moundville

I Once Was Lost But Now I’m Mound

The last couple of weeks have been busy for the Moundville Pavilion team, with the revolving door of visiting guest reviewers, a mock-up, and structural meetings.

Looking Up!

With the arrival of our pool tarp material, it was time to utilize the partially built pavilion and to mock-up the ceiling form. With the help of our fellow 5th-year Hailey Osborne, we made quick work of the mock-up which ultimately provided some much-needed perspective on the experiential quality of the proposed form. Seeing the slightly dull material for the underside of the pavilion confirmed the team’s desire for a more reflective surface that will blend the pavilion in with the surrounding environment.

Stood Up!

With the continuation of our meetings with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, the design began to evolve with the structural needs of the pavilion. Replacing the columns meant the opportunity to question the design of the columns, including their connection to the trusses as well as the ground. The first decision the team made was moving from a 3-ply system to a 5-ply system, causing the columns to widen and subsequently blend more with the surrounding tree trunks.

Team members mocking up a 5-ply column.

Secondly, the team decided it was important to make all of the columns vertical, contrasting with the previous design that incorporated angled bracing members. This vertical design provides a more porous plan from covered to uncovered areas and takes away the provisional nature of the diagonals. By taking out the original A and V column system, the necessary lateral stability was absorbed into the roof form, enlarged footings, and stiffer columns.

Meet Up!

Over the previous weeks, Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker (from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS), and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY) spent time discussing and providing constructive insight on the design. Duvall Decker helped the team think about the connection points of the columns and their constructability. This conversation led the team to develop a steel connection between each truss and column that allows for less risk of misalignment.

The team created a drawing exploring the new column-to-truss connection.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien zoomed out from the details and urged the team to strengthen the conceptual ideas of the project. This clarified the goals for the design and propelled the team forward with confidence in the direction the design was headed. We left ourselves with one question: How can you be of the surrounding landscape, without being the surrounding landscape?

The Mounds Are Calling and We Must Go

Meetings with Joe

Reporting from Hale County, the Moundville Pavilion 5th-year student team members—tasked with designing and building a pavilion and surrounding landscape on a historic Native American settlement site—are back after a restful holiday season and are ready to roll. While we were away, the team met with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, via Zoom and assessed the integrity of the existing pavilion structure. Due to the structure being left alone for so long and not being a fully tied system, the current columns and steel plate connections need to be replaced with a more robust design. Joe shared his plan for replacing the columns and plates and led the team to start developing new dimensioned drawings to work from.

Zooming in, Zooming out

Once we all got back to Hale County, the team started digging deeper with a more zoomed-in approach to designing. This led to creating new detailed drawings, playing with furniture design, and rendering a 3D model to play with materials in a more accurate way. The detailed drawings include the edge condition and the exploration of an outdoor suspended ceiling plane that mitigates the current misalignment of the bottom ridge of the trusses. The ceiling material should be something that reflects the surrounding landscape while also helping to bounce light into the space underneath.

section detail of edge conditon
The students created a section drawing exploring dropped ceiling detail.

“Neckdown” Week!

To kick off the Spring semester the Studio had its traditional “Neckdown” Week, in which students, staff, and faculty worked together in an intensive volunteer week, tackling small projects across the county. The team had a group of helpers out on site moving plywood off of the scaffolding to prepare for upcoming mock-ups and construction. Some pieces were no longer usable due to water damage, but we managed to save 63 pieces for future use. A huge shout out to the 3rd-years and our fellow 5th-year Daniel Burton for helping us!

Next up (literally): A ceiling mock-up on site to test out the proposed ceiling material.

+ January views around Hale County!

A Post Roast Toast

Howdy! The end of the semester is here! The Moundville Archaeological Park Community Pavilion team presented their latest work at the Rural Studio’s Annual Soup Roast. In preparation of the big event, the team spent some time cleaning up the site and envisioning what the space could be and where the boundary of the site should be. After narrowing down their designs, it was time to meet with the client and introduce them to what they had been working on all semester and get some feedback. Discussing the possibilities of their proposals and walking through the site with the clients left them energized and more confident moving forward.

Soup Roast!

The day of Soup Roast, students, faculty, staff, and guests bundled up and rode in a caravan to Moundville first thing in the morning. This year was a little different, as smaller, more in-house event, but still a celebration of the work done this semester by all the students. For our guest reviewers the Studio welcomed back Seattle-based architects and builders, Joe Schneider, Kim Clements, Nicole Abercrombie, and Jake LaBarre. AU professor David Hinson, and the Front Porch Initiative team, Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, and Betsy Farrell Garcia, were also able to join and provide helpful feedback for all of the projects.

team presenting design at soup roast review
iteration 1
iteration 2

We started in the orientation building at Moundville Archaeological Park to present the project and then headed to the site to discuss more specifics of the design. The two proposals showed iterations of the addition of a ground platform and roof aperture, including some initial ideas about ground surface and materiality of the pavilion. Afterwards, we got to relax and hear what the other teams have been working on while patiently awaiting a DELICIOUS soup dinner at the end of the day made by Chef Catherine Tabb.

Gettin’ Serious

The day after Soup Roast, Joe, Kim, and Jake continued the project discussion with us and provided some much needed feedback, helping us get more of a direction and understanding the scope of the project. Playing with the surrounding landscape helped us understand the impact of our ideas within the pavilion. Now, it is time to zoom in on the pavilion and learn as much as we can about the structure!

See just how zoomed-in we mean in the next Moundville Pavilion team blog!

Same Mounds, New Faces

Hello world, the Moundville Archaeological Park Pavilion project is back on with a few new faces!

Team members in front of presentation

Located along the Black Warrior River, the Moundville Archaeological Park is a Native American Heritage site that preserves 29 earthen mounds from over 800 years ago, that at its peak was one of America’s largest settlements north of Mexico. While the park currently operates as an active archaeological site, it remains open to the public for community gatherings and activities.

In 2018, the archaeological park approached Rural Studio about the need for an outdoor gathering space located in their campgrounds. The previous student team designed and began construction of the new pavilion but, due to the global pandemic, Auburn University had to halt construction and the project was put on hold until this fall. The new team of 5th-year students includes Brenton Smith (Dothan, AL), Caitlyn Biffle (Rogersville, AL), Collin Brown (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), and Jackie Rosborough (Deerfield, IL). 

Individual polaroid photos of team

Collaborating with Anderson Inge

The first step in the project was to begin researching the previous team’s design and evaluate the structure’s current condition after being exposed to the elements for over a year. To get a more accurate representation of the structure, the Studio worked with Assistant Professor Danielle Wilkens from the Georgia Institute of Technology, perform a LiDAR scan. Together they created an exact 3D model of the current pavilion’s structure. We also met with structural engineer Anderson Inge from Anderson Inge Building Workshop via Zoom, who provided some general observations from his visit and answered questions from the team. From the LiDAR scan and Anderson’s notes and suggestions, an accurate physical model was also made to act as a tool in the design process.

Charretting with Emily Knox and David Hill

Professors David Hill and Emily Knox of Auburn University’s Landscape Architecture program led a workshop with the team that focused on the potential of utilizing the landscape in the design. This first meeting focused mainly on using groundcover and shrub layers of vegetation to define space, paths, and views in and around the site.

A Discussion with Hank and Julie

We also had a visit from Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg of Koning Eizenberg Architects, who led us in a design charrette to highlight the possibility of rethinking the pavilion’s cladding. By building the model and working through some first design iterations, we left with more clarity in our understanding of the current structure and the potentials for the design moving forward.

Get Jiggy with It

The Moundville ladies are preparing the roof and framing the extended edges and corners of the pavilion for roof sheathing!

In order to begin roof joists, blocking was attached using the bypass system off the trusses to give the hangers ample room to grab. This was necessary since the roof geometry is created using the planes of the joists and the connection to the ridge beam to create the inverted plane.

The blocking was installed to follow the string lines setting the roof heights. This allowed the team to mark 16 inches on center to install each joist that meets a truss on both ends. To place each hanger, an off-cut of a 2×8 with the correct, angled cut was used to temporarily place and screw in the hangers according to blocking height and spacing.

Then each joist was field measured and placed into the hanger, checking height obsessively to ensure a flat plane. Once a bay was placed, checked, and rechecked, the joists were nail gunned to the hanger and truss. Blocking was added to keep 16 inch spacing and fix any bowing in the wood.

Once the joists in the center of the bays were completed, there was a new challenge in determining the correct spacing where the joists hit the edge beams or ridge beam. Since the beams intersect the form at an angle, varying based on the tolerance in their placement, measuring along the beam produced too many inaccuracies in keeping the joist spacing and ensuring the boards aren’t skewed.

Jigs were created for each beam similar to the truss in which the slope and skew of the cuts were determined and a sample “joist nub” was used to place the hanger. A 14.5 inch piece of wood was then attached to the side to butt up against the previously placed joist to determine spacing 16 inches on center, perpendicularly from the joist. Another 2×4 was also attached running along the top of the “joist nub” and spacer to keep the correct height. This allowed the team to attach the hangers, place a joist and then adjust if needed based on spacing from the master joist and height along the existing plane and strings.

The edge beam along the short side and the ridge beam involved a similar jig and process with slight alterations to match the difference in angles and cuts.

Now, all of the roof joists are installed except for the two low corners (due to tight space constraints with the scaffolding platform, the ceiling needs to be framed in these areas first). The ridge was the last section to be completed, giving a real sense of the roof shape and profile!

Looking down the ridge as it intersects the middle, diamond truss which shows the two flat planes and their relationship to the overall form.
Seeing the joists framing the ridge from below, inhabiting the structure.

Concurrently, the team worked on building the pieces that will form the soffit. Each soffit “wedge” will attach to the edge beam and continue the differing slopes of the roof and ceiling to meet at a 4 inch edge. These pieces will extend the perimeter of the pavilion while allowing the structure’s edge to get as thin as possible. Due to the 18 inch depth where the joists terminate, each wedge was too deep to be engineered out of 2-by material. Therefore, the arrival of new 3rd-year students and neck-downs brought a week of much needed extra help to laminate plywood with both glue and screws as well as set up an assembly line to cut the wedges out (three of these cuts being angled).

Over 90 wedges were completed with four unique templates for each pavilion edge! The next few weeks will be spent installing them. Check back in for a fully framed soffit and roof (hopefully) soon! Meanwhile, enjoy these action and detail shots of this last month of progress!