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Tom Harper: Studio 804 pulls off another win for Lawrence with 519 Indiana (Column)

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Open house set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 14


After touring Studio 804’s latest project at 519 Indiana St. with three students, I couldn’t help but appreciate the team effort and leadership it took to create this sculptural home.

Distinguished Professor Dan Rockhill, of the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design, is a seasoned professional. He has taught Studio 804, a graduate-level course, for 25 years, building 16 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum buildings in Kansas. 

Rockhill’s passion for architecture and teaching, coupled with his leadership qualities, have produced many students who have used their experiences with Studio 804 to launch successful careers. He provides the opportunity to design and construct a building from a concept into reality. Students learn from experience while employing their individual talents, learning to communicate effectively to achieve a common goal. They learn to act as a team to successfully build a home they will be proud of. 

Ultimately, it is their signature — a permanent mark on their identities, our community and the future homeowners.

Tom Harper Studio 804 students, from left, Rachel Johnston, McKendree Mummey and Kimberly Gordon give a tour of 519 Indiana St., the graduate-level KU course’s latest project, on May 6, 2022.

This year, Rockhill had the challenging task of working with 28 students with a wide spectrum of experiences and skills. 

“It took time to design and build a very complicated, challenging structure from the ground up,”  Rockhill said, adding, “The students had to learn to trust each other and hold each other accountable.”

When asked about the origin of the design, Studio 804 student Rachel Johnston, from Olathe, said the site was the driving factor of the design. The lot is narrow, with 100-year-old neighboring homes on each side. 

“We loved the trees in the back yard and the 200-year-old bur oak in front,” she said. 

Student Kim Gordon, from Kansas City, said the home is designed to accommodate people’s daily routines. 

“The master bedroom receives the morning sunshine, and the living room, kitchen and deck, the setting sun,” Gordon said. 

Tom Harper

Due to the narrow site, there was nowhere to go but up. The entry, on the south side, comprises what Rockhill calls a “moat” that surrounds the first floor. 

“The moat gives the effect that the house is emerging out of the ground but also functions as a drainage area for the foundation,” Rockhill said. 

The lower level is wrapped in beautifully installed Sassafras, a domestic hardwood native to the eastern United States. The upper-level exterior is a smooth, matte black material called Fundermax, which Rockhill said is developed in Austria as a byproduct of lumber production. It is moisture-, weather-, fire- and UV-resistant, he said. 

The front door is located a few steps down from ground level on the south side. Stepping into the foyer there is a polished concrete floor and a wall of beautiful, light maple veneer cabinets. There are two bedrooms and a full bath on the lower level, as well as the mechanical room that holds a high-efficiency water heater and solar components for the 15 panels on the roof. 

The home has just less than 2,000 square feet, not including the decks upstairs. 

I must admit, walking up the stairs felt like opening a Christmas present. We entered a well-proportioned, open living room, kitchen and dining space with a curtain wall that draws your eyes westward to the deck, garage and treeline. It’s a breathtaking room with smooth ceilings, crisp LED lights and finishes. 

The flooring is tongue and groove maple planks. The kitchen island countertop is made of Richlite, a recycled paper material. There is another curtain wall on the south side that takes advantage of the natural light. 

Tom Harper

“To mitigate solar heat gain, we designed the louver system to block 90% of summer sun but let in the majority of the winter sun,” Rockhill said. “Each of the major curtain walls have motorized roller shades that provide a combination of privacy and solar shading.” 

When rolled up, the shades are difficult to see because Johnston and her peers worked tirelessly to hide them from view. Less is indeed more.

On the east side, is the main level bedroom with a curtain wall and deck that overlooks a majestic mature bur oak on Indiana Street. Watching the sunrise filter through this tree will surely be a magical experience. Adjacent to the bedroom is a full bathroom with a Duravit vanity, white ceramic tile shower, and a skylight that floods the room with natural light. 

Tom Harper

This project stretched each student in transformative ways. They worked as a team, learning to communicate, pushing each other and trusting each other. As McKendree Mummey, a student from Quincy, Illinois, said, “We had to react quickly and responsibly. There was lots of problem-solving. I feel more confident in my ability to take on responsibility now.” 

Open House

The students of Dan Rockhill’s 2021-22 Studio 804 class will welcome the community to the home they created at 519 Indiana St. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 14.

Johnston also reflected on the experience.

“Studio 804 has made us more well-rounded. I now understand how to build a building,” she said. “We have grown as people and designers; it’s been amazing.” 

Rockhill and the 28 students of the 2021-22 Studio 804 class look forward to welcoming you Saturday to enjoy, experience and learn about 519 Indiana. 

There are numerous other details that contribute to why this project is so special and will likely achieve the LEED Platinum designation. The students will be happy to fill you in. 

Bravo to everyone involved with this important project. The Studio 804 team and their leader created a beautiful home in the historic Pinkney neighborhood that will stand the test of time for all of us who appreciate modern and sustainable architecture.

Tom Harper This home at 519 Indiana St., pictured May 7, 2022, is the product of Studio 804, Dan Rockhill’s graduate-level course in the KU School of Architecture and Design.
Tom Harper
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About the writer
About the writer


Tom Harper is a Realtor at Stephens Real Estate helping people in Lawrence and Douglas County buy and sell real estate. He is the founder of Lawrence Modern, a group whose mission is to raise awareness of midcentury and modern architecture. You will find him posting frequently on Instagram under @lawrencemodern, sharing his daily observations of his favorite place on earth: Lawrence, Kansas. Read more of Tom’s writing for The Lawrence Times here.

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Tom Harper: Studio 804 pulls off another win for Lawrence with 519 Indiana (Column)

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Students of Dan Rockhill’s Studio 804 class have worked together to create a sculptural, energy-efficient home in the Pinkney neighborhood. You can see it for yourself on Saturday.

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