recognize the work of Design+Make.
After analyzing the opportunities, KSU Design+Make is a unique entity that in its current state allows students to synthesize, manage, and build their own piece of architecture. Expansion within the college would create more opportunities for the students and I believe that there should be something done to promote this. In my opinion, there needs to be a limit to the scale of the projects so that KSU students are able to complete all the work themselves. The studio needs to keep developing. I feel the success of Studio 804 stems from more than a decade of mistakes and challenges that have been addressed and solved.
Written by Jared Hagadorn