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History of the CDR

The complex of buildings that houses the Center for Design Research began as the the home of the Chamney Dairy. It was founded in 1921 about a mile west of KU by Harold Chamney, a dairyman whose advanced farming techniques won him wide acclaim. It would become one of the largest dairies in the region and eventually have 10 buildings over 130 acres of land. 

In 1970 the farm shut down and the entire property was sold to the KU Endowment Association. Two of the buildings currently in use by the CDR found service as a glass-forming studio, and interior and Industrial design classrooms. Over time the buildings fell into disrepair and by 2004 were in poor condition.

In 2009, John Gaunt, Dean of the School of Architecture, Design & Planning, and CDR director Greg Thomas won the support of the KU Endowment Association to renovate the buildings as a Center for Design Research, and to add an additional classroom and conference center. The new building was to be designed and built by the students of Studio 804, Department of Architecture’s design-build program.

Over the next year what was to become the CDR was a beehive of activity, as the barn and house were renovated into design laboratories and classrooms, and Studio 804 constructed a building whose resource conserving features, such as highly efficient air conditioning, a green wall, advanced metering of electricity, and wind turbine won it accolades in the press and a USGBC LEED Platinum rating. 

The Center for Design Research takes up where Harold Chamney left off. We also create high-value products by developing innovative ways to solve problems. The Center for Design Research is a working laboratory and incubator. By drawing together KU students, faculty, and industry representatives from multiple disciplines we use design to create imaginative and practical ways to creating innovative consumer products and services.


Featured Articles

In top 5 programs nationwide for its emphasis on construction materials and methods —DesignIntelligence magazine
Studio 804 students design and construct a technically sophisticated, sustainable building each year
Four buildings designed and constructed by Studio 804 architecture students have achieved Platinum LEED ratings
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
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