neckdown

A Neckdown to Rain-member

Student mixing soil

It’s that time of year again…time for Spring “Neckdown” Week! It was a damp week all around Newbern, but the weather didn’t slow us down. All of the students and faculty got their hands dirty helping out.

Around Morrisette House, the Farm got plenty of attention and preparation for the coming growing season. We pulled out cover crops, tarped beds in the field, and started seeds in the greenhouse when the rain caught up to us. The front fence even got a facelift!

Work on the Fabrication Pavilion was one of the biggest Neckdown tasks this semester. A rotating crew of students spent time reinforcing each column to get ready for the pavilion’s second phase. There was almost as much scaffolding as people on site…

Other spots around town got some love too! The model homes and Newbern Town Hall both had facelifts, with lots of cleaning and repainting all around.

Another one of the main (and muddy!) projects for the week happened at Perry Lakes Park. The park boardwalk now has brand-new boards in place, ready for anyone who wants to come visit.

Now that Neckdown is behind us for the semester, it’s time to really dive into the projects. Keep up with each team’s blog posts to see where this spring takes us!

People carrying lumber through woods

Neck-up, down, ALL around

This fall semester students really hit the ground running during “Neckdown” Week! There was so much to do, and so much done by the new crowd. On Morrisette campus, the RS Farm had helpers weeding, harvesting, and giving the crops some extra attention. The Great Hall got a fresh coat of paint, and the Fabrication Pavilion was emptied, cleaned, and reorganized to get ready for the new year.

Elsewhere in Newbern and Uniontown, even more painting! The town tornado shelter was thoroughly cleaned and repainted, and it looks better than ever. And after a new coat of paint, the Newbern Playground is now home to the official biggest pencil in West Alabama! In Uniontown, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House was getting final touch-ups as the team pushed to their finish line.

The week’s most important task was relocating all of our studio equipment from Newbern to Greensboro. This semester will be the first in a beautiful new studio building while Red Barn gets some updates. That means desks, computers, EVERYTHING was loaded up and taken out! Students and staff all pitched in to get the new studio ready for presentations, with pin-up boards hung and furniture arranged.

Of course, the week ended with a celebratory catfish lunch.

students and staff eating lunch

Everyone is excited to settle in as our 30th year of work begins! Stay tuned this fall to see 5th-year workshops, 3rd-year progress on Rosie’s Home, and leftovers getting in the ground for the RS Bathhouse and 18×18 House!

Neck Up And Down

Student smiling sitting on metal stairs

Hale County has been scrubbed, painted, and shined twice over this week. The first “Neckdown Week” of 2023 is complete! We spent the week maintaining community projects around Newbern and Greensboro alike. In Greensboro, the Safe House Black History Museum got a fresh coat of paint. The Newbern Firehouse, Bodark Amphitheater, and Newbern Playground were also cleaned and repainted.

One of our biggest tasks for Neckdown Week was building a new set of raised garden beds in the Rural Studio Farm Greenhouse. It took a lot of hands and shovels, but the Farm is now ready for a new planting season. The team also found some surprises hiding in the soil. We took a brief mid-week intermission from diggin’ and paintin’ to help Patriece’s Home team unload some of their roofing material. The projects are still moving right along as we all get our hands dirty!

It was a long week of early mornings. But there was plenty of time for fun (and sometimes, cake) while we took care of this place we call home. Neckdown Week was a perfect warm-up for what’s looking like a great semester. Our students and faculty are ready to really get to work! Follow along to see what spring brings for all of the current projects: Patriece’s Home, C.H.O.I.C.E. House, Rosie’s Home, 18×18 House, and Rural Studio Bathhouse.

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!

Heads up! “Neckdown” Week is complete!

Last week was a busy one out in Newbern. We kicked off the semester with the time-honored tradition of “Neckdown” Week. “Neckdown” is a week where the thinking caps come off and the gloves go on for a week of physical tasks working in the community and on the Rural Studio campus. It’s also a time for current 5th-years to meet the Spring 3rd-year crew.

The week started with some housekeeping around home base where teams worked to replace boards on the Great Hall, tidy up the pods, and help out on the farm.

We also took some time to spruce up past projects like Lions Park, which was started in the early 2000s. The baseball fields at Lions Park have some brand new bleacher seats, the bathrooms are back in working order, and to everyone’s delight, the concession stand opens as well as ever!

Additionally, a small group ventured out to Perry Lakes Park—Rural Studio’s first large-scale, multi-phase landscape project—to do some work on the bathrooms (still the best loo view in Alabama!). The park is open again after a brief hiatus due to storm damage, so go check out the view for yourself!

We rounded out the week with a helping hand over at the Newbern Library, the town’s main social center and source of technological amenities, thus ending a long week of hard, but worthwhile work.

P.S. Next time you speed into Morrisette House’s driveway, send a thank you to our fearless leader, Andrew Freear, who took to tamping the driveway like a champ. (We hear his bones are still rattling as we write this.)