Audio-Reader’s new pavilion a sensory delight

Posted on May 19, 2016 in Alumni News, Campus News, and News

Audio Reader's Sensory Pavilion is dedicated
The Sensory Garden at KU’s Baehr Audio-Reader Center is a feast of stunning sights, sounds, smells and textures. Now visitors to the richly landscaped grounds can experience the new Sensory Pavilion, a structure designed and built last semester by 20 architecture students in the Dirt Works Studio of the School of Architecture, Design & Planning.

More than 100 people attended the pavilion’s May 13 dedication ceremony, including Randy Austin, c’63, l’67, and his sister, Colinda Austin Stailey, c’61. The siblings helped fund the project, which was built in memory of their uncle, Dr. Johnny P. Austin, who’s also depicted in a bronze bust in the garden.

Austin, a 30-year Audio-Reader volunteer and chair of its development committee, didn’t hesitate to help when he heard the garden’s old gazebo needed a replacement. “I thought we’d go over to Lowe’s and maybe pick out the 10-footer,” he joked, prompting laughter from the crowd.

The garden got something much better. Chad Kraus, associate professor of architecture who teaches the Dirt Works Studio, enlisted his third-year students to craft a distinctive pavilion made of rammed earth, steel and charred timber. Rammed earth is a signature component of all the studio’s structures and is created by combining locally harvested clay, cement and water and compacting the mixture using pneumatic ramming tools.

Kraus recognized his students and thanked everyone involved in the project. “If it weren’t for all of these generous and courageous people,” he said, “something like this could never have happened.”

Randy’s son, Ed Austin, e’94, also attended the event and passed out engraved bricks, which will be installed in the garden’s paths, to each student. “It’s just a really cool thing you all have done here,” he said. Also receiving bricks were Kraus, School of Architecture Dean Mahesh Daas and Frank Male Sr., a longtime Audio-Reader volunteer who maintains the garden.

Dan Skinner, ’79, director of Kansas Public Radio and Audio-Reader, explained that in addition to the bricks, a stone plaque commemorating Randy and Colinda’s generous gift will be added.

“This pavilion will be a signature part of this garden for many, many years to come,” he said. “It not only is the students’ good work, but it would not have been possible without the financial support of Randy and Colinda.”

—Heather Biele

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