Rural Studio Blog

2022 Pig Roast!

Our small, rural community of Newbern, AL, nearly tripled in size for the 2022 Pig Roast weekend! This year’s event, the first since 2019, was a two-day celebration of West Alabama filled with three project ribbon cuttings, eight alumni lectures, a 100-mile current projects tour, graduation ceremony, and lots of fantastic food and music! A lot happened, so let’s take a look at Pig Roast by the numbers!

3 Project Openings

8 Alumni Lectures, PechaKucha-Style

  • Samuel Maddox ’14, Boston, MA
  • Stephen Durham ’13, Kauai, HI
  • Ally Klinner ’12, Washington, DC
  • David Frazier ’11, New York City, NY
  • Cameron Acheson ’10, Birmingham, AL
  • Betsy Farrell Garcia ’08, Auburn, AL
  • John Marusich ’07, Birmingham, AL
  • Laura Filipek Patterson ’06, New Orleans, LA

2 Bands

  • Friday night: Raina Shine from Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Saturday night: Debbie Bond Blues Band feat. Carroline Shines, “Radiator” Rick, Marcus “Jukeman” Lee on drums and Alabama Blues Camp graduates

4 Projects Presentations With 4 Amazing Clients

2 Class Presentations

  • History and Watercolor Class by Dick Hudgens
  • Woodshop Class by Steve Long

2 Rural Studio Initiatives Updates

4 Meals

Friday night’s dinner at the Horseshoe Courtyard was provided by The Stable and Abadir’s. We had mountains of tasty turkey and veggie wraps from Monique Kitchen at The Stable. Sarah Cole from Abadir’s treated us with a special farm salad, a chard + chickpea grain salad, an orange blossom ginger cake, and a coconut cake. Seriously delicious! We kicked off Saturday morning with treats from Wayside Bakery, then our favorite tacos for lunch from our very own Catherine Tabb and Doris Ward in the Rural Studio Kitchen. Saturday night, we had delicious BBQ pig by Bobby Scott along with more yummy BBQ and fried catfish from Mustang Oil!

23 Sponsors

Thank you to our incredible local sponsors! We couldn’t do this without you! Alabama Power, AerCon, BDA Farm, Hale County Hospital, NAPA Auto Parts, Parker Tire, Peoples Bank, Price Drywall, Reynold’s Electric, Superior Metal, Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee, The Stable, Blue Shadows B&B, City Furniture, Dozier Hardware, Greensboro Depot, Holmstead Company, Partridge Berry, Stillwater Machine, the Smelley family, Citizens Bank, Freeman Chiropractic, & Johnson-Torbert House

1 Graduation Ceremony

Introductions were given by Hale County Probate Judge Arthur Crawford and Karen Rogers, Acting Dean of Auburn University College of Architecture, Design & Construction. We also honored several special guests: Chelsea Elcott, Emefa Butler, Mary Jane Everett, Timothy Hursley, and Dr. John Dorsey. With surprise valediction speakers Julie Eizenberg and Hank Koning from Koning Eizenberg Architecture in Santa Monica, CA, we celebrated our graduating 5th-year students: AC Priest, Adam Davis, Brenton Smith, Caitlyn Biffle, Collin Brown, Daniel Burton, Davis Benfer, Hailey Osborne, Jackie Rosborough, Laurel Holloway, Lauren Lovell, and Yi Xuan Teo.

AND 1 Marriage Proposal

Congrats Jake & Lauren, two returning alumni!

And, of course, no Pig Roast would be complete without a few of our favorites: the Spencer family’s cannon blast of “Whiffle Dust” and beautiful (and massive) fireworks seen from every corner of Newbern.

If you missed Pig Roast, you can still catch up on the news from Rural Studio with blog posts from each team here.

Lastly, BIG congrats to our 5th-years who graduated from Auburn last week. We’re so proud of y’all!

Thank you to everyone for your support! #WarEagle

Rural Studio Farm Pilots New CSA Program

Rural Studio Farm is piloting a new Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for faculty, staff, and students!

The CSA model has been practiced for decades to support small-scale farmers, build community, and strengthen local food systems. In this model, participating members receive a share of whatever produce is available each week. Members experience the seasonal pulses and fluctuations of the Farm’s produce, a process that teaches members more about the natural cycles of food production, as well as potentially introducing new fruits and vegetables to members. Rural Studio Farm’s 30-week-long CSA is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to enjoy local, fresh, chemical-free vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers while directly supporting the operations of the Farm and the greater mission of Rural Studio.

Since students and participating staff have had a hand in growing all of our produce, the CSA initiative completes the experience of food production by directly placing the produce into the hands of the producers.

The Farm has been so successful, with no signs of slowing growth, that we are now producing more food than we can use ourselves. Participating in the CSA will also help reduce food waste, as well as provide extra support to Rural Studio Farm, allow for crop diversification—an important element of our polyculture model—and allow students and staff access to food that is difficult to find in this region.

We at Rural Studio practice farming methods that build a resilient and sustainable agricultural system. That means that we produce food without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides while supporting a more natural, holistic ecological system and stewarding natural and human resources. We utilize organic farming practices like being completely no-till, cover cropping, composting, companion planting, supporting beneficial insects, and crop rotation, all to help build and support a productive soil microbiome and to build back some of our depleted soil fertility.

Some of the new crops we are growing this year specifically for the CSA are kohlrabi, Swiss chard, shallots, lemon grass, fennel, leeks, tomatillos, specialty peppers, ground cherries, radicchio, artichokes, Chinese cabbage, microgreens, and French melons.

If our CSA pilot program proves successful, we plan on extending it to the broader community next year!

Hello, Habitat!

Last month, the Front Porch team attended the Habitat for Humanity International 2022 Affiliate Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. In collaboration with two of our long-time field test partners, Front Porch Initiative presented work from those partnerships in conference sessions. The Front Porch team also hosted a booth with our research sponsor Fannie Mae to share our housing affordability research with attendees visiting the exhibit hall. Members of the Fannie Mae Disaster Recovery & Rebuilding team encouraged passers-by to stop and learn about our work, showed off the prototype models, and, and fielded questions about the pilot investigating sweat equity valuation.

Interested attendees stopped by the booth to learn more about Front Porch Initiative and our work with partners across the Southeast.

Mark Grantham, Executive Director of Auburn Opelika Habitat for Humanity (AOHFH); David Hinson, CADC Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research; and Betsy Farrell Garcia presented ongoing research on high performance housing affordability. In 2018 and 2019, AOHFH constructed two of the Buster’s House prototypes in Opelika to beyond-code energy standards and a resilience standard. Energy consumption data from those houses, as well as a third AOHFH house built to local code, is being collected and evaluated relative to the construction details, construction cost, and usage predicted by energy models. Conclusions drawn from the collected data informs choices about where investments in improved performance produce the most return on investment. The engaged and knowledgeable audience eagerly shared valuable feedback from their experience building to high-performance standards and welcomed the findings on where best to invest in upgrades that return savings on energy performance.

Mark, David, and Betsy presented research on houses constructed in Opelika, AL, and results from the ongoing energy usage.

With Carmen Smith, Executive Director of Chipola Area Habitat for Humanity (CAHFH), and Darwin Gilmore, Dean of Workforce and Economic Development for Chipola College, Mackenzie Stagg presented an innovative collaboration born out of a shared interest in increasing equitable access to high-performance housing in a rural community. CAHFH is currently building four Front Porch Product Line houses on a site in Marianna, Florida, a town still recovering from Hurricane Michael more than two years after the storm. Front Porch initiative supplied the designs for the homes and has provided technical assistance during the project’s development and construction. Students from the Chipola College Building Construction Technology program supplement volunteer labor while earning clock-hour credit toward a degree and construction certification. These high-performance, resilient houses will increase equitable housing access, facilitate continued disaster recovery efforts, and grow the skilled workforce needed locally. Affiliates attending the session participated enthusiastically and displayed great interest in building similar partnerships in their area.

Front Porch Initiative connected with many mission-aligned Habitat affiliates interested in expanding equitable, affordable homeownership while in Atlanta, and we hope to establish new partnerships with organizations across the country. We appreciate the Fannie Mae Disaster Recovery & Rebuilding team’s invaluable presence on the exhibit floor. Together with our partners’ incredible dedication to collaboration, we continue to reach a wide audience for the work of Rural Studio.

L to R: Tamara Dourney (CAHFH), Pete Fulton (CAHFH), Scott Phelps (Chipola College), Darwin Gilmore (Chipola College), Mackenzie Stagg (AURS), Sidra Goldwater (Fannie Mae), Carmen Smith (CAHFH), Betsy Farrell Garcia (AURS), Rusty Smith (AURS), and Jennie Ann Dean (CAHFH).

We look forward to the next Affiliate Conference!

New Leftovers in Hale’s Kitchen

Howdy from the Moundville Pavilion team! Recently, we were on a nonstop train ride as our final official semester of college came to a close with Pig Roast festivities, Executive Reviews, and graduation. And soon, construction will begin! Woohoo!

Pig Roast

Presenting our boards at Pig Roast on the site behind the pavilion

Rural Studio’s Annual Pig Roast was a hit! The team presented the final design to friends, family, and alumni. Thank you to all who came out and celebrated with us and a very special shout-out to Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg for speaking at our Pig Roast graduation ceremony.  

Posing in our “I love Rural” Pig Roast shirts
Section drawings explaining the pavilion’s relationship to the surrounding campgrounds

Executive Review Part 2

Following Pig Roast, the team had their final Executive Review with Justin Miller, Rusty Smith, David Hinson, Emily McGlohn, and Judith Seaman. The reviewers provided much-needed feedback to help move the project forward as we prepare for construction.

Discussing the details of the pavilion roof and ceiling

Moving Forward

In addition to all the celebration and reviews, the team has been meeting with the Studio’s structural engineer, Joe Farruggia, to finalize the column design, and Bill Zahner, of Zahner Architectural Metals, for some advice on aluminum panel systems that are appropriate for our ceiling and roof.

We graduated!

We’re officially Auburn alumni!

See ya next time! 

Sincerely,

Official leftovers of Hale’s Kitchen.

Pouring at Rosie’s Home

The Spring semester is complete! During their last few weeks in Newbern, the 3rd-year class completed projects for the Woodshop class, visited the final house for History class, worked on the foundations and walls of Rosie’s Home, and prepared for the Pig Roast presentations. Scroll down to see these final products and more!

Finishing Up the Chairs

Each of the teams spent time on their chair’s assembly and sanding, all complete with finishing oils to make them really shine. In the final review, we discussed what we liked about our chair, what could be improved, and what we learned over the course of the semester.

Forkland, AL

Our final fieldtrip let us to Thornhill mansion in Forkland, Alabama. The amazing views, tasteful modern additions, and lovely adjacent schoolhouse made for a great afternoon with an abundance of learning.

The Foundation of Our Learning

With gravel in place, we began the next step of preparing for the foundation by digging the slab’s turndowns and constructing the formwork. Next, we backfilled the formwork using the dirt from the turndowns and installed the rebar and wire mesh.

During our final week of construction, we poured the foundation of Rosie’s Home! After two concrete trucks, a lot of hand-smoothing, and a day to cure, we were able to stand on the foundation, remove the formwork, and begin the process of framing the walls. Using our detailed framing plans, we constructed and leveled the North, East, and South walls of the home. In the Fall, the upcoming 3rd-year class will finish the Western wall’s framing and construct the exterior envelope before moving on to the interior.

While we waited for the concrete to set, we spent the afternoon building a new house for Rosie’s dog, Bo, whose house was beginning to fail. We were able to carry it over to the backyard for Bo by the end of the day, just in time, since a big storm blew in shortly after.

I love Rural! Pig Roast 2022!

The semester ended with a bang at the annual Pig Roast festivities. We enjoyed two days of touring current projects and celebrating the completion of several projects. The weekend ended with a graduation ceremony for the 5th-year students and celebration of our community partners.

First, we showed off a gallery of our projects for Woodshop, History, and Studio.

Next, we drove over to site. After some kind words from Rosie and Frankie, we presented our progress on Rosie’s Home to our visitors. The benefits of our post-frame construction were clearly shown when a storm hit suddenly. Thankfully, with our pre-constructed roof, we were able to continue the presentation and celebration as planned.

Looking back on our semester here at Rural Studio, we have come so far since January. We will all miss Newbern dearly, but our team is very excited to see the next semester of students develop the project even further. We can’t wait to return to see Rosie and Frankie enjoying their new home.

Check back here in August to get to know the folks working on Phase 3 of Rosie’s Home!