Horseshoe Courtyard

Testing Steel Cable and Hardware

Team instaling cables on railing
Caleb and Claudia installing the steel cables for the railing

This week the team started installing the eighth-inch in diameter, steel cables that infill the railings. The cables are spaced two inches apart in order to ensure that a four-inch sphere won’t fit in between them. Two railing panels worth of cable were installed this time around; in order to understand the process and time that cutting, threading, and tightening the cables will take.

Shortly after working on the railing panels, the team moved on to the screens. They had a sample piece of cable for each screen; the eighteen-foot screens, the nine-foot screens (that allow passage underneath them), and the eight-foot screens for the north end. This was also the first time the team was able to observe the beautiful cable hardware on the screens. As soon as the slab under the walkway is poured, the rest of the cables and rope infill will go up!

Gate Iterations

As site work progresses, design work for the gate on the north end also progresses. Some of the design explorations include having the gate look similar to the rest of the screens, translucent and light. Other iterations test a solid sheet of metal, in which to etch-out words or logos; or simply being a found object that looks entirely different from the rest of the project. While considering the language of the gate, the team is also taking into account the height and width of the gate itself, and its relationship with the eight-foot screen and the concrete wall on the other side.

Steel Edging & Pump Cover

The brick pad on the south end of the site requires a barrier or transition between the brick and slate. The team is resolving this by using quarter-inch steel edging, similar to the Newbern Library project. However, rather than creating the edging from scratch, they will use off-the-shelf edging and adjust it as needed. Since the finished look will be similar to that of the Newbern Library, the Horseshoe Courtyard team contacted Stephen Durham, one of the Library team members, to get some tips on what they did.

Grinder Pump

Detail section of pump cover structure
Detail close-up of pump structure

When designing the brick pad, it was important to take into account the grinder pump that is located within its perimeter. First, because once the site is re-graded, the finished surface will be above the current level of the pump. Secondly, we need to make the pump accessible in case of maintenance needs. And lastly, we hope make it aesthetically pleasing and not slippery as a ground surface. Having all this in mind, the team has been working through details for the structure, as well as thinking of ways to make the cover lighter through different types of perforations and material choices.

Back On The Ground

The Horseshoe Courtyard team is back on site again!

Since the team stepped away from their site in mid-March (due to COVID-19), the trenches under the tall screens were filled with topsoil in preparation for planting the vines. In the coming weeks, the site will be graded and additional dirt will be added, bringing up the site ground level four to six inches. Gravel will also be installed in the south end of site, where the brick pad will be formed.

Before the team begins any concrete work under the walkway, the gas line needed to be moved away from the building’s eastern facade so that it would not be cast in concrete. The day after the line was moved, Spire Energy relocated the gas meter around the corner and connected the gas line to the meter (image above is before the job was completed).

New signage for Project Horseshoe Farm!

Another element that the team has been working on is signage for Project Horseshoe Farm (PHF). At the moment, there is a sign by the front door that lets people in the community know where they are located. However, unless visitors are familiar with the organization, new users may not know how to find the program. The team studied a series of images from Greensboro in the 1900s to gain knowledge on the types of signs that were previously downtown, including current nearby signs, both hung and painted.

An important factor when considering different signage strategies is typography, not only for the aesthetics, but also for legibility and scale. There are different design strategies when considering pedestrians vs. vehicles on Main Street. The team considered a system of modular signs depending on the types of signs the organization might need, such as the primary sign at the front entrance or smaller programmatic ones. In terms of typography, the current typeface that Project Horseshoe Farm uses was tested, as well as the program’s logo. The team also researched typefaces that were previously found in the old cornice of the building (when it was a hotel) and the threshold plate at the front entrance of the building.

After meeting with PHF’s Director, Dr. Dorsey, and Sarah Hallmark, the Assistant Director, the team’s designs were narrowed down to three possibilities, all in either a cream or white background. Since the windows and the base of the building will be painted white, like in the mock up image above, they are considering a white background. Stay tuned for the final decision!

Detailing, Editing, and Writing

Now that the details for the porch cladding have been resolved, we moved our attention to detailing the door opening. While working through the details we studied the doors in the rest of the hotel, and in our imediate surrounding, particularly the triming and how other doors that have trasom windows, have been adressed. In order to design something that fits with the language of the cladding, but also works with the language of the door.

Zoom call, Pdf detail drawing of bench in background

As is the norm now, the team has had weekly meetings with Andrew and Steve to talk about details and design or book progreess. And from time to time we get to talk with Dr. Dorsey, Director of Project Horseshoe Farm, and our client or consultants such as David Kennedy, about our heavy timber bench.

Sneak Peak of a draft! While working remotely the team has started working on the book, which is an in depth documentation of the design and construction process.

Social Distancing

Screenshot of zoom call

Considering the current circumstance of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Studio has temporarily closed its doors for the safety of the Studio and the community. For the last couple of weeks we have been transitioning to a virtual studio in order to continue pushing the design, and finalize details while we wait for news to return to site.

Drawing of railing corner pieces from above

Some weeks ago, we started to go through iterations of what would be best for the walkway railing end, especially considering no other railing turns the corner. However, we felt the best way to understand the design was to put up the fabricated pieces and study the existing conditions before going further. Now that we have gone through multiple iterations, (solid panels, grating, and entirely different materials) we have choosen to continue with the same language to minimize the “noise” at the north end and keep the same lightness and transparency as the rest of the design.

After all the screens and railing pieces were up, the next step was to start working on the concrete surfaces. Both the slab in the stage porch, and the sidewalk under the walkway that culminated with a concrete wall. This included re-routing the gas line away from the building in a location where it would be accessible if needed, rather than embeded in the concrete. This led to its future placement being along the screen legs, at the top of the trenches. This will be the first thing to be completed when construction is resumed.

Slate is going to be the material for the finish ground surface where there isn’t concrete or bricks. For the last couple of iterations, slate is also used on the perimeter of the slabs, which would give tolerance to the nearly 200-year building and recreate the two-inch gap that is between the walkway wall plate and bracket. Giving the rainwater somewhere to drip, while avoiding the concrete. This detail is re-created in the porch for consistency and for the cladding to have some breathing room if water does enter the space.

Railings and Transparency

This week, the goals were to lift the railings and nine-foot frames into place, and secure them to the other screens or walkway. Before that could happen the team spent a couple of days making sure that everything was level and plumb to each other, so that when those smaller screens went up, there wouldn’t be as much adjustment needed. Right after the screens were adjusted to the right position, the team made formwork out of 2x6s that facilitated pouring the grout under the footing plate. Having three to four inches of grout below the plate, allowed the adjustment of the overall structure, before the grout was poured. Ensuring all perforations lined up.

After the footing plates were grouted and formwork removed, the Horseshoe Farm Fellows helped fill in the trench along the neighbours building, with the pile of dirt that had been previously excavated from the trenches. Unsurprisingly, a large percentage of that mound was mixed with bricks from the collapsed structure that used to inhabit the courtyard. Luckily the team can re-use those brick for the “rug” that will be the ground surface between the tall screens. The trench was filled about halfway up, the rest to be filled with soil for the vines later on.

Screens attached to walkway

The smaller, nine foot screen eases circulation from under the walkway into the “active space” that sits before the stage porch, which also has nine foot screens. These screens are made up of a single galvanized frame instead of the standard two. Mainly beacuse it doesn’t require the cavity in the middle for planting, the vines will reach from the neighbouring screen and to reduce the amount of material used.

During transportation and the galvanization process, some of the screens got bent. Most of the damage was decreasing the four-inch gap between the frames. In order to fix them, the team used a car jack to bend the frames back into place. Another important thing to keep in mind when galvanizing metal, is that the finish quality is largely dependent on how well the “trash” is cleaned once the metal comes out of the plant. The trash is galvanized clumps or residue that sometimes remains on the metal when hot-dipped. Some of the larger chunks can be removed by using a grinder or by tapping the edge with a metal chisel and hammer.

Dr.Dorsey standing on walkway seeing railing for first time
Shortly after railings were installed, Dr. Dorsey came out the walkway. Here he is talking about the impact the walkway will have on the second floor once it is finished.

During the design process, one thing that was important for us was that while this walkway is nearly six-foot wide, and eighty-feet long, we wanted the material to be translucent. Something that read as being light. While the grate itself is quite heavy, the gaps between the bearing bars provide this effect when the light hits it. Creating beautiful shadows on the textured brick wall. Another effect the sun has, is when it touches the walkway structure, the gap between the walkway bracket and the plate is highlighted, at every connection point.

Looking up at the corner screen
South-East coner of tall screen. This image shows the bolted connections that disappear when looking at the frames straight on.