New year, new faces! Throughout the Fall semester, the 5th-year, 3rd-year, and graduate students leant helping hands to the Horseshoe Courtyard Team. Spring semester Neckdown week introduced the team to new 3rd-year students. Check out their blog ( 20k Ophelia’s Home) to meet them all! Tasks for Neckdown week at Horseshoe Courtyard included pouring concrete bench footings, cleaning up the site, expanding the brick pad, and sheathing the porch walls.
Since the weather was so great mid-week, the team was able to break up the pours into different days. The next step for the benches is drilling and installing threaded rods into the concrete. The threaded rod will attach to the steel structure which holds the bench seats.
Less Puzzling, More Sanding
The brick pad keeps growing by the day! It’s reached the grinder pump. This allowed the team to install the grinder pump cover structure and infill around it with sand and custom bricks.
In the last few weeks, the team has been keeping track of how “straight” the bricks are being laid. To do this the team pulls string lines to create grids or guides that ensure the bricks are not way out of square by the time the bricks reach the last corner. This sometimes meant going back and straightening some of the already sanded bricks, and choosing which lines to prioritize since these are beautiful but imperfect bricks.
Sheathing the Porch
During Neckdown, the team and helpers added plywood to the porch stud walls. The plywood will be where the exterior gypsum attaches. There will be a set of doors, and a transom window installed on the East side of the porch ( image on the left). The doors will directly connect the interior of the building with the porch, and bring some natural light into the main hallway of the building.
Yep! We’ve been here the whole semester! It’s time, dear reader, to spill the beans on our comings and goings, our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures, and our project. Come on in, make yourself comfortable. Pour a hot cup of tea, listen to our story. The tale of Rev. Walker’s Home project team is only the beginning.
Our journey, as 5th-year Rural Studio students, begins in Hale County, in August. The county is a sparsely populated, tapering rectangle in West-central Alabama. The foothills of the Appalachian Mountains find their end in the northeast corner of the county. The densely forested rolling hills of the northeast quickly give way to the astonishingly flat plains known as the “Black Belt.” This area is named for the rich soil that is optimal for cultivation. Greensboro is the centrally located county seat populated by 2,291 residents. Ten miles south of Greensboro on Alabama Highway 61 is Newbern, home to Rural Studio headquarters. In Newbern, the beloved Red Barn, can be found. Red Barn, the workspace where the us Rural Studio students put pens to paper. We spend a lot of time in Red Barn, and its leaky windows and visibly tilted walls endear us to it.
The beginning of each semester at Rural Studio is marked by “neck-downs.” Neck-downs defines a time dedicated to maintenance of studio grounds, small projects, and the assistance of teams whose projects are in the construction phase. This Fall, neck-downs included repairing facilities at Perry Lakes Park in neighboring Perry County, assisting the Horseshoe Hub Courtyard team on their site, and taking care of odds-and-ends on Morrissette Campus. Typically, neck-downs lasts one week. This year, it was extended and incorporated into our studio schedule. Some of the work is ongoing and gives us moments throughout the week to put away the pencil and pull out the shovel. “healthy bodies, healthy minds” our captain, Andrew Freear, likes to say.
Simultaneously with the site-work around the area, our entire 5th-year student cadre worked to further the exploration into post-frame structures and formulate a thesis. The idea, first proposed by the 2020-2021 outreach master’s team, uses a post-frame structure to reduce construction cost and timeline. Our charge is to take the system and the efforts of the outreach team and expand on it in two didactic ways. We started by touring past projects around the county, exploring ancient barn structures, and documenting local building trends.
Taking note of the trend in the area to expand one’s home as means and needs allow, the 5th-year thesis project’s has developed into two expansion approaches. One strategy is a home underneath a large roof, provided by a post-frame structure, on an expansive foundation that will enable an owner to quickly add enclosure without compromising structure. This is Rev. Walker’s Home strategy. The other is a home that encourages interior expansion and customization by bringing the post frame structure into the envelope of the home. This is the Myers’ Home strategy.
Our team is designing and will be building Rev. Walker’s Home. This team was chosen in an age-old ritual, of which here I will not tell. We like to think of ourselves as hardworking, strong-willed, opinionated individuals who can even be considered fun. I am, of course, the leader of this motley crew. My name is Taterhead the Cat. I enjoy drooling on unexpecting scratch-givers and surveying my land, which Rev. Walker’s Home will occupy. I am a skilled delegator. My leadership style is strict yet fair, and I expect only the best work from my team.
Here’s the rest of them: Becca, George, Paul and Addie. Becca has a three-legged cat named Rocko and is the maker of the fantastic yellow hats seen above. George is just a dude with no distinct personality traits. (Editor’s note: This is an unfair representation of George, a very impassioned individual.) Paul likes to spend his time collecting objects from the ground. He likes sheds. Addie has a dog named Pat. She drives the biggest truck in Hale County.
It will not be an easy path to walk with this lot. Their refusals of scratch-giving will be met with reprimand. But rest easy, dear reader, for I am at the helm and will guide the ship to clear waters. My hope for this journal is to provide a clear account of our journey to the edge and back, and to bring you along with us.