Architecture students build resumes with Studio 804

Posted on Sep 19, 2018 in Career/Life and News

Architecture students build resumes with Studio 804

Real-world experience

By their senior year at KU, students have taken tests, completed group projects, and are ready for the real world. Or at least they think they are.

For the architects-to-be in Dan Rockhill’s Studio 804 class, their time at KU isn’t complete without putting everything they’ve learned to the test: by designing and building a house by themselves, over the course of a school year.

Rockhill has taught the course to students entering the final year of the Masters of Architecture program at the School of Architecture & Design for 25 years. He’s overseen both private and campus builds in Lawrence, Kansas City, and even Greensburg after a tornado.

Developing work ethic

There are no shortcuts in the process. The class members do everything, with no subcontractors. Rockhill’s students work six days a week in what is almost always their only class. And as an added challenge, Studio 804 students build with sustainability in mind.

“Being eco-friendly has always been a focus, and it’s been an even bigger emphasis now,” said Rockhill. “We strive for our projects to be certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The highest certification is platinum, and we’ve received it on a project 11 times.”

To receive the certification, the project must limit the impact on the environment and surrounding ecosystems.  It includes everything from adding solar panels to the roof to using native plants to reduce the amount of rainwater flowing into the storm system.

Every year, Rockhill sees the students develop both their abilities and their work ethic.

“I tell the students that they are smart, they just haven’t been exposed to on-site work yet. They may not know how to do concrete placing, framing or roofing, but you have to really want to do it, focus, work hard and concentrate. It is difficult. When I was their age I found it the same way. They haven’t had that experience yet.”

Career benefits

If there is any question about the benefits of the Studio 804 program, ask potential employers.

“We really do have an international reputation. I‘ll get employers calling from Seattle with 60 applications in hand, asking what I can tell them about a student because they recognize 804. Few students are able to slide a portfolio across the table with pictures of what they actually built. One employer couldn’t believe what a former student said she did in the year, and they called me to verify.”

This year’s house is adjacent to Brook Creek Park in East Lawrence, and it includes a secondary accessory dwelling unit for the owner to use as a guest house. Check out the gallery below for a look at the build process and to see the finished product.

KU Alumni

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—Ryan Camenzind

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