rs5thyears

Model Citizens: Small Scale, Big Ideas

We’re back! It’s our first blog post of the new year. We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break—the Fabrication Pavilion team surely did. We spent our break scattered across Alabama and Texas, but we made time to be together as well to see Christmas lights, visit aquariums, and go to festivals.

Now it is time to ring in the new year with models, repairs, and lots of new screen ideas!

Small-Scale Model Making

We started off the semester by building a ½” scale model of the Fabrication Pavilion. This allowed us to closely examine how the structural elements were constructed. The finished model of the back half of the pavilion is five and a half feet long. That’s as tall as some of our team members making us “model citizens”! This large model has helped us test out how the new extension will interlock with the original structure and will allow us to test out other design elements, like rain screens, in the future.

Neck down, Heads Up!

During “Neckdown” Week, we worked on maintenance projects at Perry Lakes Park, Newbern Town Hall, the Model Homes, and Morrisette Campus. At the end of the week, the four of us came back together to continue work on column repairs. It is officially time to move the scaffolding to the other end of the pavilion for phase two of repairs!

Screening our Big Ideas

After Soup Roast Review, our team decided to make weather screening a larger focus of the Fabrication Pavilion extension project. To provide Rural Studio with more opportunities for prefabrication in the future, it is important that a portion of the pavilion has adequate rain protection. We are currently experimenting with different schemes with the help of our guests from Gluck+ and Andrew Berman to balance protection, natural light, and ventilation. We also need to consider how these screens interact with the existing structure and the new roof plane that will be installed at the end of the repair process.

Check back in soon to see our progress on repairs, screens, and new structural designs.

Here’s to a great 2024 to come!

Donut Ask How Many Plans We’ve Drawn

It has been a long road of many crumpled sheets and drafted lines. Every week, it feels like we tell our classmates, “We finally have a plan.” As in a house floor plan. How silly we were. Many iterations felt so close, seeming to be just out of reach. If only we pushed one more week, we told ourselves, surely it would work! Alas, our continual effort never seemed to reach that coveted goal. That is one of the great benefits of being at Rural Studio. We have the luxury of time, and great help from teachers and visitors alike, to help us realize when we aren’t hitting the mark. Sometimes it is hard to even find words describing why something may not work. Still, through every iteration we are learning.

Fresh Air, Fresh Ideas

This semester we have been hoping to reach one plan. We had a list of requirements and details that we saw as essential. It took a long time to realize that maybe we have been trying to hold on to too many of these “essential” criteria. We have a good concept. We have a core that holds all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems while also acting as the shear support for the house. Rather than forcing the concept to work in a plan, we wanted it to inform a plan clearly and effectively. It felt like we were forcing the idea onto plans that tended to muddle the ideas.

So, we reevaluated. What is the simplest form of our idea? An object floating in space. What about two? What if you wanted to house a family of five? How do you blend the simplicity of an idea with a living space that needs to be designed for a large family? The Farnsworth house wouldn’t do well to create adequate privacy between Grandma and her grandkids. Too many windows.

What we found was that we could develop a plan that was simple and clear while also giving that large family the privacy and utility that they might need. We have been calling it the Donut Plan as there is a free-floating core and program organized around it. After working with this new layout, we have even found ways of reincorporating almost all of those “essential” criteria we thought we would have to give up. It felt like a leap to rethink our concept, but as mentioned before, the built-up knowledge led us toward new conclusions and better decision-making. It feels much calmer. There is still a long way to go and plenty of iterations but, “we finally have a plan.”

Right?

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

It’s a Block Party at the Bathhouse!

Hello Dearest Reader,

Welcome back to the Rural Studio Bathhouse blog. We are so very sorry that we have not provided an update in a while, but we are excited to share the hard work and progress we’ve made recently!

The team poses on site
Jumping for joy because we are finally out of the ground!

When we spoke last, the bathhouse team had just finished with the footings for the outdoor shower. The plan was to continue with the construction of the outdoor shower as the mock-up, before starting work on the rest of the bathhouse.

However, the team, along with Rural Studio instructors, decided to move forward with the foundations for the rest of the building. This would allow the team to be completely out of the muddy ground before the rainiest parts of the winter. This would also allow the block mason to construct all the CMU block walls for the Bathhouse at the same time, which is a big deal!

Image of typical foundation wall detail
Typical Bathhouse Foundation to CMU wall to Slab Detail

So, after spending some time working through drawings and details for the foundations, we got to work. First, we set up batter boards and pulled strings to mark the foundations on the ground. Then, we bent and cut all the pieces of rebar needed for the footings and assembled the rebar cages outside of the trenches while we waited to dig.

Once we were good to go, our friend Tyler Hochstettler from C&T Excavating Inc. came out to Newbern and helped us dig the trenches for the rest of the Bathhouse.

Students pose on site
Thumbs up for Digging Day!

After the excavating was done, we moved the rebar cages into the trenches and poured our concrete footings!

In the middle of preparing drawings and working on site, we also made a mock-up of one of our showers to fully understand the scale of the space. With this mock-up, we used a rainfall shower head and tested heights of the shower head to understand what was comfortable. It also allowed us to see the areas where water would be splashing and landing in the shower. This helped us realize we needed to consider the wall-lining material for the shower, and we learned that the higher the shower head was, the higher the velocity and pressure of the water would be when it hit a person.

Finally, we are very excited to reveal that back on site, we have concrete blocks, as of this week! Our concrete block foundation walls for the whole Bathhouse were constructed by our friend from Newbern, James Harris, and his wonderful crew.

We worked with the crew to install vertical rebar for support as they built the walls. Currently, we are working to fill all the cells that have rebar in them with mortar. We are so excited to see the building finally coming to life and growing up right before our eyes.

Our goal is to finish all the block walls before we take a break from site for the holidays. Once we return in the new year, we will be hard at work preparing formwork and getting all the plumbing roughed-in in preparation for the pouring of our elevated concrete slab. We will also begin testing the stacking of our wood modules for our wall assemblies.

completed block walls
Completed CMU foundation walls
picture of block walls
The outdoor shower!

Thanks so much for reading and following along with the very exciting progress being made at the Bathhouse. We hope you all have a great holiday season, and we will be back with more updates after the new year!

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan 

A Big Toast for Soup Roast

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.

students with clients

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!