Rockhill’s Studio 804

A New Generation Builds Modernist Architecture.

During their final semester in the Univ. of Kansas’ Graduate Program in Architecture, students participate in Studio 804, a synthesis studio in which they build an affordable house that is later sold to a qualified buyer. All design and construction work—from formwork, flatwork, and flooring to cabinets, countertops, and roofing—is done by the students; the only tasks they subcontract are electric, plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning. The Studio’s aim is to have the students work within the confines of the world in which they will soon find themselves: a world of clients, building codes, budgets, neighborhood associations, weather delays, and deadlines.

1063 Random Road
The fourth Studio house, this three-bedroom, 1500-sq.-ft. structure is a study in accessibility and sustainability. The second-floor bedroom and bath are designed for a resident care provider and include a chair lift, among other amenities. The house’s exterior, meanwhile, is clad in a screen salvaged from a cooling tower slated for demolition, while the interior has floorboards that came from a gymnasium, some still bearing the hash marks and free-throw lines of their past life.

216 Alabama Street
For this building, the Studio’s third, students wanted to make accessibility an asset, rather than a design liability. The result? This open-plane house, which contains bamboo floors and siding made of Okume, a material used in boat building. The bathroom interiors, as well as garage roof, are constructed from recycled aluminum sheets, while the rubber padding around the sink and toilet were once tires.

1144 Pennsylvania
Completed in 1999, this 1300-sq.-ft. house aimed to integrate green technology. Taking advantage of the lot’s south-facing location, the students included a solar light box that floods the structure’s interior with sunlight in the winter, yet they also positioned trees to shade the space so that it remains cool in the summer. The cement fiber siding on the house’s exterior also promotes the longevity of the wall assembly and reduces maintenance needs.

933 Pennsylvania
Built in 1998 with a block grant of $72,000, this was the Studio’s first house. But that low cost and relative inexperience didn’t compromise quality, evident by the structure’s custom-crafted cabinets and clever siting. (The house maximizes a grade change, allowing for an added loft space in the rear.) The structure is sided with smooth plywood panels, while the porch is constructed from a former industrial system. The interior floors are also recycled: They came from a VFW hall slated for demolition.

1718 Atherton Court
Completed last month, this structure is the Studio’s most advanced effort yet, as it takes advantage of green technology and recent product developments. To maximize the energy generated from the sun, the house is outfitted with thermal mass—in the form of water tubes—that emit warmth to its interior; likewise, its cellular window shades keep the heat in at night. In the summer, carefully calculated overhangs and a louvered screen protect the elevation from overheating. Yet most impressive is the roof—a new type of “superglass” that provides protection equivalent to that of an insulated wall.

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