Armory upgrades mean better access, more space


A view from the bleachers of the College of Design's reconfigured studios on the main floor of the Armory. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Call it Extreme Makeover: Armory Edition.

With the growth of the undergraduate industrial design program -- established with a class of 20 in 2010 and now accepting 36 new students annually -- the College of Design needed space in the Armory for an additional studio as well as increased capacity for group critiques.

"We saw opportunities to create greater efficiencies and put seven sections of architecture and landscape architecture into what formerly was six studio spaces while adding a studio for industrial design," said Michael Miller, the college's director of operations.

"We also enhanced the center critique space to accommodate 80 to 100 students, improved security and simplified access to the studios," he said.

The reconfigured space was designed by 19 architecture, landscape architecture and interior design students in Bruce Bassler's design-build studio last spring. The class finished three studios and the critique area during the semester; a contractor completed the remaining studios over the summer.

"The creative challenge for us was, how do you turn space for six studios into seven and expand the review space and not make all the studios smaller?" said Bassler, associate professor of architecture.

Finding efficiencies

By examining circulation patterns, students found they could eliminate the warren of aisles around the center as well as a redundant hallway along the south side of the studios in favor of a single central hallway to gain square footage and provide more efficient access into the studios.

Bassler said the class secured the support of other occupants affected by the project -- the ISU police and parking divisions and the three ROTC units housed in the Armory -- to incorporate the south hallway into the college's space.

"This allowed us to do studios the same size as before or even a little larger along with the larger review space. It's a minor miracle," he said. "And security is better because now we have one central hallway with only two entrances into the space whereas before we had nearly a dozen."

Rather than demolish and rebuild walls, students chose to move whole walls intact to new locations. Though a labor-intensive process, it saved time and allowed the class to reuse materials.

The most difficult aspect was the amount of electrical work to be done, Bassler said.

"Since we essentially moved every wall, that meant all electrical had to be relocated. The electrical contractor taught students how to calculate circuits and pull wires and oversaw the work so we could save a lot of money doing it ourselves."

Instead of a costly track-lighting system, students installed utility light fixtures in the existing cable system over the review space. They also laid carpet remnants in a pattern reminiscent of farm fields seen from the air.

"It's a far nicer space than it's ever been," Miller said. "The furniture, while not new, also has been refurbished -- we redid the desktops and installed new concrete tops and threaded-rod handles for the flat files so they're all usable again."

All studios were ready for students to start classes on Aug. 20. As part of one of the college's strategic initiatives, the project was funded primarily by the provost's office.

College of Design students have had studio space at the Armory since the mid-1990s. Studios for first-year students moved to the King Pavilion when it opened in 2009; third-year architecture and landscape architecture studios remained in the Armory. In 2010, after the industrial design program was approved, those students were assigned spaces in the Armory, too.