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Architecture opens new KC studio

New doctoral program under way

Two new endeavors at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning are opening new avenues for students to enhance their education and careers.

The school's Kansas City Urban Design Studio has been operating in various locations around Kansas City for about 20 years. This summer, a former preschool facility was renovated and became home to the program. Final-year students working at the studio also have new collaborators from Kansas State University.

The school also has started a doctoral program, placing it among an elite few.

Students at the downtown Kansas City studio will work on major projects with high visibility in the area. In addition to designing individual buildings, students will continue to work on designs of entire downtown urban areas, and Kansas City-specific projects such as the redesign of Union Station and the city's upcoming light rail transportation system. Being involved in such high-profile projects has enabled the students to work with an impressive client list. Representatives from the mayor's office and city council members are just a few of the students' regular clients.

"The studio gives students experience with a great variety of urban issues," Swann said. "Under no other circumstances would they get that experience."

Additionally, a new doctoral program is in its first semester and already has its first pair of students enrolled. KU is in elite company — only about 20 universities in the United States offer doctoral programs in architecture. Keith Diaz Moore, department chair and associate professor of architecture, said the program will focus on two of the school's strengths: the design and fabrication process and healthy and sustainable environments.

An example of the former is Studio 804, a nonprofit organization based in the school that designs homes and buildings using sustainable materials and practices. In the healthy and sustainable environments realm, students and faculty have undertaken projects such as studying the ideal size of hospital operating rooms and developing a Web site detailing sustainable and environmentally friendly building materials.

"We really want our students to be generating knowledge that will be used to inform the design process," Diaz Moore said. "The philosophical question we ask is ‘what ought we do as architects to enhance life on this planet?' "

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