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The Home Stretch

Nearing the Finish Line

Well, hello again! The 3rd-year class is back again for your entertainment. It has finally cooled down here in Hale County: the fans have been stored away for the semester and winter jackets and heated blankets made their debut. Since our last blog, we have been so busy and are excited to tell you all about it!

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing

When we last checked in with the MEP Boys, the plumbing team, Luke and Cayden, were finishing up the dryer vent installation and just starting on water supply lines; while the electrical team, Jack and Casey, were finishing up wiring throughout the house! After a few days of dry-fitting both wiring and plumbing parts, the MEP teams were able to begin setting everything in final positions. Following supply line fitting, the plumbing team began running pressure tests to ensure no leaks in the hot and cold water lines. As the electrical team finished up on wiring, they duly began testing each of their 22 circuits.

After successful tests, the plumbing team moved on to attaching the main water line to the house and placing and leveling the shower floor with mortar. After a day of mixing and spreading mortar, the plumbing team came back to a perfectly level and functional shower pan.

The electrical team successfully tested each interior circuit and moved onto the exterior wiring and placing of conduit on the porch with the help of Mason. After finalizing the interior plumbing and electrical, the MEP team cleaned up their typical mess of wires and nuts so the drywall team could get to work over the Thanksgiving Break!

Cabinets and Carpentry

As the Interiors team awaited the arrival of their tongue-and-groove cypress cladding, our sweet friend from that team, Kylie Kendall joined the ranks of the Millwork team for extra help in the woodshop. While Caitlin and Shannon worked hard on figuring out the composition of the lower cabinet drawers, Biz and Kylie, with aid of instructor Steve Long, used maple hardwood to construct face frames for the upper cabinets. After finishing sanding for all the cabinets, Caitlin and Shannon moved to priming while Biz and Kylie built the plywood bases for them sit on upon install.

Through meeting with our clients Rosie and Frankie, it came to our attention that we needed change in the plans. The cabinets previously formed an L-shaped kitchen that ended in a tall pantry storage unit. However, Rosie is accustomed to a U-shaped kitchen. The team met with Rosie to form a plan for the new kitchen shape and pivoted work to building a small peninsula cabinet instead, what we’re calling “Florida”. So, we headed back to the Studio to start brainstorming “Florida” into reality. Our interpretation was a peninsula added onto the end of the lower cabinets to cap them. This peninsula will add adjustable storage to both the kitchen and living room sides.

We were also tasked with the job of designing and building a closet for the bedroom that responded to the ceiling vaulted and exposed tension members. After many ideas, we landed on the final design and headed to site for a major blocking job for all of the millwork to be installed later.

Interiors

Tanner, Kylie, Emma A., and Emma J. have started cranking out the interior cladding in Rosie’s Home. To prepare for the drywall installation, different and healthier alternative insulations are being applied to the house’s walls and roof. On the east wall, Hempitecture Hempwool is being firmly fitted in the wall, we love the ease of installation on this one! Up above, ROCKWOOL is being hung on the ceiling. The west wall will be all Havelock sheep’s wool batts. On the north and south wall, a mixture of Hempwool, ROCKWOOL, and sheep wool are used for testing the effectiveness of the different insulations. As Kylie was stolen away from the team, the remaining members worked on finalizing the interior finish options and presented the cool, neutral, and warm options. They put together beautiful mood boards that represented the interior cladding, flooring, and cabinet colors and presented to Rosie and family. After that, Tanner and Emma J. along with Mason ventured to Cleveland, Georgia, to pick up the wood cladding and trim needed to finish the interior.

Enclosures

Bailey, Hannah, Kati, and McAllister have been working hard to continue wrapping up the exterior cladding. After finishing the vertical and horizontal battens on the front wall and roof, one of the picture windows arrived and was able to be installed on the north facade.

While Kati and Bailey completed the metal cladding on the north side, Hannah and McAllister stained and installed the wood cladding on the front. Once the whole team started working on the front, the wood cladding went up with ease, and before they knew it the wall was done. After some brainstorming on how the edge of the roof and wall would meet, the team settled on a slight roof overhang and then got to work on the application.

Halloween Review

It was time for the annual Rural Studio Halloween review and the 3rd-years dressed up as whimsical characters from the Dr. Seuss books. Starring in the 2023 Halloween review was…

Biz Helms as Horton the Elephant 

Bailey Kennedy as The Fish

Caitlin Ranheim as Thing 1

Casey Dillard as Mr. Brown

Cayden Davis as Sneetch 

Emma Avery as The Lorax

Emma Johnson as Thing 2

Hannah Weiland as The Fox in Socks

Jack Felder as The Grinch

Kati Warner as The Cat in the Hat

Kylie Kendall as The Once-ler

Luke Bradberry as JoJo 

McAllister Tucker as Cindy Lou Who

Shannon Brennan as Sam-I-Am

Tanner Wallace as Max the Dog 

On site, McAllister, Emma A., Caitlin, and Luke presented Rosie’s Home to visiting architects and got critiques on the progress already made to the house. To end the day, the 3rd-years competed in a costume competition with the rest of Rural Studio and to their dismay, did not win. Congratulations the the 5th-year CLT Core House team for their victory!

Chop, Drop, and Roll

Continuing on our journey into the woodworking world, all five groups have begun our final chairs! After working out any issues that were brought to light by the completion of our mock-ups, we have now refined our techniques and are working hard to finish each chair by Soup Roast.

Steve has continued to help us through all of the challenges we’ve faced, even if that means meeting in the early mornings with us. Regardless of the bumps in the road, we are all ecstatic to show you how much we’ve learned this semester with the final renditions of our iconic chairs!

Pillars of the Past

Since we last talked, we visited The Oaks in Greensboro, Alabama, where we met its steward, Ian Crawford, who just so happened to be one of Dick Hudgens’ past interns! We learned much more about our professor, his work, and this gorgeous and well-loved home. This house represented Greek revival and the class favorite room was the Greek mythology-themed dressing room!

We also visited the Jemison Mansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This house represented Italianate architecture and provided a unique and large wall-to-wall custom carpet and featured the first interior working toilet and bathtub in Alabama.

In our final class with Professor Hudgens, we carpooled all the way to Columbus, Mississippi. We had the privilege to visit the Riverview Mansion first, one of the finest examples of Greek revival in the South. The second destination was Temple Heights Mansion, which also represented Greek revival architecture in a denser neighborhood site. At this stop, we drew elevations of the home and enjoyed the sights of the lush garden and property in a setting unlike previous rural homes we’ve seen. The final destination was Waverly Mansion. This iconic home featured four floors of beautifully executed historic preservation, with more modern restorations in the east wing. We ended this trip with dinner at Harvey’s and said our goodbyes to Dick until we see him again at Soup Roast with our completed watercolor paintings.

Gone Nuts!

As best friends here in Rural Studio, Biz Helms decided she would treasure nothing more than bringing all the 3rd-year students to her hometown of Dothan to attend the National Peanut Festival. So we all packed into cars, some more than others, and made our way to the Circle City itself.

As for the weekend itinerary details; driving, eating, sleeping, eating again, festival rides, watching cattle shows, viewing the peanut gallery, eating AGAIN, riding more rides, eating one last time, shopping for merchandise, and more driving. As one can see from this weekend, our hearts were as full as our bellies, but our wallets were empty.

Well, thanks for stopping by! We are having so much fun and never wanna leave, but for now we are cherishing every moment out here. As Kati Warner always says, “We are living in the good ‘ole days.”  Check back later to see the end of the semester and what we present for Soup Roast!

See you soon!

Well Underway at Rosie’s

On Site and In Studio

Since dividing into our studio teams, the 3rd-year class of Fall 2023 has hit the ground running. We’re working hard every day to accomplish our goal of completing Rosie’s Home. These days, each site team is working on different tasks to advance the current design challenges and move construction forward.

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing

The Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing team, known on site as “MEP,” is in the midst of electrical and plumbing systems installation. Luke and Cayden are focused on plumbing design and have installed the ventilation system. They are learning the ins-and-outs of supply lines, drains, and where they all go! While the two plumbers have been hard at work, Jack and Casey are wiring up the house. After many iterations of circuit diagrams and lighting critiques with electric expert Mason, Judith, and Thomas Paterson of Lux Populi lighting design, wires are being run and light fixtures chosen.

Cabinets and Carpentry

In the meantime, Caitlin, Shannon, and Biz were off to a speedy start framing the interior walls of the house earlier this semester. Since finishing the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom walls, they are working with Steve and Judith in the Woodshop on the cabinets that were designed and built in past semesters’ Woodshop classes. The team hopes to imminently install these in Rosie’s beautiful new kitchen!

The cabinetry project for Rosie’s Home is part of an initiative to utilize healthier material alternatives in the prototype home design. These cabinets are constructed with zero-formaldehyde plywood, solid maple, and will use a low-to-zero VOC finish. On site, the home’s insulation strategy uses Havelock Wool (from sheep!), Hempitecture HempWool, and ROCKWOOL. All of these materials have reduced amounts of harmful particulates and binding agents compared to typical fiberglass or spray-in foam insulation.

Interiors

Back on site, Emma J., Emma A., Kylie, and Tanner are working to turn this house into a home through thoughtful choices of interior finishes. The team is building on-site mock-ups of the interior wall and ceiling materials in which they tested finish options. In all this, they are keeping in mind the lessons learned from “The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building.” Rosie’s interior will likely be paneled in tongue-in-groove cypress planks, finished in a to-be-determined shade, along the more utilized corridor of the home for durability and visual connection to the porch exterior.

Enclosures

On the outside, Kati, McAllister, Hannah, and Bailey are tackling many jobs to make sure the exterior of the home is sealed tight. They have worked at great heights to cut and install skylights, the first in awhile for the Studio—oh, the things you can do with a second roof! They have also cut to size and installed nearly all the exterior metal cladding. Preparations have since begun for installation of exterior wood cladding on the porch wall. The material change on the front porch offers a change in scale and softer material on the most protected, and most occupied, wall of the exterior.

Knock on Wood

Our journey in Woodshop Class this semester began with a fantastic introduction as we delved into the world of cutting boards. With two pieces of maple and one of walnut, we set out to test our new woodworking skills and flex our creativity. The initial cutting board project served as a practice run for all the tools in the shop, allowing us to gain confidence and skill in using these essential tools before diving into the main project of the semester.

After conquering the cutting board challenge, we embarked on an even more exciting journey—crafting iconic chairs. We are divided into five teams, each taking on the task of remaking a famous architectural chair from scratch. This year’s lineup is all classics from the Rural Studio Woodshop chair history books. Which is your favorite!?

  • Frei Edigio Chair by Lina Bo Bardi 
    • Kati Warner, Mcallister Tucker, and Cayden Davis
    • Luke Bradberry, Bailey Kennedy, and Kylie Kendall
  • Zig Zag Chair by Gerrit Rietveld
    • Emma Avery, Shannon Brennan, and Biz Helms
  • Standard Chair No. 4 by Jean Prouvé
    • Jack Felder, Tanner Wallace, and Casey Dillard
  • Stool No. 60 by Alvar Aalto
    • Caitlin Ranheim, Emma Johnson, and Hannah Weiland

We’re currently wrapping up the mock-up phase, crafting preliminary versions of each chair design. This essential step allows us to address any issues, refine techniques, and fine-tune details before we embark on the final build. It’s a thrilling time as we embrace challenges and ensure our final chairs stay true to their iconic counterparts. Stay tuned for the final products!

On the Road for History

Our history adventure kicks off with a tour of Greek Revival and Federal homes from primarily the 19th century. These historic gems surround us in the Black Belt, offering a glimpse into the past. Guided by professor Dick Hudgens, we explore these homes, examining and documenting their intricate period details and architectural spatial qualities. Sites we have toured so far are…

  • Glencairn – Greensboro, AL
  • Magnolia Grove – Greensboro, AL
  • Bluff Hall & Lyons Hall – Demopolis, AL
  • Folsom Farm – Marion, AL
  • Thornhill – Boligee, AL
  • Gaineswood Hall – Demopolis, AL

But this class is more than just sightseeing, Hudgens challenges us to create quick sketches of these homes, encouraging us to learn by doing. We sketch elevations, plans, details, and sections, making us appreciate and question the architecture in a more hands-on and critical way.

Homework assignments are far from typical. We practice our art and observation skills through small watercolor paintings of landscapes and architectural details. This isn’t just about honing our artistic abilities but connecting with the artistry of the past.

As the semester progresses, our skills culminate in a final, large-scale, watercolor painting. This time, not of historic homes but everyday objects like a carton of eggs or a garden hose in the grass. We’re tasked with turning these items into captivating art, all of this with natural pigments we’ve collected and made throughout the semester!

We’ve just soaked and stapled our large-scale paper for the final project, and our classroom buzzes with excitement. Every student pours their artistic soul into this project, inspired by the historic beauty of Newbern, Alabama.

Good Eats and Birthday Celebrations

Time is moving fast here in Newbern, we’re past mid-semester already! In recent news, Rural Studio’s beloved Chef Catherine has returned! Since then Cat’s cooking has been nothing short of impeccable, in our humble opinion. Some of the 3rd-year’s favorite meals include vegetable soup, BBQ pork, and chicken-fried steak. Her return also means an updated salad bar including bacon bits, hummus, and fresh garden lettuce! You can certainly say the 3rd-year class is excited to have Catherine back. 

Our class has also celebrated some very important birthdays in the last couple of weeks. We partied for our clients’—Rosie and Frankie’s—birthdays in style. Rosie’s party included a delicious confetti cake with chocolate frosting after a mini review of the house. For his birthday, Frankie hosted a potluck BBQ with the entire studio for his birthday. The 3rd-year students brought Milo’s sweet tea, burger fixings, wacky chips, bacon green beans, ramen slaw, and Kylie’s Famous Corn Dip. Frankie cooked the burgers, Conecuh sausage, and catfish. Judith brought sweet potato pie, Frankie’s favorite dessert! 

All in all the 3rd-years have been living the life here at Rural Studio. 

Before we go, get to know us a little more! Here are the studio’s favorite meals that Chef Cat has cooked for us! 

Biz Helms: BBQ sandwich

Caitlin Ranheim: Beef tips over rice 

Casey Dillard: BBQ pork

Cayden Davis: Spaghetti

Emma Avery: Spaghetti

Emma Johnson: Chicken-fried steak 

Hannah Weiland: Vegetable soup

Jack Felder: Mac & cheese and steamed okra 

Kati Warner: Vegetable soup

Kylie Kendall: Lasagna 

Luke Bradberry: BBQ pork 

McAllister Tucker: Vegetable soup

Shannon Brennan: Blackened chicken and candied yams 

Tanner Wallace: Squash casserole

We’ll get back to work! Check in soon to hear about our Halloween Review and see our costumes! Until then, thank you for reading!

Kicking Things Off

Welcome all to the first CLT Core House blog post! We are so excited to share everything we have been learning so far. It has been quite an adventure up until now. Let’s start from the beginning…

The 5th-Years taking a selfie in their first mock-up.

When our group of eight 5th-year students was briefed on the two new projects, we realized that things would be a little different. It was clear that the CLT Core House and Fabrication Pavilion projects would be more intertwined than most. They will help to inform each other as they develop.

Before our Rural Studio experience, architecture school seemed to be primarily a solo endeavor. It has been an invaluable experience to work as a team of eight as we navigated all the difficulties of trying to make an effective team. Throughout this process, we have been lucky enough to have had workshops with some truly inspiring architects and consultants who have advised and mentored us as we go.

It was exciting to be involved in both projects, but inevitably we had to split into teams.

Let’s meet the team!

5th-year polaroids

As a newly formed team, it feels great to be able to direct more of our attention toward one project. Our house is the first iteration of a new Rural Studio exploration and another addition to its research into mass timber applications. The cores of the house will contain the essential systems of a home such as a bathroom or kitchen. CLT (cross-laminated timber) walls will support the systems. Since the CLT is both the structure and the finish, we want to prefabricate these cores. Hopefully, prefabrication will provide some interesting benefits in reducing construction time, cost, and labor. The cores could also be the main structural support for the house while still providing an opportunity for easy maintenance of all the critical systems, like mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

Our team feels so lucky to work on this challenging project; the opportunities seem endless. Since its beginning, Rural Studio has invested its time and energy toward understanding what housing in a rural condition can be. Our team hopes to continue that legacy.

Serious business aside, we all feel that it has been an absolute joy to work out here. The program is intense and fast-paced. That’s part of the privilege of being here. We intend to take advantage of that opportunity and have as much fun as we can while doing it!

Thank you all for starting this journey with us and supporting us along the way. Stay tuned for our future posts! We look forward to keeping you updated.

Core house team group photo.

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 

In the Walls & On the Roof!

A perspective view of the back of the house shows a row of scaffolding at the base of the roof and rectangles of insulation stacked halfway up the roof deck.

A new year and a reinvigorated energy for the Patriece’s Home team! In 2023, the home will all come together! The team was so eager to get back to work, they settled back into Hale County weeks before the semester started.

Plus, their insulation arrived. Thanks to a generous donation from Rockwool, Patriece’s Home, Rosie’s Home, and the C.H.O.I.C.E House will be filled with Rockwool fire and sound-proof insulation. These products are made from basalt rocks that have been melted down and whipped like cotton candy, and provide a more healthful insulation alternative. 

Because the trusses on Patreice’s Home are designed for 5 1/2” of spray foam insulation, the team developed a strategy to use 4 inches of Rockwool Comfortboard 110 on the exterior of the roof deck and Comfortbatt on the interior of the roof deck to achieve the necessary insulation R value. They also drilled holes in the roof purlins of the six-foot gap between the trusses so that vapor can diffuse across the underside of the roof deck through the port in the ridge. Thank you, Rural Studio 5th-,years for helping install interior insulation! The team edited the eave and rake details for this change and once the comfort board was stacked on the roof, they covered it in a waterproof plastic, purlins to screw the roof metal into and sandwiched all the layers together with 7” screw into the attic trusses! 

After the insulation was secure, the team finished placing the corrugated ash grey roof metal on the house in one afternoon! The first finish layer of the home is complete! 

Before they finish the other side of the roof, the team is going to duct three rooms upstairs to whirly bird vents on the roof to help ventilate the home in the hot Alabama summers. The students will have to drill though all layers of the roof sandwich and built hatches to the ducts, which can be closed in the winter and opened when it heats up. Team member Daniel built a mockup of the hatches and the team had another detail design meeting with their consultant Dan Wheeler!

Adam and Laurel also ran around the house installing an exterior hose bib, the hot water heater, and the shower controls to finally finish the plumbing. They installed two ERVs—one for each unit in the dividable home—to circulate fresh air and installed ducts the bathroom fans and kitchen range hood They cut the ZIP below the tall windows to secure the home’s through-wall unit sleeves.

Meanwhile, Lauren and Daniel have been tangled in the wires! Boxes were placed, holes drilled, and wire pulled to electrify the whole home. The electrical system is designed on two breaker boxes; when the home is devised into two units, the second unit can be hooked up to a second preinstalled meter box. These little details are part of the team’s adaptable design to allow the home to flex with as little effort as possible. Rural Studio’s own Mason Hinton helped them design and test the circuits and hook them up to the breakers and meter box outside. The team is also installing conduit to a low voltage box inside, so if the homeowner decides to change their internet or cable television service provider, the new cables can easily be routed into the home. 

With the last of the roof metal coming soon and final checks on the guts of house’s walls being done, we’re all ready to see this space filled with insulation and transformed by drywall! Read Patriece’s Home’s blog next time to see their spring progress in Greensboro!