#auburnuniverisity

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.

More Bricks, Dirt, and Concrete Prep!

The team and assisting students took a trip to Fuller’s Building Supply, in Selma, AL, to re-stack 3,000 bricks! Said bricks had been purchased by the courtyard team a little over a year ago. Due to the pallets sitting outdoors for so long, they started to deteriorate and eventually rotted away. For one day, a crew of five sorted through the broken and whole bricks, and re-stacked them according to brick color on new pallets. Once the bricks were delivered to the site, the cleaning process began! Similarly to the previously found bricks, these have been scrapped of remaining mortar.

Curb formwork removal

Before the site was graded, the students removed the formwork of the concrete curb from the previous week’s pour. They also created a temporary boundary box to retain gravel or dirt from covering the curb and the grinder pump lid.

Grading the site

Batter boards used to indicate edge of gravel underlay
Image of whole site after grading work finished

In order to proceed with construction, the ground needed to be re-leveled. Certain areas of the site needed to come up four or so inches and others needed dirt removed. Tyler, who had previously helped the team with excavation work, returned with his mini-excavator and got the job done in one day. Caleb, Claudia, and 3rd-year students assisted with hand tamping and moving dirt by hand in areas the larger equipment could not reach. About fifty tons or two tandem trucks worth of dirt was utilized to grade the site. And about twenty-five tons of gravel was brought in as an underlay for the brick pad.

Cleaning up the alley

Simultaneously to the site being graded, time was spent on tidying up the building on Beacon Alley. The wooden doors and window trims were painted black to diminish the attention they drew; the black window trim makes the whole window disappear into the shadows rather than sticking out being a bright white.

Prepping for concrete

As formwork under the walkway started, it was necessary to remove a layer of bricks on the door threshold. To ensure that the level of the concrete and interior finished floor have a smooth transition and avoid water coming into the building. Shortly after that, people working on site were split into two groups. One group was to work on the formwork for the porch/stage area and the other to start staking down the formwork along the south and east façade.

Old Bricks, New Concrete

People standing in front of screens

For a while now the team has known what materials will be used as in-fill for the screens, but it wasn’t until recently that they were able to see the rope, cable, and galvanized screen together on site! Before the new students arrived, Caleb and Claudia started testing the rope pattern. Four vertical strands were weaved through the screen perforations in a sewing-like pattern and fastened at the bottom of the first and last segment. As well as the stainless steel cables that will run every fifth perforation, in between the rope.

Concrete Curb

This semester started out with the new 5th-year students on site helping the team with formwork, batter boards, and brick rescuing! In the images above, you can see the students making the formwork to hold the concrete in place while it sets, staking it to the ground, and eventually pouring concrete in it. There are four threaded rods that were cold poured into the curb, that will function as anchors for the new pump cover.

“Construction Lines”

Strings in front of metal structures

In preparation for the site being graded again, the students set up guides to know where the edges of the brick pad will be. These strings are ten inches away from the metal screens. Consequently, creating a symmetrical edge on three sides, lining the pad up with the overall grid, and giving the vines that will be planted on the screen some buffer space.

Every Brick Counts

Students cleaning off bricks
Students salvaging and cleaning buried bricks
Stack of cleaned bricks

Before the dirt pile from the previous excavation got removed from the site, it was scoured for any useable bricks. Since the pad will be made up of reclaimed bricks, most bricks found on site are a great addition to the inventory. The students used brushes, hammers, and scrapers to remove any mortar from the bricks before starting a “clean” brick pile.

Neckdown part 2

The Horseshoe Farm fellows and Dr. Dorsey came out on Sunday and helped prime and scrape the remaining of the block walls. By the end of the day, most of the Beacon Alley wall was primed and a coat of fresh paint put on the other wall!

The team finished installing the new waterlines and aligning the shut-off valve boxes at the north end of the site, as well as adding a connection for a water hose during construction.

This week Luis also came down from Columbiana, Alabama, and volunteered his time with the team. Luis is a certified welder, and one of the people that taught the team how to weld at Jim Turnipseed’s shop. After the galvanization was ground off at the bottom of the bracket connection, Luis welded the plates to the tube in order to make a stiffer connection.

Mason helping deliver the cut grate to the site. Up next grate installation!