DIY Lecture Hall

DIY Lecture Hall

Dan Rockhill

Over the past year, graduate students at the University of Kansas have been constructing an addition to their own School of Architecture. The Forum at Marvin Hall, designed by Studio 804, is a $2.5 million, 2,800-square-foot, 121-seat lecture hall addition. The School knew there was a need for a dedicated architecture classroom as 21 required courses are currently held outside of Marvin Hall, which is all studio space and administration offices.

Studio 804 is an 18-person masters studio lead by Professor Dan Rockhill. Its end product is a collaborative, hands-on design-build project where students do absolutely everything themselves from concept to finishes. “Young people today have been denied a tectonic experience,” said Rockhill. “To synthesize their education is important.”


Over the past 20 years, Studio 804 has produced 12 housing units and six LEED Platinum buildings. Originally completed over the course of a single semester, the studio’s design challenges have increased in size and complexity into a full year project. The last few studio projects have focused on university buildings, with The Forum being their most ambitious project to date.

The Forum project required a litany of approvals and clearances by University officials before becoming a reality. “The lineage of things that had to be addressed for all of this to fall into place was incredible,” said Rockhill.

The studio began in August 2013 after some initial schematic work. The site and footprint of the expansion was essentially given to the studio by Marvin Hall’s location on historic Jayhawk Boulevard, the placement of the building’s existing mechanical systems on the ground floor, and its location next to the art and design building. Demolition and site preparation began in October.


To integrate the expansion into the existing building, the 600-square-foot jury room was renovated to become “The Commons,” an open congregation space for students, faculty, and staff, as well as the lecture hall’s foyer. “We wanted the old jury room to become what it was meant to be,” said Jonathan Wilde, a Master’s graduate in the studio.

The lecture hall is enclosed by two layers of glass separated by three feet, which can be opened in the summer for additional cooling and closed in the winter for heating. Vertical louvers provide additional climate and lighting controls. The design exposes the roof trusses and cross bracing, and combined with a rolled steel floor completes the modern industrial aesthetic. A green wall separates the lecture space from the new jury room and breakout space.

“This studio has given me the confidence to build and think through design problems,” said Wilde, “and it has changed my expectations for what I want to do with my career.”

The Forum is currently completing finishes with occupancy expected in September.