Author: Brenton Smith

I Once Was Lost But Now I’m Mound

The last couple of weeks have been busy for the Moundville Pavilion team, with the revolving door of visiting guest reviewers, a mock-up, and structural meetings.

Looking Up!

With the arrival of our pool tarp material, it was time to utilize the partially built pavilion and to mock-up the ceiling form. With the help of our fellow 5th-year Hailey Osborne, we made quick work of the mock-up which ultimately provided some much-needed perspective on the experiential quality of the proposed form. Seeing the slightly dull material for the underside of the pavilion confirmed the team’s desire for a more reflective surface that will blend the pavilion in with the surrounding environment.

Stood Up!

With the continuation of our meetings with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, the design began to evolve with the structural needs of the pavilion. Replacing the columns meant the opportunity to question the design of the columns, including their connection to the trusses as well as the ground. The first decision the team made was moving from a 3-ply system to a 5-ply system, causing the columns to widen and subsequently blend more with the surrounding tree trunks.

Team members mocking up a 5-ply column.

Secondly, the team decided it was important to make all of the columns vertical, contrasting with the previous design that incorporated angled bracing members. This vertical design provides a more porous plan from covered to uncovered areas and takes away the provisional nature of the diagonals. By taking out the original A and V column system, the necessary lateral stability was absorbed into the roof form, enlarged footings, and stiffer columns.

Meet Up!

Over the previous weeks, Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker (from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS), and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY) spent time discussing and providing constructive insight on the design. Duvall Decker helped the team think about the connection points of the columns and their constructability. This conversation led the team to develop a steel connection between each truss and column that allows for less risk of misalignment.

The team created a drawing exploring the new column-to-truss connection.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien zoomed out from the details and urged the team to strengthen the conceptual ideas of the project. This clarified the goals for the design and propelled the team forward with confidence in the direction the design was headed. We left ourselves with one question: How can you be of the surrounding landscape, without being the surrounding landscape?

The Mounds Are Calling and We Must Go

Meetings with Joe

Reporting from Hale County, the Moundville Pavilion 5th-year student team members—tasked with designing and building a pavilion and surrounding landscape on a historic Native American settlement site—are back after a restful holiday season and are ready to roll. While we were away, the team met with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, via Zoom and assessed the integrity of the existing pavilion structure. Due to the structure being left alone for so long and not being a fully tied system, the current columns and steel plate connections need to be replaced with a more robust design. Joe shared his plan for replacing the columns and plates and led the team to start developing new dimensioned drawings to work from.

Zooming in, Zooming out

Once we all got back to Hale County, the team started digging deeper with a more zoomed-in approach to designing. This led to creating new detailed drawings, playing with furniture design, and rendering a 3D model to play with materials in a more accurate way. The detailed drawings include the edge condition and the exploration of an outdoor suspended ceiling plane that mitigates the current misalignment of the bottom ridge of the trusses. The ceiling material should be something that reflects the surrounding landscape while also helping to bounce light into the space underneath.

section detail of edge conditon
The students created a section drawing exploring dropped ceiling detail.

“Neckdown” Week!

To kick off the Spring semester the Studio had its traditional “Neckdown” Week, in which students, staff, and faculty worked together in an intensive volunteer week, tackling small projects across the county. The team had a group of helpers out on site moving plywood off of the scaffolding to prepare for upcoming mock-ups and construction. Some pieces were no longer usable due to water damage, but we managed to save 63 pieces for future use. A huge shout out to the 3rd-years and our fellow 5th-year Daniel Burton for helping us!

Next up (literally): A ceiling mock-up on site to test out the proposed ceiling material.

+ January views around Hale County!

A Post Roast Toast

Howdy! The end of the semester is here! The Moundville Archaeological Park Community Pavilion team presented their latest work at the Rural Studio’s Annual Soup Roast. In preparation of the big event, the team spent some time cleaning up the site and envisioning what the space could be and where the boundary of the site should be. After narrowing down their designs, it was time to meet with the client and introduce them to what they had been working on all semester and get some feedback. Discussing the possibilities of their proposals and walking through the site with the clients left them energized and more confident moving forward.

Soup Roast!

The day of Soup Roast, students, faculty, staff, and guests bundled up and rode in a caravan to Moundville first thing in the morning. This year was a little different, as smaller, more in-house event, but still a celebration of the work done this semester by all the students. For our guest reviewers the Studio welcomed back Seattle-based architects and builders, Joe Schneider, Kim Clements, Nicole Abercrombie, and Jake LaBarre. AU professor David Hinson, and the Front Porch Initiative team, Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, and Betsy Farrell Garcia, were also able to join and provide helpful feedback for all of the projects.

team presenting design at soup roast review
iteration 1
iteration 2

We started in the orientation building at Moundville Archaeological Park to present the project and then headed to the site to discuss more specifics of the design. The two proposals showed iterations of the addition of a ground platform and roof aperture, including some initial ideas about ground surface and materiality of the pavilion. Afterwards, we got to relax and hear what the other teams have been working on while patiently awaiting a DELICIOUS soup dinner at the end of the day made by Chef Catherine Tabb.

Gettin’ Serious

The day after Soup Roast, Joe, Kim, and Jake continued the project discussion with us and provided some much needed feedback, helping us get more of a direction and understanding the scope of the project. Playing with the surrounding landscape helped us understand the impact of our ideas within the pavilion. Now, it is time to zoom in on the pavilion and learn as much as we can about the structure!

See just how zoomed-in we mean in the next Moundville Pavilion team blog!

Design, Critique, Repeat

Hello from the Moundville Pavilion team! We have been busy in design mode since our last blog post. After taking the feedback from Halloween Reviews, we took a step back to assess what we have learned thus far. Doing so helped us to develop our design goals for the site: utilizing the existing site elements; incorporating a sense of discovery; and creating a unique place for park users.

We have chosen several areas to focus our design including: an aperture through the pavilion roof; a raised platform; a ground surface; plantings; a fire pit; and a cooking space. Identifying certain activities allowed us to quickly charrette various design schemes for the function of the pavilion.

During these past few weeks, the team has also been meeting with a number of consultants to get some fresh eyes on our new iterations and help us practice presenting our narrative including Amanda Loper of David Baker Architects and our very own professors Emily McGlohn and Chelsea Elcott. In conjunction with the design work, we also met THE Joe Farruggia, (Rural Studio’s structural engineer) who gave us a structural design workshop and helped us develop a plan for the current conditions of the pavilion.

Next up: Soup Roast Reviews. Stay tuned!

Moundville Mud Pies For Sale

Analyzing the Pavilion’s Structure

After Fall semester break, the Moundville Pavilion team focused on moving the design forward and shifting the narrative from the physical boards to a digital presentation for Halloween Reviews. This process included looking back at all the work we have done up to this point and learning how to begin talking about the narrative of the project. Some of the first steps we took were to understand the previous team’s motivations through their drawings and to diagram them.

The pavilion is designed to shed water and protect while also allowing light in and emphasizing views outward

Pumpkin Carving!

Wednesday night, the Studio participated in the College of Architecture Design and Construction’s Annual Pumpkin Carve tradition (in Newbern!) by trading our pencils for carving tools and having fun with our neighbors.

Dressed for Success

By Friday, the costumes were sewn, or in some cases taped, and the presentation was ready. The team created a familiar scene for the viewers, a Girl Scout (Caitlyn) selling cookies (Collin) at Publix (Jackie), while her mother (Brenton) supported her entrepreneurial spirit. The Studio welcomed Marlon Blackwell, Meryati Johari Blackwell, Jen Pindyck, Emilie Taylor Welty, and the Front Porch Initiative team to participate in the festivities and provide feedback that will help the team move forward. Forward to what exactly? Well, you’ll just have to catch us next month on the Moundville Pavilion team blog!