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Theory & Feasibility // Brian Delaney


Recently I came across an article that discussed the skills gap of today’s architecture student, and its conclusion began to make me think about my college experience and upcoming graduation. After an industry wide survey in the UK, 80 percent of employers and 75 percent of students agreed that they received an education that put theory above feasibility. Simply put, recent graduates seemed to lack the knowledge to build anything they designed. This article took me back at first as the problem was much larger than I initially perceived. However, after reflection I feel the article may be onto something.


While this survey was taken in the UK, its overlying message can be seen throughout architecture programs here at home. A simple review of graduate portfolios on Issuu confirms this. With the ever increasing reliance on computers for design algorithms, it is easy to develop a disconnect with the feasibility of one’s design. It is easier to produce a striking rendering than investigate how something will come together. While at no means are we required to know everything pertaining to the construction of our designs (if so we would be in the wrong program), as architecture students we do have a responsibility to know basic construction processes and methods of detailing.


Now enter the Design+Make at Kansas State University. This academic year has provided the opportunity to participate in both spectrums of the architectural process, conceptual and technical. In most cases, the additional freedom to advance knowledge of materiality and construction processes. Possibly the most appropriate example of this being the fabrication of the Johnson County Pavilion. From an outside perspective, it may appear that we are only learning labor processes such as welding and plasma cutting. However, these traits only seem to scratch the surface of what we have learned this semester from our involvement with the pavilion. Countless hours have been spent refining details and understanding the properties of both steel and wood. You would be surprised about how much thought it takes to join two elements together. Our column to beam detail will stay with me as the most challenging process as it seemed to always find its way back to the drawing boards. 

Regardless of the challenges we have faced throughout project, the fact that I get to work with my hands and do something I enjoy makes it worth it. With graduation approaching and the entrance to the workforce around the corner, I feel this studio has further developed my competence of architecture skills.  Not only have I had the opportunity to further my knowledge of steel and wood, but I’ve learned new skills such as welding. I can only imagine the benefit this knowledge will bring to the profession. After all, how many architecture students can say they had a major role in the construction of a large structure such as the Johnson County Pavilion.

Written by Brian Delaney

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