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!
The end of the fall semester can only mean one thing in Newbern… Soup Roast!
The 2023 edition included plenty of showing and telling, from 3rd-years, 5th-years, and leftovers alike! The first day of Soup Roast included visits to the two current leftover project sites, the 18×18 House and the Rural Studio Bathhouse. Both teams got the chance to show visitors what they’ve been up to since they began construction.
The 3rd-year class has been busy this semester, and they were able to show off all of their hard work! At Rosie’s Home, they’ve completed exterior finishes, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and are well under way with interior finishes.
In the Woodshop and History classes, students made cutting boards, large-format watercolor drawings, and replicas of famous chair designs. All of these were on display for visitors and friends to see!
The 5th-year students stayed hard at work during Soup Roast. Both the CLT Core House and the Fabrication Pavilion teams presented their current work to visiting reviewers. Kim Clements and Joe Schneider from JAS Design Build, Jake LaBarre from Miller Hull Partnership, Jim Adamson from design-build firm Jersey Devil, artist and architect David Lipe, artist Victoria Haven, and architects Isabelle and Nick Robertson were all in Newbern to help keep the projects moving forward. The second day of Soup Roast celebrations brought workshops and more discussion about the 5th-year projects.
The semester came to a festive end, with a celebratory dinner, six PechaKucha-style lectures by our visitors, and a bonfire. Huge thanks to Kim Clements for making this fantastic meal for us! Check back in after the holidays to see what’s next for the current projects!
Well, hello again! The 3rd-year class is back again for your entertainment. It has finally cooled down here in Hale County: the fans have been stored away for the semester and winter jackets and heated blankets made their debut. Since our last blog, we have been so busy and are excited to tell you all about it!
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing
When we last checked in with the MEP Boys, the plumbing team, Luke and Cayden, were finishing up the dryer vent installation and just starting on water supply lines; while the electrical team, Jack and Casey, were finishing up wiring throughout the house! After a few days of dry-fitting both wiring and plumbing parts, the MEP teams were able to begin setting everything in final positions. Following supply line fitting, the plumbing team began running pressure tests to ensure no leaks in the hot and cold water lines. As the electrical team finished up on wiring, they duly began testing each of their 22 circuits.
After successful tests, the plumbing team moved on to attaching the main water line to the house and placing and leveling the shower floor with mortar. After a day of mixing and spreading mortar, the plumbing team came back to a perfectly level and functional shower pan.
The electrical team successfully tested each interior circuit and moved onto the exterior wiring and placing of conduit on the porch with the help of Mason. After finalizing the interior plumbing and electrical, the MEP team cleaned up their typical mess of wires and nuts so the drywall team could get to work over the Thanksgiving Break!
Cabinets and Carpentry
As the Interiors team awaited the arrival of their tongue-and-groove cypress cladding, our sweet friend from that team, Kylie Kendall joined the ranks of the Millwork team for extra help in the woodshop. While Caitlin and Shannon worked hard on figuring out the composition of the lower cabinet drawers, Biz and Kylie, with aid of instructor Steve Long, used maple hardwood to construct face frames for the upper cabinets. After finishing sanding for all the cabinets, Caitlin and Shannon moved to priming while Biz and Kylie built the plywood bases for them sit on upon install.
Through meeting with our clients Rosie and Frankie, it came to our attention that we needed change in the plans. The cabinets previously formed an L-shaped kitchen that ended in a tall pantry storage unit. However, Rosie is accustomed to a U-shaped kitchen. The team met with Rosie to form a plan for the new kitchen shape and pivoted work to building a small peninsula cabinet instead, what we’re calling “Florida”. So, we headed back to the Studio to start brainstorming “Florida” into reality. Our interpretation was a peninsula added onto the end of the lower cabinets to cap them. This peninsula will add adjustable storage to both the kitchen and living room sides.
We were also tasked with the job of designing and building a closet for the bedroom that responded to the ceiling vaulted and exposed tension members. After many ideas, we landed on the final design and headed to site for a major blocking job for all of the millwork to be installed later.
Tanner, Kylie, Emma A., and Emma J. have started cranking out the interior cladding in Rosie’s Home. To prepare for the drywall installation, different and healthier alternative insulations are being applied to the house’s walls and roof. On the east wall, Hempitecture Hempwool is being firmly fitted in the wall, we love the ease of installation on this one! Up above, ROCKWOOL is being hung on the ceiling. The west wall will be all Havelock sheep’s wool batts. On the north and south wall, a mixture of Hempwool, ROCKWOOL, and sheep wool are used for testing the effectiveness of the different insulations. As Kylie was stolen away from the team, the remaining members worked on finalizing the interior finish options and presented the cool, neutral, and warm options. They put together beautiful mood boards that represented the interior cladding, flooring, and cabinet colors and presented to Rosie and family. After that, Tanner and Emma J. along with Mason ventured to Cleveland, Georgia, to pick up the wood cladding and trim needed to finish the interior.
Bailey, Hannah, Kati, and McAllister have been working hard to continue wrapping up the exterior cladding. After finishing the vertical and horizontal battens on the front wall and roof, one of the picture windows arrived and was able to be installed on the north facade.
While Kati and Bailey completed the metal cladding on the north side, Hannah and McAllister stained and installed the wood cladding on the front. Once the whole team started working on the front, the wood cladding went up with ease, and before they knew it the wall was done. After some brainstorming on how the edge of the roof and wall would meet, the team settled on a slight roof overhang and then got to work on the application.
It was time for the annual Rural Studio Halloween review and the 3rd-years dressed up as whimsical characters from the Dr. Seuss books. Starring in the 2023 Halloween review was…
Biz Helms as Horton the Elephant
Bailey Kennedy as The Fish
Caitlin Ranheim as Thing 1
Casey Dillard as Mr. Brown
Cayden Davis as Sneetch
Emma Avery as The Lorax
Emma Johnson as Thing 2
Hannah Weiland as The Fox in Socks
Jack Felder as The Grinch
Kati Warner as The Cat in the Hat
Kylie Kendall as The Once-ler
Luke Bradberry as JoJo
McAllister Tucker as Cindy Lou Who
Shannon Brennan as Sam-I-Am
Tanner Wallace as Max the Dog
On site, McAllister, Emma A., Caitlin, and Luke presented Rosie’s Home to visiting architects and got critiques on the progress already made to the house. To end the day, the 3rd-years competed in a costume competition with the rest of Rural Studio and to their dismay, did not win. Congratulations the the 5th-year CLT Core House team for their victory!
Chop, Drop, and Roll
Continuing on our journey into the woodworking world, all five groups have begun our final chairs! After working out any issues that were brought to light by the completion of our mock-ups, we have now refined our techniques and are working hard to finish each chair by Soup Roast.
Steve has continued to help us through all of the challenges we’ve faced, even if that means meeting in the early mornings with us. Regardless of the bumps in the road, we are all ecstatic to show you how much we’ve learned this semester with the final renditions of our iconic chairs!
Pillars of the Past
Since we last talked, we visited The Oaks in Greensboro, Alabama, where we met its steward, Ian Crawford, who just so happened to be one of Dick Hudgens’ past interns! We learned much more about our professor, his work, and this gorgeous and well-loved home. This house represented Greek revival and the class favorite room was the Greek mythology-themed dressing room!
We also visited the Jemison Mansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This house represented Italianate architecture and provided a unique and large wall-to-wall custom carpet and featured the first interior working toilet and bathtub in Alabama.
In our final class with Professor Hudgens, we carpooled all the way to Columbus, Mississippi. We had the privilege to visit the Riverview Mansion first, one of the finest examples of Greek revival in the South. The second destination was Temple Heights Mansion, which also represented Greek revival architecture in a denser neighborhood site. At this stop, we drew elevations of the home and enjoyed the sights of the lush garden and property in a setting unlike previous rural homes we’ve seen. The final destination was Waverly Mansion. This iconic home featured four floors of beautifully executed historic preservation, with more modern restorations in the east wing. We ended this trip with dinner at Harvey’s and said our goodbyes to Dick until we see him again at Soup Roast with our completed watercolor paintings.
As best friends here in Rural Studio, Biz Helms decided she would treasure nothing more than bringing all the 3rd-year students to her hometown of Dothan to attend the National Peanut Festival. So we all packed into cars, some more than others, and made our way to the Circle City itself.
As for the weekend itinerary details; driving, eating, sleeping, eating again, festival rides, watching cattle shows, viewing the peanut gallery, eating AGAIN, riding more rides, eating one last time, shopping for merchandise, and more driving. As one can see from this weekend, our hearts were as full as our bellies, but our wallets were empty.
Well, thanks for stopping by! We are having so much fun and never wanna leave, but for now we are cherishing every moment out here. As Kati Warner always says, “We are living in the good ‘ole days.” Check back later to see the end of the semester and what we present for Soup Roast!
New kids in Hale (Get to know the 3rd-year class!)
The Fall 2023 3rd-year students have landed themselves in Hale! They’ve been through the classic “Neckdown” Week experience and are settling into the daily routine of life in Newbern with a busy schedule. Here to introduce themselves and their “hot takes,” please meet:
Elizabeth Helms is from Dothan, Alabama. Hot take: Milk is better with ice in it.
Hannah Wieland is from Fairhope, Alabama. Hot take: Environmental mistreatment is not a consumer problem.
Tanner Wallace is from Birmingham, Alabama. Hot take: Auburn will beat Bama this year.
Caitlin Ranheim is from Brooklyn, New York. Hot take: Taylor Swift made Kanye famous.
Casey Dillard is from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Hot take: Crocs are a must-have shoe.
Jack Felder is from Savannah, Georgia. Hot take: Morgan Wallen stinks.
McAllister Tucker is from Fairfax, Virginia. Hot take: The movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, is bad.
Kati Warner is from Huntsville, Alabama. Hot take: The live-action Cat in the Hat is the greatest movie in the world.
Bailey Kennedy is from Memphis, Tennessee. Hot take: Dasani tastes good. Spring water is the real criminal.
Kylie Kennedy is from Birmingham, Alabama. Hot take: Architecture is hard-core arts and crafts.
Luke Bradberry is from Suwanee, Georgia. Hot take: We aren’t actually in school right now.
Emma Johnson is from Birmingham, Alabama. Hot take: Pancakes are better with peanut butter on them.
Emma Avery is from Enterprise, Alabama. Hot take: Pineapple is the best pizza topping.
Shannon Brennan is from Newburyport, Massachusetts. Hot take: Cruise ships are a scam.
Cayden Davis is from Coleman, Alabama. Hot take: Auburn will go 10 and 2.
Model Homes or Pod Life?
The living spaces for the 3rd-year class are split up this year! While you may be familiar with Rural Studio’s typical “pod life,” only some of us are living there. The rest of the crew is down the road testing out the Model Homes. Not only did we get to take the annual 20K House tour and make trading cards for each home, but some of us get to live in Joanne’s, Mac’s, and Dave’s Model Homes. When asked how she liked living in Mac’s Model Home, 3rd-year McAllister Tucker answered that she enjoyed, “getting to share a bathroom with only two people and having an in-house kitchen.” She also said an upside is, “having donkeys as neighbors, but the downside is you can smell them.”
Bailey Kennedy, living in the Cardboard Pod at Morrisette House, said that she likes how the pods are on the main campus: “It’s an awesome spot for Enos [hammocks], and it feels like you are a part of the tradition of Rural Studio.” The Model Homes may have donkeys, but the Pod residents are visited every night by Booty, a wandering dog who was first seen scooting across the lawn nearby!
Outside of shared meals and class, Auburn football is what brings these two groups together. The Model Home kids came to the pods to watch the Auburn-California game on the projector one Saturday. No matter where they live, each 3rd-year student is enjoying their time among their friends at their home in Hale.
This semester, the 3rd-year class of Fall 2023 is charged with the task of completing Rosie’s Home. This has been an ongoing project since Fall semester 2021. We started with creating a digital 3D model of what has been built so far in Rhinoceros. Not only did we learn which details still needed designing, but we figured out stick-frame construction in the span of a week and got to know the ins and outs of this project. During pin-ups at the site, we were able to meet our clients, Rosie and Frankie.
In this project, we are exploring possibilities with healthy building alternatives, specifically with insulation and interior finish materials. We started with a tour of all the 20K Homes Rural Studio has built in the last 18 years. To understand these precedents, we made a set of trading cards of all the houses. The cards included the materials used in wall construction, as well as what principles they embodied according to “The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building” by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
To begin the design process, we broke into teams based on our own particular interests for the semester. The selections are as follows:
Millwork and Framing Team: Shannon Brennan, Elizabeth Helms, Caitlin Renheim
Enclosures Team: Bailey Kennedy, McAllister Tucker, Kati Warner, and Hannah Wieland
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Team: Luke Bradberry, Cayden Davis, Casey Dillard, and Jack Felder
Interiors Team: Emma Avery, Emma Johnson, Kylie Kendall, and Tanner Wallace
Then, we split up and discussed the design focuses and procedures we would have to work through as a group of fifteen and in site teams. After, we were assigned to do interior perspectives of the living space so we could all decide together the big picture questions of designing the inside of the house. Once we make these decisions as a class, we can begin the last phase of construction—the interior space!
Woodshop, What’s Up?
In the Woodshop this semester, the 3rd-years are going to build chairs! We are split up into five groups of three. Each group is going to tackle a different chair designed by a famous architect and complete it by the end of the semester. The instructor for Woodshop class is Steve Long, and he has started by giving interactive tutorials on processing wood and using the equipment.
Before starting their chairs, the groups have been making detailed drawings and storyboards of the production process. To make us more familiar with woodworking, our first mini-project is designing and making a cutting board.
Dick Hudgens’ first class in Seminar of Aspects of Design was a dye workshop with Aaron Sanders Head. He taught the class how to make dyes naturally from plants so we could make our own watercolor palettes. Our first field trip in the class was a visit to Glencairn! Glencairn is a house built in the 1830s that has been preserved for visitors. The class toured the house and drew the ground floor plan along with a front elevation.
Life in Hale…
At Rural Studio, we like to stay busy—whether we’re building houses, making watercolors from plants, or constructing chairs from scratch. We carry our creative enthusiasm into after-hours. In our downtime, we love to venture around Hale County. We make our way to Greensboro every Thursday night for trivia or bingo at The Stable, or some nights we head to Nick’s Crispy Chicken on Highway 14, where you can find the best catfish po’ boy this side of the Mississippi River. Another great spot is the Newbern Mercantile, known to us regulars as “The Merc,” right in the heart of Newbern. On the weekends, we love to seek out antique shops and visit local markets.
We’ve probably spent more time outside in the last few weeks, than all the years of childhood recess added up. Just the other morning, some students visited a previous 5th-year project, the Birding Tower in Perry Lakes Park. Here they climbed five flights of stairs just to watch the sunrise. We heard it was well worth it. The country has its perks, even if it’s just driving around to watch the sunset over the catfish ponds.
Check back soon to see us hit the ground running on-site at Rosie’s Home! The final construction push has begun, and we can’t wait to show you what’s happening!
Another two-dayer is in the books! We started Pig Roast weekend on Friday, April 28, in the Project Horseshoe Farm Courtyard in Greensboro, AL. We began with a scrumptious meal, a collaboration between Mo Kitchen of The Stable and Sarah Cole of Abadir’s. The Stable provided tasty wraps, and Abadir’s the viabrant and zingy salads and sweet desserts, including their famous sprintime coconut cake. Sorry, Mo, the wraps were outstanding, but the Sarah’s flowers and petals visually stole the show, especially on the chopped greens and chickpeas AND the strawberry cobbler with lavender biscuits!
Seven alumni PechaKucha-style lectures followed the meal. Our speakers, spanning 12 years at Rural Studio: • Mary Melissa Taddeo, ’12, Auburn, AL • Chris Currie, ’10, San Antonio, TX • Jamie Sartory, ’10, San Antonio, TX • Evan Forrest, ’09, Chicago, IL • Rob White, ’04, Nashville, TN • Patrick Nelson, ’03, Birmingham, AL • RaSheda Workman, ’00, Tuscaloosa, AL
And then . . . great music by Louis V to dance by.
On Saturday morning at 8:30, we gathered at Morrisette House to set out on our journey behind a Ford pick-up truck regaled in American and Auburn flags. The tour of projects included five in progress and several research initiatives, with a break in the middle back at Morrisette for a delicious lunch prepared by Rural Studio’s own Catherine Tabb and Doris Ward. Attendees heard the latest updates on the Front Porch Initiative from the team—Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, Betsy Farrell Garcia, & Christian Ayala—and toured and caught up on progress on Rural Studio Farm with Eric Ball. Emily McGlohn gave a rousing presentation on the new Wastewater project in Newbern.
Below is the rest of the rundown:
Projects presentations and clients • C.H.O.I.C.E. House. 5th-year team of AC Priest, Davis Benfer, Hailey Osborne, and Yi Xuan (Raymond) Teo. Client: Emefa Butler of C.H.O.I.C.E. (CHOOSING to HELP OTHERS In our COMMUNITY EXCEL) • Patriece’s Home. 5th-year team of Adam Davis, Daniel Burton, Laurel Holloway, and Lauren Lovell. Client: Patriece Gooden • Rural Studio Bathhouse. 5th-year team of Carla Slabber, Ambar Ashraf, Ashley Wilson, and Logan Lee. Client: Morrisette Campus. • 18×18 House. 5th-year team of Naomi Tony-Alabi, Jake Buell, Meagan Mitchell, and Julie DiDeo. Client: Detyrick King • Rosie’s Home. Spring 3rd-year team of Canon McConnell, Trenton Williams, Junting Song, Finn Downes, and Lucas Henderson. Client Rosie and Frankie
Presentations of classes’ semester-long work • History and Watercolor Class by Dick Hudgens • Woodshop Class by Steve Long
We arrived back to Morrisette House for dinner led by Newbern’s fire trucks and the roasted pig! This year’s dinner and graduation ceremony was moved from Bodark Amphitheater to Morrisette House due to impending thunderstorms. (Thanks to our team for swiftly switching venue locations on the fly!) Saturday evening featured Newbern Mercantile’s famous fried catfish and barbecued pork—it is Pig Roast, after all—and all the sides (of course!), with everyone kicking back to live tunes, first from the young performers of the Blues School Graduate Band and then the stylings of Debbie Bond Blues Band featuring Debbie Bond, “Radiator” Rick, Earl “Guitar Williams, Marcus “Jukeman” Lee, and Jonathan Schwartz.
The ceremony introductions began with Joe Lee Hamilton, Hale County Commissioner; Ben Farrow, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and International Programs for Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction; and Justin Miller, Head of Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.
It was our pleasure to honor special guests Melissa Foster Denney and Bobby Scott. We were delighted to have Frank Harmon from Frank Harmon Architects in Raleigh, NC, to give this year’s graduation speech. And it was with pride and sweet tears that we congratulated our graduating 5th-year students: Ambar Ashraf, Ashley Wilson, Carla Slabber, Jake Buell, Julie DiDeo, Logan Lee, Meagan Mitchell, Naomi Tony-Alabi. Huge congrats, folks: you poured your hearts into your work and earned those degrees!
As tradition requires, “Whiffle Dust” shot from the Spencer family’s cannon, and fireworks rose to their heights behind Morrisette House.
We couldn’t have Pig Roast without our outstanding local sponsors! We’d like to thank Alabama Power; BDA Farm; City Furniture; Greensboro Pie; Hale County Hospital; Harvest Select Catfish; NAPA Auto Parts; Parker Tire & Muffler; People’s Bank; Reynold’s Electric; Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee; Blue Shadows B&B; Dozier Hardware; Greensboro Depot; Holmstead Company; M&M Mustang; Newbern Mercantile; The Partridge Berry; Seale, Homes, Ryan, LLC; Stillwater Machine; the Smelley family; The Stable; Citizens Bank; Mosley Feed and Seed; Greensboro Nutrition; Superior Metal Works; Clary’s Country Market; Patrick Braxton; and Wood Fruitticher!