Since our last update, the team has been digging, chopping, drilling, and sawing our way through the project, so let’s catch up!
First up, mock-ups. To better understand the details of the project in three dimensions, the team jumped into a 1:1 mock-up of crucial project details and so far, we’re learning a lot. More than just dusting off our chop saw skills, building several details at full scale is a way for us to reflect and improve upon some of the decisions we made on paper. For example, we learned from testing the window framing that making the rough opening stud continuous not only creates fewer pieces, but allows a direct load path from header to foundation. We’re also testing the character of the porch assembly and how we can marry our desired aesthetic with required bracing for wind uplift.
To prepare to break ground, we called in a local contractor to do some serious tree removal that was beyond our capabilities, and simultaneously ripped up the existing chain link fence to create equipment access and give us a chance to fully assess its condition and salvageability. The site has never looked spiffier.
And how could we not give a toast to Pig Roast?! The first ever two-day Pig Roast went swimmingly, minus the part where our team ran into a rain shower and came out looking like we’d gone for a swim. It was the first time many members of the Uniontown community were able to see the project, along with our parents, friends, and many Rural Studio alumni.
The following week stayed just as busy as teams prepped for our second Executive Review. This was a make or break moment for the future of the project, but after an intense two-hour review, all three teams were given the green light! This means it’s full steam ahead for construction.
Oh yeah, and all twelve 5th-years graduated college three days later! What a week! Diplomas might be in the mail, but things are just getting started in West Alabama. The team is taking a few days off to relax and be with family, but y’all better believe the next time you see us, it’ll be on site!
Also, a big thank you to our parents for letting us stick around West Alabama for this next phase: building the C.H.O.I.C.E. House. And to our 3rd-year friends returning to campus this fall, we’ll see you next time in Hale!
Rural Studio recently capped off the academic year with a “family style” Pig Roast. The celebration focused on the amazing work accomplished, live and in-person, during a successful, yet challenging, year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time since March 2020, the entire studio was gathered together. With only students, faculty, current project community partners, and a few invited guests in attendance, we missed our other families: parents, alumni, collaborators, and neighbors who continue to support us in West Alabama. Invited guests included our friends Roy Decker of Duvall Decker and John Forney, architect and former Auburn and Rural Studio professor. The day included a tour of on-going projects, a lot of good food, a presentation from Roy Decker, and a bonfire.
Celebratory Breakfast at Horseshoe Courtyard
The day began with a celebratory breakfast at the Horseshoe Courtyard. Everyone admired the blooming screens and impeccably crafted steel while enjoying baked goods from the new local Egyptian bakery Abadir’s. The beautiful brick pad was the perfect place to toast students, Caleb R. Munson and Claudia Paz Melendez, alongside our community partner Dr. John Dorsey and the Project Horseshoe Farm fellows. The clients and the Studio both couldn’t be prouder of these two and their determination.
Ribbon cutting at Ophelia’s Home
Next up, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 20K Ophelia’s Home! Four semesters of 3rd-year students, along with professor Emily McGlohn and instructor Chelsea Elcott, designed and built this lovely iteration of Joanne’s Home. Ophelia, her family, and the 2021 Spring Semester 3rd-Years cut the ribbon and let everyone inside to admire the new home. The students also gave a brief presentation on the cabinetry they designed and fabricated with Chelsea and professor Steve Long in the Rural Studio Wood Shop class.
Back to Morrisette for Lunch and TMBV
Back at Morrisette House, Chef Catherine and Doris served up a wonderful BBQ lunch. It was the first meal the Studio shared all-together since March 2020. Next on the schedule was a presentation from the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team.
The graduate students gave a brief description of their experiments, results, and how these informed the Test Building design at their site behind Morrisette House. They also showed off their newly installed structural steel columns and bracing. After a conversation on the possibilities of implementing internal thermal mass as passive ventilation and temperature control, everyone strolled over to the Fabrication Pavilion. Here, the team presented two of their mock-ups: one detailing the ventilated roofing and cladding system and one showing the shiplap joinery of the concrete panels. Congrats master’s students!
Off to Rev. Walker’s and Myers’ Homes
Next, the 5th-year teams had a turn to shine! First up, seen below, the Studio stopped at Rev. Walker’s Home. The expansive, newly completed slab the team presented upon will soon be the location of the pole barn home. This design focuses on the luxury of covered outdoor space. Two efficient living volumes rest under the large roof, which goes up in just a couple of weeks, allowing for dry, shaded construction! Client Rev. Walker joined in on the post-presentation debate, which was was a treat.
Last up on this long, fun, and hot day was the Myers’ Home presentation. The two-story, three-team member project focuses on interior expansion by creating a well-sealed envelope. The students will complete their portion of the build with two bedrooms and a large living kitchen space. There are opportunities for the client to expand the home in the attic and living areas. The attic can be converted into two additional rooms and another room can be added by enclosing part of the living space. During the presentation, the team changed out corrugated metals on their mock-up in real-time and took a vote from the crowd to decide which cladding color to choose. Both 5th-year teams have made tremendous progress on their innovative home designs and we can’t wait to see even more this summer.
Some fried catfish, books, a lecture, and S’mores
We returned to Morrisette House for a delicious catfish dinner prepared on site by our neighbors from the Newbern Mercantile. Afterwards, Director Andrew Freear presented the graduates with books picked out for each student from a list of favorites from the late Samuel Mockbee, one of Rural Studio’s co-founders. It was wonderful to see this tradition live on this year! Afterward, architect Roy Duvall of Duvall Decker from Jackson, Mississippi, gave a wonderful lecture presenting the work of his and partner Anne Marie Decker’s inspiring firm. The day finally capped off with a roaring fire and plenty of marshmallows. Not too bad for a Tuesday night!
It was amazing to see all the work completed at the Studio during this unusual and trying year. It was even better to get to be together and pat each other on the back. War Eagle!
With a slab all squared away and the school year wrapped up, it’s about time for Myers’ Home team to start realizing some of the above-ground details. At the Studio, this means constructing a 1:1 mock-up of the corner with the most complicated detailing.
Rain Day? It’s OK!
What to do on a rainy day? Mock-ups are just the thing! If the site is too mucky, head to the Fabrication Pavilion. Toting their tools from the trailer on site they set up for a few days of dry, covered work. On the business side of things, the team is waiting on an order of dimensionally stable cypress. They will be constructing a separate mock-up of the shop-built window units for the home. Keep those ears open for news of these hooligans hitting the woodshop for a pre-fab frenzy!
First step, framing the faux corner. They build the base of the mock-up using the same methods as a full-sized stud wall. Madeline and Judith assembled some very small headers and Riley cut piece after piece for the scaled-down trusses. Full-sized trusses will be 24 feet wide and roughly 13 feet tall, with Myers’ Home clocking in at just over 23 feet total. What can they say, it’s a two-story!
Zipped and Flashed
They then fasten on the ZIP sheathing system and tape all the seams up. The Studio has moved away from OSB sheathing and home wrap in recent years and adopted ZIP sheathing in turn. The panels themselves are weatherproofed and thick tape that is rolled tight seals the edges. The system covers both walls and roof and is is one of the clearest ways this team has been able to maintain the protected “shell” of Myers’ Home.
Riley and Judith took a jaunt up to Sloan Metal in Warrior, AL, with a pit stop in Tuscaloosa to grab their flashing order at Metro Metals. Trailer in tow, the mock-up roof metal and a few test sheets for siding were clinched and toted back to Hale. The flashing details have been designed in support of the tight shell, unbroken by rafters and durable over time. The low-eave detail has a 2-inch overhang and J-bead corners keep the edges clean.
Pick a Color, Any Color!
Actually, pick one of two colors. The team has narrowed down to Ash Grey and Burnished Slate, two neutrals that both have a lovely degree of reflection. As it goes, and not to brag, but the site is just beautiful. Wide fields to the east and west, high trees surrounding that cast dappled light. It really doesn’t need much more added to its palette. The team began looking at neutrals and complimentary colors and settled on the these two grey tones to test.
Cutting the corrugated panels to size, they decide to forego fastening the siding so that panels could be changed and tested. With Pig Roast imminent, the mockup was moved out to the site to be able to test both options throughout the day.
Most surprising has been watching them throughout the day, the colors both seem to shift through morning and afternoon between warm, cool, and highly reflective of grass and sky.
Still Reading? Let’s Have a Party!
Pig Roast dawned, a beautiful Tuesday in Hale County. An in-house event, but livelier than ever, the small band made their way from project to project with some delicious pit-stops around town. Congratulations to Horseshoe Courtyard, a fantastic kick off the day’s festivities and a bubbly surprise! With the jessamine blossoming the crew toasted the year, the work, and the people and enjoyed a sweet morning snack from the new local bakeshop, Abadir’s Pastry
Then the gang caravanned to Newbern for the ribbon cutting of third-year project, Ophelia’s Home. Can’t forget a stop at Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee, parked across from Spencer House for the morning! How exciting to see two years of work at its end. What a joy for the teams who’ve had their hands on this project, those who have followed its progress, and of course, Ms. Ophelia!
Back to Morrisette House for a barbecue lunch and a trip across the yard to the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation team’s site. After a rousing discussion of scientific breakthrough and imminent pods all gathered at the Fabrication Pavilion to marvel at their complete mock-up! A job well done, Myers’ team can’t wait to see more of Morrisette Campus’ newest—and tallest—addition.
With short run up Hwy-61 the group stopped at Rev. Walker’s Home to hear about their progress as of late. These pole barn pals have their slab in-ground and working hard at getting their roof up next! Looking forward to the coming weeks where the big barn will take shape.
Sweet and Sweaty
The final stop of the day was good ol’ Myers’ Home site. All braved the sweltering mid-afternoon rays to offer their feedback and encouragement as the three team members move into framing the home! The team offered a presentation of the “shell” method and a NASCAR-worthy switch of metal siding panels on the mock-up.
With all projects squared away back to the Great Hall it was for a dinner of fried catfish, hushpuppies, and slaw from neighboring Newbern Mercantile! The evening was capped with a few words and annual traditions from fearless leader, Andrew Freear, a lecture from Jackson, MS-based architect, Roy Decker, of Duvall Decker, and a big, big bonfire complete with s’mores!
While certainly not a normal year, the folks on this team are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend the year in Hale and work every day with their minds on the run and boots in the mud. Many, many thanks to the Rural Studio family—faculty, staff, friends, parents, and neighbors—for the love and support. After their graduation celebration back in Auburn, these three are running full steam ahead to a summer in sun swinging hammers!
Rural Studio celebrated its 25th anniversary last weekend during the annual Pig Roast festivities. With nearly 300 visitors from around the world, the special event tripled the town’s population! The 100-mile journey led visitors to projects from Moundville, Greensboro, Faunsdale, and Newbern.
The day began with hot biscuits and coffee as visitors admired the beautiful watercolors on display from Dick Hudgens’ class of 3rd-year students. The tour of projects began with a long drive up to Moundville Archaeological Park to see the design and mockup from the four 5th-year students who are building a new pavilion for the park, which will be tucked in the woods along the edge of the campground near the ancient Native American mounds. Next the caravan led visitors to Greensboro to see the remarkable work from two 5th-year “leftover” teams: the mockup of Project Horseshoe Farm’s new courtyard behind their headquarters on Main Street in the historic Greensboro Hotel and the Horseshoe Homes project, a new home for three women on South Street. Then Rural Studio’s farm manager, Eric Ball, and adjunct professor, Elena Barthel, took visitors on a magical tour of the Rural Studio Farm and Greenhouse. Visitors enjoyed a tasty lunch prepared by Chef Cat, which included fresh food from the farm.
After lunch everyone learned about the research from the team of 5th-year students working on the Mass Timber Breathing Wall Research Project. Next the caravan headed south to Faunsdale to see the recently completed 5th-year project, the Faunsdale Community Center, then headed back north towards Newbern for a presentation at 20Kv23 Anna’s Home by one of the current 5th-year teams. The parade to Newbern led visitors back to Chantilly for a walking tour to the 3rd-year project, a home for Mrs. Patrick. The final student project on the tour was 20Kv22, from one of our 5th-year “leftover” teams. The tour ended with a gorgeous display of built chairs by Steve Long’s woodshop class and chair drawings from Elena Barthel’s 5th-year drawing class. Dinner included fried catfish, from Mustang Oil, and BBQ cooked by our 3rd-year students. Accompanying dinner was music from the Alabama Blues Project Advanced Band. Special thanks to Mac Spencer for firing a great shower of Whiffle Dust out of a cannon over the amphitheater.
The evening ceremony began with opening remarks from Newbern’s Mayor, Woody Stokes, followed by the Head of Auburn’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, Christian Dagg. A special thanks to our honored guests Jackie Mockbee, Linda Ruth, Kyle Platt, Thelma Brown, Louise Scott, Gwen Melton, Barbara Williams, and Suzanne and Robert McKee. One of the greatest honors of the day was having families of both of Rural Studio’s founders Sambo Mockbee and D.K. Ruth part of the special 25th anniversary day.
The valediction speech was from surprise guests and superstars Billie Tsien and Tod Williams from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in New York, NY. The night ended with a spectacular display of fireworks and music from Debbie Bonds with Radiator Rick and featuring Little Jimmy Reed that had us dancing into the night.
We were proud to see the Newbern Library open for the occasion with a book and t-shirt sale to help fundraise for the library. Newbern’s newest business, Sweetbriar Coffee, was a welcomed treat, keeping us fueled with delicious teas and coffee. The Newbern Mercantile stayed busy with visitors and, as usual, helped to support us. Thanks to all of our neighbors and supporters for welcoming everyone.
And finally, thanks to all of the generous Pig Roast sponsors: Alabama Power, JAS Design, Aercon Technologies, Michael Harrow Realty, Johnston-Torbert House, Holmestead Company, Price Drywall, Cedar Ridge Excavating, Citizens Bank, City Furniture, Dozier Hardware, Fuller Supermarket, Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Newbern Mercantile, Peoples Bank of Greensboro, Piggly Wiggly, The Partridge Berry, the Smelley Family, Windham Motor Co., and Wood Fruittcher.
We want to thank the continued support of the college, our community, and our donors; without them none of this would be possible.