Assistant professor of architecture Keith Van de Riet’s studio design build class’ latest project was his biggest to date: a shade pavilion in Burroughs Creek Park in Lawrence unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 1.
The studio design build class is one all third-year architecture students are required to take at the University of Kansas. In the class, it is usually a student’s first opportunity to see a project from conception to completion. The projects the class creates can be as small as furniture or as large as the pavilion, which took the entire semester to complete and a year of preparation.
The idea for the pavilion came from Suzan Hampton, the collaborator and community liaison for the studio, who noticed the park had tremendous potential that was not being utilized, according to Van de Riet.
"She and I collaborated in another studio and then, over the course of previous projects, we started talking about the park and how it could be improved," Van de Riet said. "All there was this kind of funky playground. No bathrooms, no shade, nothing."
Van de Riet said they worked with Parks and Recreation to identify the need for the shade pavilion. The catch? No budget.
“What’s funny is this is the first design build studio where I had no budget, absolutely zero dollars going in, but it’s the largest project I’ve ever built with students,” Van de Riet said. “But constraints can bring innovation, and having no budget is a huge constraint.”
Because of the lack of money, Van de Riet and his class had to get creative and use other resources, such as the community itself. Throughout the process, the class communicated with the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association to get feedback on the project. They also had help from local organizations such as McClure Engineering Company, Cottin’s Hardware and Rental, Kansas City Tent and Awning, and more.
The other way to solve the budgetary problem was in the materials itself; all of the materials used to build the pavilion were recycled. The class utilized city recycling centers, but Westar Energy donated the majority of the materials that it used. Westar also sponsored the playground that was already in the park.
“Almost all of our materials came from Westar. There were recycled power poles and recycled steel from other projects,” Van de Riet said.
Though the recycled materials were largely used because of budgetary concerns, the pavilion is also part of a larger message about sustainability.
“The project was about enhancing the environment and representing the ways in which we can mitigate our impact of surrounding ecosystems,” said Aaron Lamer, a senior from Salina studying architecture in Van de Riet’s class.
The pavilion is just phase one of the Prairie Block project, an initiative that aims to better the park and use green infrastructure to improve waterways. The rest of the project will include removing invasive species from the Burroughs Creek Wetland Area and replacing them with native prairie plants.
The design on the pavilion itself reflects this goal. A mural of multi-colored fire that spreads across the top is symbolic of the project.
“A typical prairie landscape benefits from a regular burning process, so on the mural we tried to depict blue for the water, green for the grass, and then the fire on the left side,” Van de Riet said.
The completion of the project had a major impact on Lamer as an architecture student.
“This project is one of the most important things I have ever done,” Lamer said. “To be able to create a quality project that benefits the community is one of the best feelings of pride I have ever encountered.”
For Van de Riet, the pavilion is a powerful project he is proud of.
“It gives the park an identity where it previously had none,” Van de Riet said. “It shows that we can accomplish great things with very little. We shouldn’t let money drive the decision-making process; we should foster innovation through these kinds of things.”