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Future Architects Apply Their Knowledge

In a few months, when the climate presumably warms, the snow and ice melt and the ground thaws, Chester Michalik, professor of art, will get a new garden shed, thanks to the efforts of 14 senior architects.

Michalik commissioned the students, all architecture majors in ARS 380 Architecture, to design and construct a new garden shed to replace the dilapidated, windowless structure now resting in his Holyoke yard.

The shed, which was designed and built entirely by the students, will be trucked and installed this spring when the ground and weather are more accommodating, says Gretchen Schneider, a lecturer in the art department, who teaches the advanced architecture course and oversaw the shed project, along with Jim Hume, shop supervisor and technician in the art department.

The project made the perfect assignment for her students, says Schneider. “To have a hands-on perspective is essential to learning how materials are put together” for women who will go on to work as architects. Schneider says many college architecture programs do not allow for such hands-on training, and may suffer for that omission.

For now, the shed rests in its completed state in the sculpture courtyard in Hillyer Hall. Students finished putting it together in the first week of December.

On the way to finishing the shed, there were a few setbacks, says Schneider, some differences of opinion and novice mistakes. “But they struggled through it and came up with a great product,” she said.

The shed was built according to Michalik’s specified needs, including windows, which his current shed does not have, and the same square footage, or “footprint,” as his shed now. Students in the class began designing the structure last spring after Michalik approached the class with the assignment, Schneider said. Multiple designs were submitted before the class and its client settled on the final draft.

The students coordinated all the details of the building, including purchasing materials from Northampton Lumber and Home Depot, and contracting a truck to transport the pre-fab structure to Holyoke in the spring. Michalik will foot the $1,500 tab for materials.

Schneider says she hopes to assign more such projects to her students. “It was a fantastic experience,” she said. “I hope this is the first in the foundation of more design-and-build projects in the future.”

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