CDR History

In 1912, Harold Chamney started his dairy farm – Chamney Dairy – about a mile west of Kansas University and would eventually grow it to be one of the largest dairy producers servicing Lawrence and the University.  The farm would grow to eventually encompass a total of 10 buildings over 130 acres of land

Over the years, Chamney became known as an innovator in the development of needed tools and approaches to farming.  His care and dedication in delivering a quality product to his customers earned him recognition and honors in Topeka as a “master farmer.”

Many years later, Kansas University built a four-lane road that cut through the farm to make access to KU basketball games easier to get to.  Eventually the farm shut down in 1970 and the entire property was sold to KU Endowment.

Since the 1970’s, the three remaining structures – house, barn and bull stable – have served the School of Fine Arts in a number of ways.  The bull barn became a ceramics studio, the barn a glass-forming studio (until it ceased due to code problems) and the house that has seen Interior and Industrial design classes using it and the barn for classes and workshops.

In 2004, the Department of Design launched a national search for chairperson of the department.  It was during the interview process that the then dean showed the property to the would-be candidate for the purpose as a possible resource for future expansion of the department.]

It was that potential transformation of the property from abandoned farm to creative campus that convinced the candidate to accept the position and move to Lawrence after a successful 25-year career in Los Angeles.

Over the next few years, there were continued proposals developed by a small group of faculty to Senior Administration to take an active role in designating the property as a dedicated research center for design. Numerous opportunities and initiatives came and went without resolve until 2009 when the Chair approached KU Endowment Association to request financial and philosophical support to improve the property for use by the department as a Center for Design Research.

KUEA’s reaction was prudent for much of the three remaining buildings had fallen in a state of disarray. Over the next year, significant work was completed on the exteriors including masonry work to the brick, replacement of all windows/doors and roofs including the signature metal finish to the top of the barn. This action by KUEA not only made a statement to the community about the stewardship of Endowment to manage their property, but also began a clear statement that the Center for Design Research was not just a concept, but also a tangible place on the map.

The Center for Design Research intends to take up where Harold Chamney left off…producing quality products by developing innovative ways to solve problems.  The Center for Design Research is a working laboratory and incubator, drawing together KU students and faculty from multiple disciplines to design imaginative, yet practical, ways of addressing complex business and social problems.


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Categories: General, History


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