Rural Studio Bathhouse

Breaking a Sweat and Breaking Ground

Hello dear reader and welcome back to the latest edition of the Rural Studio Bathhouse blog!

Students pose in front of pin-up wall

So much has happened over the past few months and we are extremely happy to share the progress of what’s going on over at the Rural Studio Bathhouse!

Over the summer, we continued to work through the design of the outdoor shower in preparation for construction. The team has decided to use the outdoor shower and its construction process as a mockup for the rest of the bathhouse structure. With this in mind, the team has chosen most of the main conditions and details of the project and will be testing them out in the outdoor shower.

Drawing of a floorpan
Outdoor Shower Plan

We have also welcomed back some incredible reviewers to provide feedback on the design and construction processes regarding the outdoor shower!

This mock-up will provide the team an excellent opportunity to learn what works and what may need to be reconsidered before the construction of the rest of the building.

While the team was busy designing, the large pine trees and underbrush that were in the way of the building were removed and the stumps were ground, leaving the bathhouse site clean and ready for construction!

In August, the bathhouse team quickly moved into action on site. After learning how to construct batter boards we set them up for the area around the outdoor shower. After this, we pulled strings to level and mark out the foundations on the ground.

At the end of August, we broke ground on the foundations for the outdoor shower! Digging the foundations by hand at this time of year was challenging, but we all made it through some of the hottest days in Hale, unscathed.

The team continued more recently with preparing the foundations for concrete. This has included leveling the trench, cutting all pieces of rebar for the footings, assembling the rebar cage in the trench, and preparing the upturns, which will tie into the CMU block walls that lift the floor of the outdoor shower six feet off the ground!

Finally, as of writing this blog, the team has reached a huge milestone in the construction of the outdoor shower. We have poured the concrete for the foundation with the help of our amazing classmates and professors!

Students pose with poured concrete

Moving forward, we are so excited to continue with the CMU block walls, preparing for the forming and pouring of the elevated slab, and the stacking of our wood walls!

Drawing of a face on a 2x6 board
Also, goodbye from our dear friend, Plumb Bob!

Thanks for reading along, and we look forward to sharing our progress again very soon!

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan 

A Toast for Bathhouse Post-Roast!

Hello and welcome back to the Rural Studio Bathhouse blog!

We have been hard at work moving the project forward. Sorry it has been a while since we spoke, but we are so excited to provide a much-anticipated update on the progress of our project. Last time we provided an update, we were busy preparing for Pig Roast.

Students stand to present team powerpoint
The team prepared to present at Pig Roast!

The team worked hard and pulled together to produce drawings, a taped-out floorplan, and a dry-stacked mock-up of our outdoor shower for Pig Roast! The day was full of presentations and celebrations of the work done by all teams, as well as music and fun with our families and friends.

A week after Pig Roast, our team made our way to Auburn for a huge milestone in our life—We Graduated! (believe it or not)

After several weeks of celebrations, the team returned to Hale County. To keep the drum beat and momentum going into the summer, we have recently welcomed several visitors back into the fold. 

Kiel Moe and Joe Burns returned to continue helping the team with the structure and better focus the overall design. After discussion with Kiel and Joe, the team has decided to simplify our natural lighting strategy. 

Students and visitors stand in forest, discussing site
Kiel and Joe with the team on site

We are doing this by introducing ambient light into the existing breathing wall pods from clerestories in the north and south walls. In doing so, we are taking advantage of the layered system of construction by just removing layers of the walls to introduce natural lighting. In the toilet and shower pods, we will use large skylights to create a more direct connection to the sky and trees above. 

More recently, Dan Wheeler returned to help with detailing and working through the design of the windows and skylights.

Finally, Jake Labarre returned to help us in preparation for our final executive review. He drew through 1:1 details with us and helped us begin to prepare a drawing set in preparation for construction.

We had our final executive review and are very excited to push hard towards construction! The team is working to produce construction drawings for our outdoor shower, which will serve as a test of most of the details in our project. The team will test the foundations and pouring a slab, stacking the walls and threading the rods through the walls, and attaching the roof structure to the walls. In the end, the outdoor shower will provide the team valuable knowledge for the construction of the rest of the project, as well as a testing ground for fixtures and other finishes that may be considered for the whole building. The team plans to be in the ground for the outdoor shower in the next few weeks. 

Thank you so much for reading along and we look forward to providing another exciting update very soon!

students pose on couch

-Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan 

Preparing for Pig Roast

Hello, and welcome back to the latest edition of the Rural Studio Bathhouse blog! We are very happy to share an update on our project after a very busy month. 

group of students presenting to professors and reviewer
The team presenting to Roberto de Leon

March started off with Spring Break. The team took a much-needed rest for a few days but we also spent some time together working in preparation for the first executive review which was a week later. The month wrapped up with two weeks of visitors. 

The first visitor was Pete Landon from Landon Bone Baker in Chicago, Illinois. He helped us think through a wide range of possibilities for the structure of the roof. He even spent a morning helping us mock up different wall to roof assemblies at 1:1 scale using the method of stacking 2”x6” pieces of wood. This activity helped us understand the possibilities of using wood for the entire structure. Pete also encouraged us to create small pieces of wood to use for models in studio.

The month wrapped up with Katherine Hogan and Vincent Petrarca from Katherine Hogan Architects in Raleigh, North Carolina. They really challenged us to be specific about lighting conditions and worked with us through sketching and modeling to develop a clear strategy for structure and daylighting.

To start off the month of April, we welcomed Roberto de Leon from de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop in Louisville, Kentucky. He helped us continue to study specific lighting conditions and opportunities, specifically through using the system of stacking to introduce daylight into the spaces.

students looking through model images
Organizing images of light study models

Thinking through daylighting in this way really opened our eyes to the number of lighting possibilities. The system of construction is powerful way to introduce natural light into spaces.

We are very excited to move forward with these studies—and much more—in preparation for Pig Roast, which is very quickly approaching! Here is the most recent floor plan and sections that we are working through. We will integrate these lighting strategies into our design.

drawing of a section through laundry space
Section through laundry room

We are also developing a mock-up of the outdoor shower in the woods for possible use at Pig Roast!

Thank you so much for following along with us. We are super excited with our progress on the project and look forward to providing another update very soon!

-Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan 

Big Bathhouse News

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Rural Studio Bathhouse Blog! This semester has been super busy for our team. We’ve had several incredible visitors, and we are very excited to share where our project is now!

Students gather around pinned up drawings
The team reviewing with Andrew Berman

After winter break, the team took some time to consider the best path forward for the project. We are considering the possibility of reusing existing structures on campus. As a mass timber project, we were especially intrigued by the idea of reusing—and directly connecting to—the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project pods. The pods were designed as the final scale experiment on breathing wall technology and then were to be used as living pods.

The Breathing Wall team put an exceptional amount of hard work and attention into the structure, and we admire the detailed level of craft that they exhibited. We see the reuse of these pods as a testament and celebration of the amazing work that they did before.

Reusing the Breathing Wall pods will allow the very well-constructed buildings to become a part of permanent infrastructure that all 3rd-year students will be able to inhabit and enjoy. The texture and the warmth of the wood walls will be celebrated when natural light is introduced. Since the entrances to these pods face away from the “Supershed street,” this orientation has the potential to create layers of privacy in the new Bathhouse.

site plan of the supershed
Possible future development of the Supershed

The reuse also sets the Studio up with a strategic plan for development in the future. With the Bathhouse now in the middle of the “Supershed street,” a kitchen/dining space can also be added to the middle of the street, helping strengthen the social aspect of this space. This leaves several other accessible bays of the Supershed open, which could be used for new sleeping pods if needed. This would also help reconnect the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project pods into the streetscape. Re-grading the first four bays of the Supershed will allow for one accessible entry into the Bathhouse (and any further developments), setting the precedent for accessibility on campus for the future.

The visitors for this month challenged us to consider the best organization of spaces for the Bathhouse based on the reuse of the Breathing Wall pods. Cheryl Noel and Ravi Ricker of Wrap Architecture in Chicago, IL, came back to work in Hale County; they helped us think of the overall concepts and form of the spaces we are creating.

Joe Burns and Dan Wheeler, also from Chicago, IL, re-entered the mix and provided excellent help thinking through several different structural techniques and organizational layouts of the spaces. 

Andrew Berman from New York, NY, challenged us to think about the experience of using a Bathhouse facility within a community of people. This opened our eyes to layers of privacy while reimagining the Rural Studio ritual of using the Bathhouse as a 3rd-year. 

Floor plan of proposed building
Proposed Bathhouse with context

With the help of our visiting consultants, we reimagined the existing Breathing Wall pods as public spaces that include two new structures to provide toilet and bathing spaces. The structures would create a privacy gradient as users move farther from the Supershed and closer to the forest, which would begin to envelope the building. The team is still considering the exact mass timber construction method for the two new structures. A new shed roof will stretch over all the structures, and a series of clerestories will bring natural light into each of the spaces.

sketch of proposed building
Proposed bathhouse with shed roof and screen system

We are very excited to progress with this scheme and work towards construction.

Thanks for following along and we look forward to updating our progress soon!

Team group photo

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan

Bath in the Swing of Things

Happy New Year’s Day, Groundhog Day, and Valentine’s Day!

Welcome back to the Rural Studio Bathhouse Team blog! We have had a very busy winter break and month of January. We are excited to share what we’ve been up to recently.

Over the break, we spent a lot of time reflecting on our work so far and tried to think through ways of making our project more feasible. This led us to reducing the scale of our project back down to just the bathhouse, allowing all our effort to be put into one program and possibly allowing another team the opportunity to design the kitchen/dining space for the pods. We are excited to show our designs very soon!

The first week back in class, we welcomed Jim Stockard and Chris Herbert from Harvard University. Chris Herbert is Managing Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. James Stockard is a Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. They graced us with their abundant knowledge of housing and the economics behind it. They also proved to be excellent helpers with our project and challenged us to reconsider how we think about accessibility within it.

Students and faculty review drawings
The team producing to Chris and Jim

To welcome everyone back to campus, all students and faculty participated in the Rural Studio tradition of “Neckdown” during the second week of class. This week of work allows students to get their hands dirty doing tasks around campus and surrounding communities. Tasks for the week included painting the Bodark Amphitheater, the Safe House Museum, the Newbern Firehouse stairs, and the Newbern Playground; we also rebuilt the raised garden beds in the greenhouse and insulated the plumbing underneath Morrisette House and the kitchen. 

More recently, we welcomed Mike Newman and Katrina Van Valkenburgh from Chicago into the fold. They brought with them an excellent knowledge of accessibility and constructability. Mike challenged us to nail down the big ideas of our project, so that we can begin to really understand how to make it happen.

Students and faculty review drawings with reviewers
The team reviewing with Katrina Van Valkenburgh and Mike Newman

We are continuing with the drumbeat of visitors every week and are excited to see where this year takes us! Follow along to see what we are up to each month. 

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley and Logan

Group of students gather around drawings to review together
Yours truly