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Concrete, Concrete, and More Metal

Who said there is such a thing as, “too much concrete”? Definitely not the Horseshoe Courtyard Project team! In the last two weeks, Caleb, Claudia, and the 5th year and Graduate Student helpers poured concrete for the sidewalk extension, wall footing, and the wall mock-up. Oh, the wall? It’s made of concrete. Let’s see how they do it!

In one action-packed afternoon, the team poured the concrete sidewalk extension and the footing for the 9′ concrete entry wall. Both are located at the north end of the courtyard site. Special formwork was made to help keep the footing rebar in place. This rebar extends out of the footing and will be cast inside the wall. Special attention was also paid to the sidewalk extension by giving it a broom finish.

Mock-up # 13: The Concrete Wall

Next up, the thirteenth mock-up. This mock-up tested the finished quality of the concrete for the 9′ wall. The team experimented with how much the concrete needed to be vibrated to create a smooth surface and where to locate seams. It was also important to practice the overall process of making out-of-ground formwork and pouring into it.

Due to the dimensions of a single melamine sheet, a wood composite board with a plastic coating, no single sheet will cover the whole face of the concrete wall. Therefore a couple of options were tested using two, 2′ x 2′ panels. Each panel face tested a different option; single sheet, horizontal seam, vertical seam, and a combination of the two. Silicon sealed the joints and corners and liquid nails connected the different segments of the melamine board together. Once the concrete cured and the forms removed, the team decided horizontal seam would be best.

Only the Corner Left

After removing the formwork for the recent sidewalk extension, the last flat screen on the east side was ready for filling. Caleb, Claudia, and TMBV team members planted three more vines, weaved the rope through, and fastened the corresponding steel cables. The corner screen will be finished, once the concrete sidewalk is fully extended, to avoid trampling the plants in the process.

Spring is Upon Us

In the last couple of weeks, the courtyard has seen new colors pop up! The Carolina Jessamine or Gelsemium sempervirens, one of the two vines planted have started to bud. This week, almost all twenty of the Jessamines have bloomed or have buds that will bloom in the coming days. This beautiful vine blooms twice a year, in the fall and spring; and complements the fragrant white blooms of the Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which will make their appearance in a few weeks!

Benches Coming Together

During Neckdown Week, the team and helpers dug and poured two of the concrete footings for the benches. And last week, the corresponding metal legs for the benches were installed. The team hammer-drilled into the concrete and epoxied the threaded rods into place. The base of the benches will be grouted to the concrete at the correct level once the third bench footing has been poured and hammer-drilled. The benches’ sitting surface consists of two eight-inch square heavy timber cypress, leftover from the Newbern Town Hall project, which will provide durability as well as comfort for the user.

Walkway Capped

Fastening cables to railing end

Finally, the end of the walkway is complete! A new quarter-inch plate was installed into the masonry wall to support the northernmost railing. The process for the installation of the plate was the same as the plates which support the walkway. The main difference being the middle two anchors that extended past the wall plate and attached to the railing aligned with the other railing frame connection point. The corner piece, while singular in its function, follows the same language and rhythm as the rest of the metal. And maintains the two-inch gap in both its connection to the last railing and to the existing ones.

A Little Bit of Everything

The Horseshoe Courtyard Project Team is bringing even more concrete to a blog near you! The team started to dig the footing for the concrete wall at the North end of the site. And, without fail, they ran into more old, buried brick and concrete foundations. Of course they also found dead metal pipes.

These foundations are from the old structures that used to occupy the site. Nevertheless, that did not stop the team from digging the footing to the right depth. They smashed the foundation remnants while carefully avoiding breaking the waterlines.

Snow in Hale?

As much of the country experienced frigid temperatures last week, so did Greensboro, AL. Last Tuesday night, the site was blanketed with a thin layer of snow! Thankfully there was no damage to the project. Just these snowy pictures of the Horseshoe Courtyard.

One Corner Left!

The end of the bricklaying is approaching! The team only has the northwest corner of the brick pad to finish. At the moment, the bricks on the west side reach past the grinder pump, once some plumbing work gets squared away, the remaining bricks can be placed and sanded. After that, all that’s left for the pad is the metal edging, which is already on-site, ready to be installed!

Students laying bricks on sad

A Continuous Railing

For most of the elevated walkway, there are metal frames that serve as railings, with cables spaced out every two inches. However, on the south end of the walkway, the team perforated the back half of the metal screens, to allow the screens to double as railings. The cables span the same length as a railing, meaning one set of cables covers two of the screens.

When installing the cable in the southernmost point, the team used special masonry anchors that attach to the brick wall. In order to make sure the holes for these anchors were drilled in the correct spot and equidistant, the team used a metal jig. To hold the plate jig in the correct spot while drilling, the team screwed some blocking pieces into the masonry wall. Once the perforation holes were cleared of debris, the anchors were tapped into the wall and the hardware piece that holds the cable in place could be attached. And lastly, after cutting the cables to length, they were tensioned with the fastener that attached to the screens.

Out of sight, Out of Mind

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog for a while, this infamous grinder pump cover has come up for months now. And you are probably curious as to what all the fuss is about. Well, here you have it!

In the last post, the metal frame was seen installed in place. Most recently, the “tabs” that are held up by the threaded rods were attached, and the cover lifted into place. In the images above the process of this installation is seen.

First, the metal plate tabs were placed at the correct height and held in place with a nut and washer, while tack welded in place. Second, the washer and nut were removed, and the excess threaded rod ground off, and the plate fully welded to fill the gap. Third, the surface of the plate was ground smooth and clean. Fourth, the remaining debris was cleaned off and the welds covered with spray paint. Last but not least, the team and friends placed the cover once the paint has dried!

The Biggest Puzzle in Hale County

Exciting times at the Horseshoe Courtyard, after cleaning nearly 4,000 bricks, the brick pad is finally coming to life! The team and their helpers began laying bricks to create an intricate, hard surface in the main courtyard space.

Begining corner of brick pad

First, the team made a wooden frame of 2″x 6″ lumber staked into the ground which created a perimeter. This perimeter frame acted as a tray for the sand, which built up underneath the bricks. The sand is tamped and leveled, creating an even surface on which to lay the bricks. Also, the frame acts as a guide, keeping the entire pad square.

A Puzzling Pattern

Diagram of brick pattern

After filling small sections of the frame with leveled, tamped sand the bricklaying begins. The team chose a basket weave pattern for the brick pad. However, it was not until all the bricks were cleaned and sorted that the team understood the variety of shades and sizes of the material. How these different bricks filled the pattern added another layer of complexity. The basketweave pattern is made-up of “squares” which contain eight specific bricks of different colors, sizes, and textures.

So, within the designed pattern, the most important rules were aligning the outer edges of the “squares”, keeping gaps between bricks small, and leveling the bricks to the height of the neighboring concrete. Seen above is the final pattern which contains red, brown, burgundy, orange, and grooved bricks. Some are large, some are small, but together they create a dynamic pattern.

As the brick pad kept growing, Dr.Dorsey would stop by and test out the future dance floor. However, when he didn’t dance away quick enough, the Horseshoe Courtyard team put him to work spreading out sand between the finished bricks!

Once the brick pad is complete, metal edging will keep the bricks in place. As mentioned earlier, the brick pad surface will be level to the concrete for seamless access to the main courtyard space. The brick pad is crucial to the flexibility of the courtyard design, giving a hard surface for outdoor activies such as Dr. Dorsey’s dancing.

More Frames

Time for a throwback! Recently, the team picked up the last of their fabricated metal pieces. This included the railing, grinder pump cover, and bench legs. They took all these pieces to be galvanized, after some on-site welding on the grinder pump cover. Keep checking in to see the Horseshoe Courtyard Project continue to transform.

Tamping Down and Lighting Up

View of trees and slate from walkway
Slate gravel is the finished surface under the tree canopy and around the brick pad on the South end of the site.

This week, the team unloaded 22 super-sacks of slate, from Rockmart Georgia! Half of these sacks consisted of “Trail Mix” which makes up the first two-inch layer of material. And the “Mini chips” that will be the top two inches are the finish grade. While both generally look the same, the Trail Mix has fines, which function as mulch, while the Mini chips are less powdery, compact better, and decreases the chances of weeds going through the surface. The team, and helpers, set to spreading and hand tamping the first layer of slate around the recently planted trees. While students spread the slate, they placed markers between the trees to ensure that the site continued to slope towards the north end of the site.

Lighting talks and studies

One of the important aspects of the courtyard is its flexibility in usage; both throughout the seasons, as well as at different times of the day. Keeping that in mind elevates the importance of lights in the courtyard. Luckily, the Studio had a visit from Thomas Paterson, a lighting consultant from Mexico City’s LuxPopuli! Thomas showed a couple of projects he and his office has worked on, how they approach lighting design, and some strategies the team could test out in the courtyard. After the lecture, everyone headed to the courtyard site to see those strategies applied to the existing lighting mock-up.

Trench for north screens

As the team moved further north on the site, they had to consider the implications of having a trench separating the spaces. Consequently, before the team planted the trees, they moved the sand for the brick pad by the tall screens. And before the Bobcat could no longer be driven in, bricks and slate were relocated beneath the trees. Shortly after that, Tyler returned to the site one last time, with his Mini-excavator. In one morning’s time Tyler and Ashton, his assistant, dug up the trench and hauled off the excavated dirt from the site. Simultaneously, students salvaged close to a hundred bricks, from the pile of dirt coming out the trench. Many were previously part of foundation walls for the buildings that used to be on the site.

After Tyler left, students quickly prepared the reinforcement of the concrete. While tying the rebar, the team made sure that it matched with the placement of the metal footings for the screens. They did so, like always, by pulling batter board lines across space.

Six Trees in the Ground, Seven More To Go

Dr.Dprsey and PHF fellows cleanign bricks

On a Saturday morning, the Greensboro Fellows, Dr. Dorsey, and several community members came to the courtyard site to help clean bricks! Together they cleaned about three-quarters of a pallet (roughly 350) worth of bricks. Thank you, Fellows and Dr. Dorsey, it was a great help!

Concrete Pour

Formwork pre-concrete pour

The team finished the formwork, secured the rebar mesh, and taped over the formwork spacers and screws. The slab under the walkway is divided into rectangular pavers, which follow the grid system of the rest of the courtyard, and allow two-inch gaps that correspond with screen and grate placement. This week with the help of contractor, Clyde Fields, the team poured concrete!

Cured concrete before formwork was removed

While waiting for the new trees to be delivered, we began removing the formwork! To make prying the forms out easier, longer pieces of formwork were created at the edges of each rectangular slab piece, with spacers every foot or so.

Crepe Myrtles Arrived!

Thirteen beautiful, single trunk, Natchez Crepe Myrtles arrived on site on a cloudy Thursday morning. The team unloaded all of the trees with the help of 3rd-year students, Mason, and the Bobcat. The trees have grown taller since being tagged at a nursery in northern Alabama! The caliper, or width of the tree trunk, ranges between three and four inches wide. The bottom of the tree canopy is at least six to seven feet tall, allowing people to comfortably wander beneath the canopy.

That Friday morning we, along with 3rd-years and Mason, excavated holes for the first two trees. Considering the size of the site, the trees needed to be planted two at a time before the following holes could be augured. David Hill, AU professor of landscape architecture, arrived to advise and help plant the Crepe Myrtles. The 3rd and 5th-years helped us plant the first six trees! A huge shout out to David for coming from Auburn to assist planting the first half of the new courtyard trees.