Studio Focuses on Real Projects and Partnerships

SDSU is a land grant university in a state with very few architects compared to other parts of the country. The learning model they embrace is an integrated and hands-on approach that makes the PCI Studio an excellent fit within their curriculum. The architecture school started in 2009, so it is one of the newest programs in the U.S. The school has partnered with Gage Brothers in Sioux Falls, SD. 

Through the establishment of the PCI Studio, precast systems are taught to students in both the Construction Management and Architecture Schools through an annual cycle of interdisciplinary coursework. The sequence of collaboration will pair novice students in one discipline with advanced students in the other to enhance knowledge transfer and to clarify hierarchies.

Every advanced CM student managing a concrete community project constructed by more novice architecture students will have already made formwork and done casting with an advanced architecture student who has previously worked on a concrete community project. Students who eventually manage and research “real world” issues in their fourth year coursework do so with prior “hands-on” experience with precast concrete technologies at SDSU.

 “What has been beautiful about this program is that we have gotten to build a program from scratch, including building our own spaces,” says Brian Rex, head of the Department. “ Our program is unique in that we have these small places where we work or where we are thinking where we’ll work. Not all our graduates will go to these places, of course, but we have a responsibility to these places.”

Gage Brothers a Studio Partner

“The Studio at South Dakota State University is designing and building a project in Mobridge, South Dakota as part of its hands-on learning environment,” says Tom Kelley, president of Gage Brothers. The structure in Mobridge, SD will be a gathering space where summer festivals take place. The students have been involved in not only in the design of the project, but also in the entire precast process.

“They want to do all the shop drawings, and do the piece drawings for us,” says Kelley. “They have worked quite a bit with our engineering department and they have engineered this whole structure. Right now, we are pricing it for them. Eventually, they will come here and help us make all these pieces. In the spring, we will then have a chance to erect this project with them.”

The hands-on approach has meant that many departments at Gage Brothers have spent time with the students including the engineering department, project management, sales department, and president Tom Kelley.

One of the benefits of working with this studio was understanding how the students view concrete at the beginning and after studying the topic. “At the beginning of the semester I was a little surprised. Being architectural students I thought they would push the envelope a little further,” says Kelley. “But initially they designed straight, flat plains, because that is what their idea of concrete is. And we really worked with them during those initial meetings to teach them that while what they were asking was possible, we really wanted them to dig deeper and think outside the box. And then, once we sort of gave them permission, they went the other way. And then we had to reel them back a little bit. So we learned that their first impression of concrete is not that it is a flexible and dynamic material -- through the studio they learn that it really is.”