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School of Architecture students construct the future of the Fence

Second-year architecture students build a structure to shelter the Fence for a class project. (credit: Alan Vangpat/Layout Staff) Second-year architecture students build a structure to shelter the Fence for a class project. (credit: Alan Vangpat/Layout Staff) Credit: Alan Vangpat/Layout Staff Credit: Alan Vangpat/Layout Staff

Second-year students in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture are currently building a substantial structure that is meant to act as a shelter at the Fence. This structure is slated to be completed on Monday. The second-year studio project, which started at the beginning of the semester, aims to teach collaboration, construction, and environmentally friendly practices.

Students began the project by working in groups of six trying to conceptualize, as their assignment’s instructions put it, a “small structure to shelter students at ‘the Fence.’ ” They later discovered, however, that they would have to combine their efforts into a single, cohesive space. “Not only do you have to design as a team, but you have to construct, manage, and present as an entire studio,” said Kim McDonald, a sophomore architecture major working on the project.

In terms of cohesiveness, associate professor of architecture and project coordinator Kai Gutschow stated that the students felt a “bit of an emotional resistance” to having the design become unified. “But I’m completely fine with that,” he said. “If it’s hard, then you’re learning something.”

Since the project began, students have been working in the studio, woodshop, and most recently outside between the CFA parking lot and the tennis courts. The assignment to create a full-scale structure is new to the students, and it presents a set of obstacles. “There’s an unimaginable gap between hot-glued basswood models and an eight-foot-tall inhabitable structure,” McDonald said.

Gutschow noted that the faculty were able to stress the importance of branching out from the studio, where it can be easy to become caught up in extravagant design. “When we make a drawing or a small chipboard model, we’re almost fibbing to ourselves as to how things will work together,” he said. He explained that building a full-scale model forces students to focus on such details.

The project also includes plans to go beyond the Fence. According to Gutschow, construction company DCK International “plans to have one of the structures dissembled and transported to their corporate campus in Large, Pa.” As for the others, the students will continue working on them, and Gutschow hopes that they can be displayed as public works of art around Pittsburgh.

According to Gutschow and McDonald, the project will allow the School of Architecture to branch out to the larger campus community. The project seems to have already attracted other students’ attention. “It’s very interesting to see their work outside like this,” junior business major Stephanie Gill said.