Author: Naomi Tony-Alabi

Leveled Up

Last time we saw the 18×18 House team, they were putting shovels into the ground for the first time. Three months later, the project has leveled up! 

The team first got their formwork ready for the concrete pour. This started with them digging their turndowns and trenches and then pulling strings, setting up formwork, and setting the plumbing pipes and electrical conduit.

The next step was putting down gravel, vapor barrier, and rebar. Then came the day everybody had been waiting for—the concrete pour! The team watched as Meagan cried tears of happiness when the slab was finally in place.

Once the slab was set, it was time to get to work. The team ordered and organized on-site to help them work as efficiently as possible.

Before the walls went up, the team laid down, some the termite flashing and sill gaskets to reduce air infiltration between the slab and the pressure-treated base plates. 

After just two days, the exterior walls of the first floor were up and braced, then the team began to build and tilt up the interior walls from inside the house—a task that required lots of careful maneuvering due to its size.

They moved some scaffolding to the site and set it up around the house as to prepare to move upward.

Now the team is working on framing the second floor and building the stair. The joists have already been installed, and the team is gluing and nailing down the subfloor.

With the second floor platform installed, the team got a great view of the sunset down the hill, and they can’t wait to see that view from the very top. Stay tuned to see what the 18×18 House team does next!

Off to a Groundbreaking Start!

With fall arriving, it’s time to check in with the 18×18 House team and see what they’ve been up to! 

In the final weeks of summer, the team began to split their indoor and outdoor time as they made plans to get the building started on site. 

While consolidating all their construction drawings into one primary set, the team built two final mock-ups. Working on each mock-up taught the team a lot about which details worked and which didn’t. The “doghouse” mock-up helped the team try out siding details they were interested in. The “dormer” mock-up helped them understand how best to put the roof together before building the real thing.

Sadly, the tree on their Greensboro site had to be removed—a tragic loss for every designer involved. But with its absence came new possibilities, so the team met with landscape architect (and Auburn APLA Associate Professor and Graduate Landscape Architecture Chair) David Hill to discuss their ideas for new site planning strategies and opportunities. 

All of their hard work led the team to Dirt Day! Twelve trucks of engineered soil were brought to the site to even out some of the slope and create the pad that the house will be built on. 

The team got to work immediately afterward prepping the site, and then they set up batter boards and string. They officially broke ground this week: they got shovels in the ground for the first time to start digging the turndowns where the foundation will be poured soon. Stay tuned to see what happens next!

A Site For Sore Eyes

The 18×18 House team kicked off the past month with their most important deadline so far, the first Executive Review. Justin Miller (Associate Professor and Head, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture), Rusty Smith (Rural Studio Associate Director), and Rural Studio faculty were all in attendance to evaluate the team’s progress and give important feedback as the team prepares to push towards the next construction phase after graduation. At this review, the team also gave a new version of their presentation where they talked in depth about the different types of constrains on rural sites.

Heirs’ property site constraint
Physical rural site constrains

They got some great feedback from this Executive Review and kept working to refine the details of the design and structure. For the next few weeks, the team shifted focus towards the porch and overall cladding strategy of the 18×18 House.

Team presenting for Executive Review
Isometric sketch w/ details

The first event after the review was one of the most inspiring times of the project. The team finally met their client and received the site they will be building on! Their client Detyrick is a Greensboro native, and the team is very excited to be working with him in the coming months. After meeting the client, the team headed out onto the site for their 1st round of surveying to get an idea of what the topography is that they’ll be working with.

The next week, Chicago architect Pete Landon came to Newbern. He worked with the team on the aperture placements in the 18×18 House. Pete challenged the team to work from the inside out. First, they should use the size and height of windows to direct light and views in the space. Then they should put this plan to the test with a mock-up. So, the team built a full-size stud wall, which they tilted up and covered with rigid insulation to mock-up the living space. The exercise helped them understand where to increase the perceived size of the room with openings in the wall and the storage wall.

The team used their mock-up wall to pin up their work for their next guests: North Carolina architects Katherine Hogan and Vincent Petrarca. The pin up wall was a disaster, but the workshop was a lot of fun. They built on the previous workshops by working on the apertures in elevation and considering the porch.

The final guest was Louisville architect Roberto De Leon. He pushed the team to explore the spatial qualities of the storage wall and porch and dive into some finer details. 

detail porch sketches

So much has happened for the 18×18 House team in such a short time. With a client in mind and a site to study, the project feels more real than ever and the team could not be more excited for what is to come. And as the end of the semester approaches, the team will be building mock-ups, getting their hands dirty, and doing everything they can to set the project up for success ahead of Pig Roast and the final Executive Review.

tilted up mock-up wall

Stair-ting to Come Together

For the last few months, the18x18 House team has been refining their narrative and finally settled on their core criteria:

To be marketable as an urban house, an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) and a rural house, the 18×18 must be dignifyingadaptableefficient, and flippable.

The team was given a potential Nashville site by a developer working with the Front Porch Initiative just in time to be visited by Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Shannon Gathings from Duvall Decker in Jackson, MS. They were able to help the team analyze the implications of the Nashville policy that causes affordable housing to be placed in the area usually reserved for parking. They also worked with the team to explore ways to bring beauty and dignity to these places when aggregating 18×18 houses.

While the team had started out exploring dozens of plans, refining the priorities was a big step that made it easier to determine which schemes stood out as the most successful. So, for Soup Roast, the team prepared drawings of their two favorite schemes: The first was a scheme that used a 90-degree stair with a short run at the bottom. The team worked at stacking plumbing fixtures vertically against an exterior wall and named this scheme The Bar.

The second and favorite scheme was named Short Run Above – this scheme used a modified switchback stair with the shorter run of the stairs landing on the second floor. The team liked this scheme because of how generous the spaces were in the plan whether it was ‘flipped’ or not, and for the variety they could get when modifying it slightly with lofts, powder rooms, or other additional program without changing the nature of the layout. These qualities made it the obvious choice to present to the Soup Roast reviewers as the one to move forward with.

Soup Roast brought the return of Seattle visitors, Jake LaBarre, Kim Clements, and Joe Schneider since they first joined the team back during workshops. The Front Porch Initiative team also returned for the reviews. As returning visitors, they were all able to assess how far the project had come since the initial start and were able to give the team some much needed perspective. Along with the returning visitors, others in attendance were Mike Freeman and Nicole Abercrombie (J.A.S.), as well as Will McGarity (Auburn faculty).

During the review the team was encouraged to challenge the way they think about furniture and layouts. They were also encouraged to start getting into some of the details of the stair as a structural member and/or any possible built-ins. The next day they put these ideas to the test with a charrette where the team considered developing a ‘standard’ version of the plan which they could use to delve into structural details.

Now Christmas break has started, but the team has not stopped. They’ll be taking the first stabs at structural drawings and other finer details of the 18×18 House. Come back in 2023 to see what happens next!

Lofts and Lots of Fun

The 18×18 House team got all dressed up and presented at the Halloween Reviews as cubes: an oven, an ice cube dressed as Ice Cube, a LEGO, and a present.

Their review gave the team some much needed insight into what was working well in their design schemes and how to further improve them. They were pushed by guest reviewers to dive deeper into some of the details and to find the potential “beautiful” qualities of the 18×18 House.

Since then, the team has been pushing the 18×18 House design to its limits by asking: How much more can you get beyond the essential design needs? The team categorized essential and non-essential elements. The next step was to test how small changes to the plans could give way for things like additional storage, additive porches, or sleeping lofts.

At the beginning of November, we were visited by friends of the Studio Frank Harmon (Frank Harmon Architect in Raleigh, NC) and Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL). They pushed the team to explore how the interior layouts and roof shape can facilitate porches and lofts. The team developed concepts showing how the buildings can aggregate and they tested appropriate sizes for the spaces through models and sketches. The loft exploration got the team especially excited about the idea of an upstairs living room and how beautiful the space can be when a sleeping loft pairs with a living-sleeping configuration.

Dan and Frank also led the 5th-years in very special hand-drawing workshop. The students practiced one-point and two-point perspectives and enjoyed a relaxing watercolor session.

After that, the 18×18 House team worked together to mock up ceiling heights downstairs in Red Barn. They tested 7′ 6″ and 8′ ceiling heights to find out the minimum comfortable height for a ground floor bedroom. One failed pulley system later, they decided to mock up only the 7′ 6″ ceiling instead.

Most recently, the Studio had a few more visitors: David Baker, Amanda Loper, and Brett Jones (from David Baker Architects, with offices in San Francisco, CA, and Birmingham, AL). They helped the team refine their priorities so they could finally narrow them and move forward with two. 

Now the team is getting down to the details and working towards Soup Roast, which is in two weeks! Catch the next post to see where the 18×18 House lands next!