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Recently At Rural

Dried In At Last!

Welcome back! Rosie’s Home is on to its punchlist, and the students are working diligently as the 30th Pig Roast inches ever closer!

Right before spring break, 3rd-year students enjoyed a barbeque afternoon on site with their clients and had the honor of trying Frankie’s delicious fried catfish and “which-a-way” burgers. There was plenty of dancing, especially line-dancing like “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and Frankie’s favorite, the Electric Slide, as the students showed new moves to Rosie, Frankie, and teachers Emily McGlohn and Judith Seaman.

After spring break, 3rd-year students took off running on Rosie’s Home. Yesenia, Denae, Julia, and Brysen finished installing the floor and trim, while Mac and Sarah worked with Judith on custom-building and installing the final, and largest, window.

With all of these details out of the way, their instructor, Steve Long, is helping install cabinets in the kitchen; Yesenia, Denae, Sarah, and Emily are putting up the door; and Julia, Brysen, and Mac are applying final touches to the attic space. The team is pushing to finish interiors so they can make the final designs for the landscape and porch as the team enters its last month in Hale!

One Step Closer to Taking a Seat

Woodshop class with Steve has been very productive as students are finishing details on their cutting boards and continuing to work on their chairs. Yesenia and Sarah have been having many “bending parties” where the entire class participates in helping bend and clamp a steamed wood leg for Alvar Aalto’s Stool 60. This process is meticulous and time-sensitive, but so far, has been a win! Denae and Julia successfully steam-bent their first piece of wood for the seat of Jean Prouvé’s Standard Chair; they are continuing the process and mark their angles on hardwood for legs. Mac and Brysen are working hard at perfecting the mechanics involved with the Lina Bo Bardi folding chair on the drill press and jigs. Each seat brings its challenges, but the students are taking plenty of time to construct the chairs as best as they can.

In what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the class was able to spend a full 8 hours in woodshop on a recent Friday, and they took full advantage! They also have had the fabulous opportunity to spend more time in woodshop on typical site days to fabricate elements of the house such as window trim and cabinet base trim.

Trips with Dick

History trips with instructor Richard Hudgens are always a high for the 3rd-years every Monday, and these last three houses certainly did not disappoint. The students came to a collective agreement that Thornhill Mansion in Forkland, Alabama, was their favorite trip to date by far. Yes, the house was beautiful, but the view from the home’s hilltop perch over the Black Belt prairie was especially breathtaking.

In addition, though Professor Hudgens has visited this location numerous times, he had never climbed the 100-foot fire tower this house hid until now. Students and Hudgens took on the hair-raising, exhausting, but 100% worth it experience of climbing this tower with the owner, Mr. Jones, for a view that stunned from the top. The weeks that followed took the class to old favorite, Folsom Farm in Marion, with its famous seed house and general store, as well as the stately Gaineswood Mansion, with a section like no other!

The students were also given their final watercolor assignments, extra-special this year for the 30th Anniversary of Rural Studio. They will be on display at Pig Roast — so come on out to Hale and see their hard work!

1st-Years in the House

In March, Rural Studio holds its annual 1st-Year Workshop, where freshman architecture students are commissioned to design a model stand responding to studio models they previously presented. With themes such as “nest,” “slide,” and “rotate,” these model stands came to life with the help of 3rd-year, 5th-year, and “leftover” students. The visiting class received tool training from Steve Long the first afternoon, followed by dinner and a show (spaghetti and a lecture from Andrew Freear). It’s safe to say the younger students had an up-close view of what daily life will be like at Rural Studio should they choose to apply!

The second day, students were divided so each group had one 3rd-year advising them. And what would a Rural Studio visit be without catfish!? Students enjoyed a wonderful catfish lunch provided by Chef Ann before getting back to work on their model stands. The day concluded with a review of each stand with Andrew Freear, John Marusich, Emily McGlohn, Judith Seaman, and special guest Katherine Hogan of Katherine Hogan Architects in Raleigh, NC. Hope to see them here again in two years!

So Much Fun, So Little Time

Spring has sprung, and this means the Farm is always busy. Students are assigned farm duty, which recently has involved planting peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers, harvesting greens, and protecting plants from freezing overnight. This Alabama weather can be so unpredictable! Each week, guests from across the county visit Newbern to conduct workshops with 5th-years and give a lecture to all students and faculty during lunch. Recently, visitors have included: Katherine Hogan from Raleigh, NC, Pete Landon of Landon Bone Baker in Chicago, Amanda Loper and Cameron Acheson from David Baker Architects in Birmingham, and Rick Joy from Rick Joy Architects in Tucson.

Hammocking has been a recent obsession for the 3rd-Years. In Greensboro, pickleball isn’t for the weak! The students find themselves playing with Fellows from Project Horseshoe Farms many times during the week, when they aren’t absolutely demolishing competition at trivia in Greensboro that is (they never win). Weather is warming up which means more outside activities, keep an eye out, their soccer skills are defrosting as we speak!

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!

Over and Out

It’s curtain call on the Myers’ Home, construction that is. The team wrapped up just in time for the holiday season and towed away the trailer and all. The keys have been given to the clients. The team can’t wait to hear how the house functions in action. But how about a dive into those last few weeks on site in Newbern?

Flex Walls, Finally

One of the primary aims of the Myers’ Home was to provide a formwork for varying generation needs. The team explored this concept by building the “shell” house with no spatial divisions outside of the “core” volume. With this method, a client could hypothetically walk through the full-scale model of the home. With full experience of the space, they can decide where they’d like bedroom divisions from several schemes.

These “flex walls” are stud walls constructed in place, rather than tilt up, and anchored with a few masonry screws. They are paneled with sanded and primed plywood and fasteners are entirely visible. These details allow the walls to be more easily altered or removed years down the road. If the family is in need of a new room configuration, these walls can handle it.

Bits and Bobs

Of course, at the end of every building project there is what’s called a “punch list.” It’s a list of the remaining tasks to ready the house for turnover. On this list for the Myers’ Home was a few coats of finish to the butcher-block countertops, making the stair handrail, caulking the last of corners, tightening up door hardware, and sealing the interior and exterior slabs.

Porch Conclusions

Another final task was to complete the lower row of siding on the front exterior face of the home. A quick task that certainly visually completes the house quickly!

With all bents in place and secured, we begin raising and securing purlins. Then, we welded the purlin mats at the same time as the bents and installed them as single units by bay. Riley took the reins and began welding up a storm while the others clamp and shimmy the pieces to level.

Finally, we wrapped up the roofing, a quicker job than expected. After just a day and a half the team completed the final line of siding and the porch roof. The panels went on with slightly more precision than the main roof. The tapping screws needed to catch the 1-1/4″ purlins, so measuring and pre-drilling of the sheets and purlins were required.

With a final coat of sealant to the interior slab and porch pavers, the house was ready for move-in!

That’s a Wrap

Madeline, Judith, and Riley are on to new endeavors, though questionably bigger and better than this one.

Start spreadin’ the news! Riley is kicking it in the Big Apple, starting work at MADE Design/Build in Brooklyn, NY. With an in-house woodshop and IKEA next door he’s sure to be up to his ears in miters and meatballs.

Judith is sticking around Newbern and joining the teaching team as 3rd-Year Instructor/Coordinator. She’ll be working on Rosie’s Home with Emily McGlohn and the new batch of 3rd-year students. Hale County just can’t seem to shake her off!

Madeline has hit the road to Bozeman, MT, where she’ll be working at Minarik Architecture. She’s pleased with her new snowboarding opportunities and excited to get into conscious and contextual residential work. Stay thawed up there!

The team could not be more grateful for the support of Rural Studio faculty and staff, student colleagues, consultants, donors, and friends. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. This is the Myers’ Home team signing off.

Meet Me on the Porch

The Myers’ Home team has been busy preparing the porch structure on the Western face of the home. This porch is unique among previous Rural Studio projects for a few reasons: It’s fabricated from steel, has its own slab, and barely touches the rest of Myers’ Home.

Mildew, Mil-don’t

Looking back, the home was designed for longevity and flexibility through generations. In previous Rural Studio homes with front porches, the space is most often subtractive. This means that the open porch is carved from the main volume of the house and its structural system. In doing so, the rafters are exposed and gaps between trusses are exposed. These must be filled in some way, usually bird blocking. The other solution is a soffit under the eaves.

In both cases, the exposed undersides of the rafters or soffit are nearly always in shade and tend to mildew. Over time the uncovered portion of the truss or rafter can degrade faster than the interiorized segment. In these cases the whole member is still compromised.

The team addresses this problem by eliminating the condition entirely. Myers’ Home has no true eaves, only a slight overhang of the corrugated roofing material. Flashing details are tight and the long Western porch is entirely removed from the structure of the house.

Finding Your Footing

But how’s that little gap mitigated? A separate foundation for the porch is planned. Ideally, this job could be completed with just the team and some extra hands in one morning. This settled into five separate pavers, with two inches of gravel between and roughly a foot of separation from the main house slab.

Before the pavers can be placed though, footings for the metal columns of the porch must be set. This system shook out to be a trench footing, with ten-inch-deep reinforced footings at the columns and a six-inch-deep trench spanning each bay.

Couldn’t do it without a little help from our friends!

With the help of a handful of 5th-year students and professors Andrew Freear and Steve Long, the pour was complete in just about an hour with all levels squared away. The team can look on to the next pour the following week of the pavers.

Prep for the latter involves formwork once again, this time with removable dividers between eight by eight-foot segments. These folks took a leaf out of Horseshoe Courtyard‘s book and used a system of stakes and plywood strips for this maneuver. They then mound backfill dirt around to keep concrete from spilling out beneath the forms. The last step before the concrete arrives is reinforcement with metal mesh and grade pins. The mesh strengthens the concrete as it settles over time and grade pins are fluorescent marked stakes driven to signal the correct level of concrete in the forms.

Finally, the team can tackle their third and last concrete pour of the project. The truck arrived and they were soon in the groove of a process with aid of Patrice’s Home team and Steve. Riley manned the chute; Judith, Daniel, Adam, and Lauren shoveled and screeded; Madeline and Lauren troweled and floated away; and Steve edged each one.

These pavers, being on the porch, are also exposed aggregate which necessitates an additional step after the concrete is finished but still wet. Following a half hour’s wait, Judith misted a specialized concrete retarder atop the fresh pavers, bright ectoplasm green. This allows the majority of the concrete to cure normally while the topmost layer of cement is kept a slurry.

After roughly eight hours, Madeline and Judith return in the evening to hose and scrub the surface of the pavers and wash away the cement. This reveals a texture of the aggregate, in this case pea gravel specially ordered for this type of slab. The team is aiming for a change in surface material between the concrete of the porch and that of the interior as well as a more rugged finish for the home’s entrance.

Weld, Weld, Weld

These three can now focus on the porch structure itself, made entirely of metal with a corrugated roof to match that of the main home. Thanks to the generosity of Studio friend, Jim Turnipseed, the team was able to spend about a week in Columbiana, Alabama at Turnipseed International’s metal shop. There they built jigs, practiced welds, fabricated purlins, and built bents.

With the oversight of teachers Flo and Luis, they quickly learn the equipment, cut pieces to length, and weld up a storm.

Purlins are up first, a good practice run as most welds will be hidden from sight. For east of installation and transport, purlins are designed as mats. These mats are welded in a line and installed as a single unit in each bay. Tables are placed a specified width apart and a simple rectangular jig is made with four ninety-degree angles to catch the mat’s corners.

The bents are pitched with a solid four-inch-wide plate welded atop to catch the purlin mats and provide more tolerance. These take more complex jig-work. The needed angle cannot be achieved in the range of the band saw’s angle. So the extra distance is made up by welding a separate tray to make up the difference.

Following this, the angle for the bents’ top and bottom knee-joint are welded to the tables similarly to the purlin jig. Once the pieces are arranged, baseplates with holes drilled are attached to the bottom of the columns. These baseplates are what will anchor the porch structure to the footings poured earlier.

A big ol’ stack of purlins

The final step in fabrication is to prepare the members for galvanization. A series of half-inch holes must be drilled in all pieces to allow them to drain. This is relevant when components are dipped in the zinc bath stage. Results can be…explosive, otherwise.

Let’s Taco ’bout Halloween

The welded component are shipped off to Mississippi for galvanization! The team is on their merry way back to Newbern to continue site work. But several days earlier the team returned to Hale briefly for the annual Halloween Reviews! Those who may have spent a few days in this neck of the woods may recognize the wall murals from Greensboro’s own Mi Tenampa Mexican restaurant. As leftover students from the previous year, these three spend review day listening in on new thesis and 3rd-year work, attending the costume contest, and eating quite a few Reese’s peanut butter cups.

a red pepper and two human-sized cactus cardboard cutouts stand in front of three people

Bringing Down the Hammer(drill)

While waiting on the return of the porch structure, Madeline, Judith, and Riley move back into finishes and porch groundwork.

Judith and Riley borrow the Studio’s hammer drill and a masonry bit and spend a morning drilling four six-inch-deep holes in each footing. Riley has a specialized jig that expedites the process. After snagging only a bit of rebar, they’re ready for the next stage. Threaded rods are anchored into the holes with epoxy, these will catch those baseplates on the porch columns. With a system of threaded rods and nuts, the team can micro-adjust the levels of the bents upon installation.

That’s what’s going on around town, catch the final stages of finishes soon. Myers’ Home is getting fitted out with cabinetry, sinks, stair treads, and more!

Surface Level Thinking

The Myers’ Home team has made it to the top layer of finishes. Almost every material and layer they apply at this point is completely visible and the finish surface in the home. So they’re watching their step with the mud and taking some extra care in details.

Painting the Day Away

After sheetrock is complete, the team and their helpers scrub up the drywall mud and prepare to begin painting. While the home’s core, outer walls, and to-be-built flex walls are designed using different materials, they’ll all be painted white to reduce noise. It also provides a clean surface, should the homeowner want to paint it to personal preference.

The sheetrock is the cleanest surface on the outer edges of the home. It contains most electrical for the possible rooms and is more workable for openings like windows and doors. The board surface on the home’s core—the kitchen, bath, and stair—is a durable tongue-and-groove board. These surfaces are interacted with more often and need added durability. The flex walls that partition bed and living space will be plywood, and primed white. These walls will be anchored in only a few points should the home configuration need to change years down the road.

Just a Trim, Please

Once the walls have their first coat, trim can be installed around the whole house. As materials change, so does trim design strategy. The baseboards run along sheetrock surfaces, and where board material begins, the trim moves to the top edge of the ceiling. Windows are trimmed out on their edges.

Last Call on Windows

Speaking of windows, all of the custom window units are installed and Riley is adding the last few components post-install. Each of the operable and fixed windows get their own trim box, also constructed of cypress. These are taped off and kept natural as the last coat of paint is applied to the surrounding wall.

Steel-Clad Sensibility

Meanwhile, the exterior of the house is getting the full treatment. Siding is starting to be installed on the two gable ends and back of the house. The lower twelve feet of front face will be clad after construction of the porch slab. This prevents siding from being dinged and damaged during concrete pours and metalwork. The porch structure will then be used as a platform to finish the top few feet of siding.

However, the installation process is straightforward for the other three sides. Panels are pre-drilled with screw holes, openings for windows and vents are cut, if necessary. Then the panels are moved into place, overlap length checked, and screwed in from overlap edge over. This prevents most bubbling in the panel as the lines of screws progress over.

The Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation team has also kindly lent their rental boom lift. The Myers’ Home team is using this lift to install siding high on the gable ends. It’s certainly a much smoother route than multi-story scaffolding! They also used it to install the last few pieces of flashing around windows. The flashing details on this house are in the same family as those used on the roof. To maintain the tight shell, window openings are designed to be sharp and clean.

On Deck

The team is now on their last big push for the interior. They’re building flex walls, preparing for stair treads, painting cabinets, and making the rounds on finish electrical and plumbing. Soon, all lights will be on and water will be flowing!

On the outside, these folks are on standby for porch plans. Imminently, they’re headed up the road to Birmingham for some porch fabrication. This means steel cutting, drilling, and welding! Before that they’ll be boots in the mud again digging for the footings and pavers of the porch. More on that soon, thanks for keeping up!