pole barn home

The 3rd Month: 3rd-Year Edition

As the semester is beginning to wind down, the 3rd-year class has been very busy! We worked hard to finalize drawings and begin construction for Rosie’s Home. In our Woodshop Class, we spent lots of time in the shop finalizing ideas with our mock-up and getting started on Rosie’s kitchen cabinets. With our history seminar ending, we finished up our watercolors and visited some of our final houses.

Rosie’s Home

Since our last post, Rosie’s House has made a lot of progress. At the Halloween Reviews, visiting architects came to critique and help improve our design. It was not all business though, everyone came dressed up in their Halloween costumes (even the reviewers)!

With Halloween Reviews over and designs complete, we were ready to begin construction! We started construction by re-framing some of the exterior walls, windows, and doors. After the walls were nailed together, we raised and set them in place.

After our walls were up, we began to measure and place our ZIP System sheathing. The sheathing helped brace our walls to keep them nice and square during construction.

With our walls up and sheathing in place, we then turned our attention to the ceiling! First, we set up temporary supports to lift up our ridge beam. Next, we climbed up the scaffolding to nail the ridge pieces together. Soon the ceiling will be completely framed!

Woodshop Class

During our first week back from Fall break, we spent each night in the Woodshop cutting pieces, making jigs, and gluing and assembling to have our cabinet mock-up done by the following week. Our mock-up consisted of three drawers and two shelves. We divided up jobs and worked together to make the construction process go as quickly and smoothly as possible.

The following week, we met with our instructors, Steve Long and Judith Seaman, to review our mock-up process and design. From the mock-up, we decided to narrow our focus on the kitchen cabinets for this semester and noted ways to improve our construction process. We revised our drawings and made a weekly schedule to prepare for the final weeks of the semester.

Finally, in the last few weeks, we started by ordering, processing, and organizing our woods and materials. We have been working hard to plan, cut, and begin assembly on Rosie’s final kitchen cabinets. With most of our pieces cut out and three cabinet boxes assembled, we are excited to continue work on some wonderful cabinets for Rosie’s kitchen.

History Class

Recently in history class, we continued to tour historic Antebellum homes every week. Our focus has been shifting from sketching towards our final watercolor. This watercolor is 24″ x 30″ and depicts an elevation of different architectural details.

In October, we had the chance to tour Tasso Plantation in Orrville, AL. This house has an incredibly rare and intact wooden block wallpaper print. This print, “Banks of the Bosphorus,” depicts a panoramic view of minarets and waterways around the entire room.

The next week, we visited Carlisle Hall near Marion, AL. This grand house was designed by Richard Upjohn in the asymmetrical Italianate style.

The following week, we visited Old Cahawba, AL. On the site, some buildings remain of the abandoned town and foundations outline where others once stood. Outlined in steel is the original courthouse that once stood at the center of town. Rural Studio students disassembled and moved St. Luke’s Church back in the park many years ago.

We also visited Thornhill Plantation in Forkland, AL. This Greek revival house was once one of the largest plantations in the area. It sits atop a hill with 360-degree views of the property.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog to see our final class field trip to Mississippi!

The Second Month: 3rd-Year Edition

The month of September and beyond has been very busy! We have been working hard to finish up final designs and construction documents for Rosie’s Home, traveled with Dick Hudgens to some amazing houses for our History Seminar, and worked through iterations of cabinet details for Rosie’s kitchen in Woodshop Class.

Rosie’s Home

The 3rd-year class made a lot of progress on Rosie’s Home this month. We used the “atmospheres” from our last assignment and previous Rural Studio house materials to help us design different features for Rosie’s Home. We worked through new ways to implement storage, lighting, acoustics, and ventilation from these material studies.

While we designed these details, we had the opportunity to learn and help out with an ongoing project with a visiting team from University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering. They are collecting public health data samples for the region on our very own Morrisette campus. During their visit, we collected soil samples to be tested in the UNC lab. This research corresponds to our study of healthy materials and how we at Rural Studio can maximize the health of the systems we supply to our clients. Their studies opened our eyes to how much a functional sewer system contributes to the health of a homeowner, and showed us why this is a problem that must be addressed in rural Alabama. 

Students looking at a septic system outside Red Barn

After a week of working on our details, we presented them to Rural Studio’s own Design-Build Manager, John Marusich. This review revealed to us that rather than making several smaller moves to provide Rosie with solutions for storage, lighting, acoustics, and ventilation, we could make one large move to accomplish all four: manipulation of the ceiling plane.

With this idea in mind, we split into four teams. Each team designed the ceiling profile in a different way to enhance the four previously defined elements. In this design process, we presented our ceiling proposals to our Seattle visitors, Kim Clements and Joe Schneider from JAS Design Build, Jake LaBarre from Miller Hull, the Front Porch Initiative team, and our director Andrew Freear. All of these voices helped us to be more practical and intentional with our decisions. Through this iteration and review process, we found our one big move: vaulting the social space in the home.

Most recently, we began the study of the vault in full-scale format. The first step was drafting 1” = 1’ scale details to study the framing of the vaulted space. Using these details, we created three different mock-up versions. We then built these mock-ups on site in their potential locations. Being able to see their spatial effects in person helped us understand what this vaulted space would truly feel like and how it would change the atmosphere of the space.

drawn details pinned up
Full-scale detail pinup

Wrapping up before Fall Break, we hosted Rural Studio faculty and the 5th-year students on site for a mock-up review. They offered a lot of great feedback and helped us move forward with a clearer design intention. We are so excited to start construction when we get back from break!

Woodshop Class

The 3rd-year class has been designing Rosie’s kitchen and utility space cabinetry this semester. To start, we split into three designated teams: Upper kitchen cabinets, lower kitchen cabinets, and utility storage for the bathroom and laundry room. In our designs, we are focusing on functionality as it relates to our housing affordability research, accessibility for our client, and healthy materials continued from our studio study. While we worked on our designs, Keith and Dylan Cochran of Wood Studio, in Fort Payne, AL, visited Rural Studio to give us a critique of our progress and a demonstration on cabinetry assembly. This workshop demystified the process of creating a functional system of cabinets.

With each group’s cabinet design in the works, we began a mock-up to test important moments and details. We have been finalizing the dimensions and discussing our design of our mock-up model with our professors Steve Long and Judith Seaman. We are so excited to begin constructing our mock-up after Fall Break and ensure the design is successful for Rosie’s Home!

History Seminar

Throughout the past month, we have been to several Antebellum-era houses with our professor, Dick Hudgens. Each week, we tour the home, learn about its characteristic architectural and construction features, and then complete the day by sketching a portion of the home. Dick has been helping us to improve our sketching abilities each week. He teaches us how to correctly proportion a subject and to go from light to dark with our pencils as we draw.

Students sketching an elevation
Students sketching an elevation of Gaineswood

The first week in September, we visited Magnolia Grove in Greensboro which is about 10 miles north of Newbern. Magnolia Grove contains a detached kitchen in the rear, typical of the era. The columns are crooked because the bricks of lower quality refused for the main home were used for the service outbuildings. We sketched the kitchen and cook’s quarters and the front elevation of the home.

The following week, we drove to Demopolis and visited Bluff Hall and Lyon Hall on the Black Warrior River. At Bluff Hall, we learned about brightly colored paints and the immense wealth that existed in this small town. We sketched a historic quarters of enslaved people, a building that rested on the bluff near the main home, contrasting human injustices to the aforementioned wealth of the area. At Lyon Hall, we had the chance to go on the roof and look out over the city of Demopolis. Lyon Hall also features an old family Bible with historical records of the Lyon family that go back several generations.

Students at the top of Lyon Hall
We climbed to the top of the crow’s nest at Lyon Hall in Demopolis

Recently, we traveled to the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion in Tuscaloosa. We learned about gasoliers and rich-colored rugs. We sketched an exterior elevation of the home.

This week, we traveled back to Demopolis and visited Gaineswood. Gaineswood was unlike the other houses we have visited and is unique in Alabama. Gaineswood started as a simple dog-trot cabin, but its owner and architect, Nathan Bryan Whitfield, transformed this home into a grand example of Greek Revival architecture. We studied its expansion throughout the decades and looked at its complex roof lines.

In addition to having us travel to and study these historic homes, Dick also assigned us a new watercolor project. This semester, we are charged to make our own natural watercolor pigments from regional sources. To kick-start this, local textile artist Aaron Sanders-Head, of Greensboro, came to Morrisette Campus to help us extract our pigments. After we had a dynamic palette of colors, Dick assigned us to paint a tree to practice our watercolor techniques. We will continue our watercolor activities in the next couple weeks to prepare for our final watercolor project, a Beaux-Arts painting of a construction detail.

Stay Tuned

We are looking forward to starting construction on Rosie’s site in the next couple days and for the Halloween Reviews in a few weeks. Stay tuned to see our progress and what our costumes will be!