Park City High School students design studio for the Kimball Art Center |

Park City High School students design studio for the Kimball Art Center

From left: Mitch Vande Guchte, Chris Humbert, Christian Armstrong and Ryan Coole all have a hand in designing a new metal-working studio for the Kimball Arts Center. Armstrong and Coole are juniors at Park City High School who are heading the project.
Carolyn Webber/Park Record |

Getting 100 percent on a miniature bridge made out of paper and sticks in a high school physics class is satisfying. Seeing a real structure you designed constructed is even better.

Two students in Park City High School’s PCCAPS program (Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies) were chosen to design plans for a metalworking studio for the Kimball Art Center. Christian Armstrong and Ryan Cook, both juniors, began working on the project in September and recently wrapped up preliminary designs.

Amy MacDonald, outgoing artistic director of the Kimball Art Center, said that the center has been struggling to keep up with the demand for welding classes because of space constraints. Currently, the temporary metalworking studio is basically a tarp pulled over an open lot beside the center on Bonanza Drive. With little room, and availability cut short during the winter months, the space needed a revamp.

But, the center also has plans to build a new home in a few years, so MacDonald presented a challenge for the students.

“How do you come up with something that’s cheap, upcycles, is temporary, but can do the job for two to three years?” she said.

The students immediately got to work, putting in about eight hours every week since early September. They received some help from their advisors, Chris Humbert and Mitch Vande Gutche, but the two have mostly done the work on their own.

So far, the designs include a metal framework, corrugated metal roof, gabion walls and a repurposed shipping container that would double as an office and storage space. The gabion walls, which are essentially metal crates filled with loose rocks, could easily be reused for a future structure, just as the corrugated metal roof and shipping container.

The outdoor structure also needs to have circulation, since welding equipment can get hot, but be able to retain some heat during the winter months.

Watching the two students weave around budget, engineering and city planning restrictions, Humbert said they are learning invaluable skills.

“They are working on a real project with real constraints,” he said. “They are reacting to adversity, which you don’t really do in class. You have a deadline and as long as you meet that deadline and you meet the rubric, you get an A.”

Cook said that he loves being able to work on a project that, one day, they might see actually constructed, and he is learning a lot along the way.

“It’s more learning than getting your test back and you get a C. Ok, well, now what?” he said. “We move onto the next unit, you don’t really learn it again. Now we have to start over and relearn it.”

Plus, Armstrong added, it is a fun way to learn.

“If you have fun while learning, you might actually want to learn and it might be more ingrained in your mind,” he said.

The process hasn’t been without adversity, however. The two had to essentially start over from scratch after receiving their initial designs back with a red line drawn straight through their structure. Apparently, they had built over property lines. Although it was frustrating, Cook said, they went back to the drawing board.

Vande Gutche said that the project goes above and beyond the senior design class he worked on for his undergraduate degree in engineering.

“Not only are they getting the engineering experience, they are learning how to contact people, how to set up meetings,” he said. “They are learning so many things that they are able to apply and will be able to continue to apply.”

MacDonald, too, said that she has been impressed by the students and the project as a whole. She said that the students have been creative and resourceful, no matter the size of the problem they come across.

“What a great opportunity to have a hands-on meaningful project that is real life, real time,” she said. “It’s exciting for them.”

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