Architecture Education: Studio 804 at University of Kansas

Architecture Education: Studio 804 at University of Kansas

Dan Rockhill’s hands-on studio for master’s students has thus far completed seven state-of-the-art sustainable campus buildings at the University of Kansas, and countless socially responsible housing projects around town. 

At the University of Kansas, students get their hands dirty far more than at most design-build studios. Under the tutelage of distinguished professor Dan Rockhill, 20 master’s candidates in their final year design and construct a permanent, LEED Platinum building over a two-semester, nine-month period. So far, the studio, which operates as a not-for-profit corporation, has built seven state-of-the-art sustainable projects.

In 2013, they completed a fabrication studio for the university’s EcoHawks Research Facility, where students prototype such renewable energy technologies as eco-cars. This year, they are building The Forum at Marvin Hall – an addition to a lecture hall and common area that features passive and active sustainable systems, including a vented wall that opens and closes in response to changes in sunlight and temperature. The students have collaborated with Transsolar of Germany, an international leader in sustainable building technology.

 The new Forum at Marvin Hall was designed and built by Studio 804 students.
The new Forum at Marvin Hall was designed and built by Studio 804 students.

“It’s a very unusual and rigorous program; a boot camp for architecture students,” says Rockhill. He started the studio in 1995 with a mission to build universally accessible homes, – and ones that are strikingly contemporary in form and material. Many of them have been constructed for the Tenants to Homeowners organization. It’s a mission he still believes in. “I don’t understand why every damn school in the country isn’t doing it,” says the delightfully cantankerous architect. “My program is a model for how to start a not-for-profit corporation. If you go to the land bank, there are lots of crappy vacant lots that can be filled with houses.”

Dan Rockhill initi­ated the master’s program in 1995 and oversees one design-build project a year.

Since 2011, students have built one new campus building per year. The most important quality students must bring to this program is work ethic. “I can teach the physical stuff; being handy is not critical,” he says. “But you have to bring your work ethic, and be accountable to yourself.”

About the Program
Studio 804 at the University of Kansas, School of Architecture, Design and Planning / Lawrence, Kansas / 18 to 24 students / master’s program, two nine-month semesters / from US$360 per credit hour

A word from our sponsors

A word from our sponsors