POD Squad

The Pod Squad: Architecture Students Build Lakeside HabitatDesign-build program takes place over the next three weeks.

Architectural vision will take concrete form over the next three weeks as nine architecture students and one professor head to Grand Lake for this year's design-build program.

The group, which leaves Wednesday, will transform a backwoods property into a lakeside retreat by designing and constructing a series of "pods" on the property belonging to Glenn Urie, a Vietnam veteran who resides at Grand Lake.

The pods are essentially a series of units that can be used for leisure as well as storage during the winter months, said Professor Adam Lanman, the visiting professor who structured the design-build.

In addition, students will receive five studio credit hours for undertaking the project.

"He'll basically just have a nice place to hang out now," said Asa Highsmith, architecture junior. "He doesn't have the means to do this, so he will benefit from the design-build just as much as we will."

The class collectively decided on the pod concept through a series of individual student designs and combinations, Lanman said.

"We looked at the culture and geography of Grand Lake and tried to create an architectural design that redefined life as it is led in that area," said Nick Archer, architecture junior.

Each pod will have a rounded bottom that rests inside a pit on the ground. The pods will also have the ability to suspend in the air through a system of ropes and pulleys hooked up to surrounding trees. While the units are suspended, their indentations on the ground can be used as fire pits, Lanman said.

Outside the basic pod concept, students will have fairly fluid guidelines in regards to construction and decoration of each unit.

"Each pod will be made of some different materials, constructed in different ways and ornamented differently," Lanman said. "Each student will have input during the creation process and that will ultimately determine the presentation of each pod."

Once each pod is constructed, the students will have an opportunity to add personalized design to the units.

"For instance, these structures will have no electricity, so we thought about painting one with glow in the dark paint for illumination at night," Highsmith said. "We have also considered hanging pictures of lake area from the tops of the pods to bring the outside environment inside.

The most difficult aspect of the project was not finding a site or designing the concept, but finding the right materials and tools to make it happen.

With no money to fund the project, the team had to put forth creative thought and extra effort to make these pods a reality.

"We have worked under the premise of having no project budget funds available," Lanman said. "We wanted to see what an architect can do when left to his or her own resources to produce built work."

The group visited a scrap yard in Oklahoma City, found discarded materials around the studio and will even search for commodities at Grand Lake for use.

"This makes it an exercise where architects may serve in the community through project design and construction ingenuity as opposed to funding from wealthy clientele or huge project budgets," Lanman said.

When the group departs for Grand Lake, it will begin the final leg of the project. However, the students have been working for weeks in preparation for the trip.

Over the last two and a half months, the group has worked on the project concept and design both individually and as a group in Gould Hall. The group met Monday and Tuesday at one of the student's homes and started preliminary construction on the pod frames, Highsmith said.

Those familiar with design-builds may be confused by this year's project because Professor Lanman's experimental design-build is unlike anything OU has done in the past.

"We are attempting to do something that is completely out of the ordinary," Archer said. "That is what makes this studio design-build stand out."

Traditionally, the college of architecture's design-build program consists of building single-family homes in Norman. Lanman made sure this year was different.

"In years before, students were just out there hammering together provided materials, and they had no input or experience in the design," Highsmith said. "It was obvious that this design-build would be a unique experience because we get to design it in full and without restriction."

This unorthodox design-build program was developed to cater to the class goals and construction methods Lanman said he thought were absent in years past. He said he wanted to make the project a challenging experience from which students would actually grow.

"The basic purpose of the design-build is to put students in a position where they are getting a hands on experience that leads to the creation of a complete architectural structure," said Mark Bushey, OU architecture graduate who participated in a 2003 design-build. "It sounds like this current project takes it a step further by incorporating more design and concept."

Lanman has not only tweaked the experience, but also transformed the goals and objectives of the design-build.

"My hope is that this allows them to redefine their own architectural goals as they move toward professional practice and also to begin to reach out to communities to put architecture out there for the public," Lanman said.

Location: Grand Lake, Oklahoma

Year:     2005

Team:     Katie Archer
          Nick Archer
          Brian Berryhill
          Asa Highsmith
          Hollie Hunt
          Matthew Peacock
          Michael Chad Porter
          Zachary Steele
          Dov Urie-Lanman
          Jasper Urie-Lanman
          “Dirty” Dave - Photography

Student Led summer design build studio

(4) camping pods
  • sleeping pod
  • storage pod
  • shower pod
  • fire pod
Each pod designed and situated on site by students
Each pod nested in stone terrace
Pods raised and lowered in tree canopy via counterweight and rigging.

No drawings were ever produced for this project