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Pomp and Staircumstance

Now that the Patriece’s Home team has a chance to catch their breath, let us tell you about the exciting last few weeks! Pigs have been roasted, mock-ups have gone up, executives have reviewed, so get ready, because we’ve got a full story!

A sketched perspective sits behind a tree on Patriece's site

Site Design Time! The students began investigating details of the site, including the existing trailer, driveway, and a beautiful, healthy Water Oak tree. The team met with David Hill (professor and graduate chair of Auburn University School of Landscape Architecture) to get some advice on how to draw and diagram zones of different uses on the site, such as play areas and parking. He advised the group to use simple but powerful landscaping tools, like subtle berms and trees that will last and grow over the home’s long lifetime.

The team did a charrette to learn how programmatic zones and natural elements could inform where the house sits, instead of the other way around!

The team also began making mock-ups of many of their home’s unique details!

At the SAME time, the student team was preparing for the Studio’s annual Pig Roast weekend. The students mocked-up their most recent landscape plan on the site and created a scrolled slideshow to present their design of an adaptable two story home to the Studio’s families, friends, and alumni.

And at the same time (are you sensing a theme here?), the Patriece’s Home team prepared for the Executive Review 2.0! The guest reviewers suggested the team use an elevated slab to mitigate their site’s slope, order materials and windows, and get in the ground as soon as possible. YAY!

After Pig Roast and the Executive Reviews, the team rushed over to Auburn to graduate! They’ve worked hard on their research the last two semesters, but when they come back to Hale County next week, as leftovers, the real design-build work begins!

four students stand in the auburn football field, smiling in graduation caps and gowns

A Site in Site

The Patriece’s Home team continues to present, question, revise, and present again their designs and research for an adaptable, two-story home. Visiting architects from across the country helped the team see opportunities to make an even better design!

The team decided to keep a defined room for living on the first floor that is open to the entryway and kitchen. This led to establishing two closed off rooms upstairs for bedrooms and an open space at the top of the stairs for more nuanced uses. For example, a desk could make it a study or office space, or a twin bed could turn it into a fifth bedroom. The team also realized that there is a 6-foot tributary area between the doubled-up trusses for the stairs, so they widened the dormer so that the open space can benefit from its light and the nook it creates.

However, when the team mocked up the dormer flashing detail, they began to question whether the benefits of the dormer could be achieved without the complexities created by breaking the roof plane.

That’s when help arrived from Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburgh of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CS), both based in Chicago, IL. Mike suggested using a skylight to bring light upstairs without breaking the line of the roof. Katrina also suggested the team spend more time looking closer at the kitchenette and entryway to add opportunities for more storage in this home’s tight design. The visitors stayed a second day to host a mini workshop with the team and mock-up the skylight and storage. The outcome was the idea of having the skylight and window next to each other on the second floor—one for light and the other for framing the view as someone ascends the stairs.

Immediately after Mike and Katrina left, the team began preparing for the Studio’s go-to guy for masterful details, Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL, “Detail Dan”. The team showed him 1:1 detail drawings for the dormer and skylights, then drawings on how those changes might affect the cladding strategies for the house. They also discussed possible ways the interior stairs can be finished with a heftier material to show their significance to the home and to combat wear on this heavily used surface. Dan reviewed the team’s eave details and gave advice about the construction and expression of home’s exterior. Dan also suggested that the team streamline their window strategy by using the same few windows throughout the home, aggregating them in different ways to create repeatable details.

After all this helpful discussion, the team concluded that a low, wide window without a dormer already gives the upstairs significant light and excellent sitting views in the nook space.

As an appreciated change of pace, the team lugged out their equipment and spent a day surveying their home’s site! They found out that the slopes drain well and that it is located on a road with lots of other houses nearby (good for the corner porch and a gable end approach).

Now there’s always more to do for the upcoming Executive Review in mid-March! We will get see where the home is best placed on the site and how the team is designing the foundation. They will keep drawing those 1:1 details and fine tuning the home’s systems to get the house to its best thermal performance come summer or winter! Thanks for the read, and come back soon!

three students pose in front of their drawings pinned up for review

Freear Elected Into the National Academy of Design

Rural Studio Director Andrew Freear has been selected as a member of the National Academy of Design in recognition of his contributions to arts and architecture.

As the oldest artist-run organization in the United States, the National Academy of Design advocates for the value of arts and architecture. Since their founding in 1825, nearly 2,400 members have been elected. Freear joins more than 400 living members, including architects Marlon Blackwell, Elizabeth Diller, Billie Tsien, Tod Williams, David Adjaye, and Renzo Piano, as well as artists Richard Serra, Robert Irwin, Yoko Ono, and Claes Oldenburg. He is the only architect elected this year along with seven visual artists. He will be inducted as a National Academician in October at a ceremony in New York.

Meet all of the newly elected National Academicians here, including Andrew Freear and artists Joanne Greenbaum, Peter Halley, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Joanna Pousette-Dart, and Gary Simmons.

Andrew Freear sitting in Newbern Firehouse

On behalf of Auburn University and Rural Studio, I am very proud to receive this honor, particularly given the roll call of academicians and the history of the National Academy of Design. This truly acknowledges and legitimizes the quality of the design work that Rural Studio has undertaken in our rural community over the last 30 years.

Read the full press release here.

Photo by Rob Culpepper

Another Stud in the Wall

As promised, the big reveal.

Following the holiday season, Myers’ Home team returned to Newbern. After the annual Spring semester Neckdown week, the students took a look back at the projects’ goals and methods. What is Myers’ Home Project achieving through design and how can it be brought to life?

Generational Flexibility

Above all, Myers’ Home design aims to serve a family over generations by providing means of expansion within a protected shell. The team is also prioritizing material efficiency, buildability, and affordability as they evaluate how to build.

Originally, Myers’ Home implemented a post-frame structural system to create the protective shell essential to generational flexibility. The post-frame method is a simple structure – poles embedded in the ground or a footing with trusses and a simple roof system spanning between. However, the team needed to change aspects of the structural system for it to become sturdy enough for a longlasting, enclosed home.

Personalized Post-Frame

To achieve the desired decade-spanning design, the team customized the poles, trusses, and roofing. The poles were set in above-ground brackets rather than driven into the soil, bolstering longevity. The trusses had become inherently more complex with the addition of an attic. And, the roof system was designed in layers for thermal comfort and durability.

Subsequently, the team diagramed the whole process of construction to understand efficiency and method. As seen above, the team mapped out each step and considered the building timeline implications. As the team reflected on the more complex system and the steps to build, they reached a new conclusion. Post-frame is a fabulous typology, however, it isn’t what Myers’ Home needs.

A New Structure Ahead

But it’s not all over, in fact, it’s just begun! The four students made a quick turn, forget whiplash, and are on their way to Stud Framing City.

Discussing new detailing in Red Barn

Most importantly, the new method is, for the enclosed attic home, quicker than the original post-frame system to build. Scrapping the footings and columns, the home sits on a simple turndown slab allowing the stud walls to be quickly erected on top. Furthermore, and in line with the previous concept of the flexible model home, the only interior walls are for the home’s core.

Also, a quick maneuver with the trusses is underway! The new truss has the same pitch but the entire porch segment is sliced off, creating a heal. A heel? That’s right, and they aren’t talking about feet.

The new and improved attic truss system

Free Porch

Without the rafters or posts to dictate its volume, the porch can boldly go where no porch has gone before. In short, the porch is now free from the overall structure of the home. Now, there is no part of the integral structure which breaks the enclosed protective shell. The porch is no longer a weak point for the generational home. This is more in line with the intentions and goals of the design.

The Zip System shell wraps and shelters the home’s interior

The team is certainly enthusiastic about the new porch design challenge. The porch could touch the house lightly, tie in with a separate system, or stand entirely independent of the home structure. With all these options, the team is narrowing their infinity to perhaps a universe or two.

To inform the porch, the house must begin to speak a language. But what part speaks? Some might say it’s the details that do all the talking. The team dove into drawing details to determine which voice should be heard loudest and followed.

Beginning to define the porch’s language

And that’s where they are now, up in Red Barn drawing details, details, details. 1:1, markers-on-the-floor, shred-‘em-‘til-they’re-right details. They’ve run all around Newbern looking at past projects and local precedents for inspiration. Research in your own backyard!

So keep an eye out, these four can’t wait to show you their corners.

Tieing, Training, and Framing

The Horseshoe Courtyard steel screen frames are filling up! With help from the 3rd-years, more rope laced through the metal frames, leaving space for the steel cables which complete the screen patterns. The cables are placed every 5th perforation and function as an auxiliary support system for the vines. In the process, the steel cables visually transform the rhythm of the screen.

Showing Them the Ropes

While both the Carolina Jessamine and the Confederate Jasmine, are twining plants that will organically grow up the screens, a little help goes a long way. By training the recently planted vines around the rope and cable, they can begin to cover the screen more evenly. In a few years, the stems of the vines will become woodier, and they will become their own structure. Until then the ropes and cables are their support.

Illuminating the Courtyard

Since the last lighting mock-up, the courtyard gained ropes and vines which affect the lighting on the south end. As seen above, there are also more trees, short screens, and a mock-up of the concrete wall. To account for these new elements, the team added more lights to the scheme to see how it changed the space.

Last Brick Pallet!

In the past four months, with the help of 35 Rural Studio students and Horseshoe Farm Fellow, 3,800 bricks have now been cleaned! All salvaged, the bricks came from the site or a home in Selma, Alabama. A typical dig on Horseshoe Courtyard reveals a couple of bricks or an old foundation wall from a previous structure. Luckily all that cleaning is over with, and the team can now begin the brick pad! The team graded the site and removed access soil in order to stack the bricks beneath the trees. This way, the bricks will be with in reach when laying the pad pattern.

Walls Going Up

The courtyard team also started the porch framing! Seen above, the western porch stud wall attaches directly to the existing brick wall. Knee walls hang from the eiling strucuture, to span studs across to the south brick wall. Next for the porch is the eastern wall, re-hanging the double doors, and sheathing all the new stud walls. After this, the whole thing will be covered with exterior dry-wall.