rs5thyears

This House is Lit

Howdy from the Patriece’s Home team! The trees are turning green here in Hale County and the 5th-year projects are emerging from Winter with pent up energy and an excitement to build!

Since their last blog post, the team completed a soil test at their site and starting identifying the home’s location on the site. They’ve also been busy developing a landscaping strategy, pushing forward with a zero eaves strategy, and designing warm, wood-clad porches.

Rural Studio students have a myriad of consultants and reviewers checking over the designs and advising the projects. Recently, the Patriece’s Home team had a visit from Pete Landon and Cameron Acheson of Landon Bone Baker Architects in Chicago, IL. The students received feedback on how they could consider detailing the column and headers of their wood-clad porch.

Next, the team met Cheryl Noel and Ravi Ricker of Wrap Architecture in Chicago, IL, for a successful code review of the home, The team then proposed the home’s lighting strategy to lighting designer Thomas Paterson of Lux Populi, from Mexico City, Mexico. He advised the team that the light desired in a home at night is not the same character of light desired during the day.

The students decided to take a trip to the 20K Model Homes at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. to review the amount of daylight the windows provide and test what ideal nighttime lighting would be. For Patriece’s Home, the team is designing wall-mounted lighting to cast general light into a dark room and layered task lighting to illuminate highly used surfaces and spaces.  

Patriece’s Home most recently met with Rural Studio’s structural engineer, Joe Farruggia from Chicago, IL, for advice on when it is best and most economical to use laminated veneer lumber (LVLs) instead of dimensional lumber in the headers of the home. The team is also getting extremely detailed in the design of the cabinet and electrical plans, imagining how to design spaces for the hundred-year lifespan of the home.

The Patriece’s Home team is sprinting toward Pig Roast, Executive Review 2.0, and graduation, all in the next three and a half weeks! The students will begin buying materials, moving dirt on site, and constructing a full-scale mock-up of the home’s details. Stay tuned! Thanks for checking in on the project!

If You Can’t Take the Heat, Get Out of the Pavilion!

Howdy from the Moundville Pavilion team! The design has continued to evolve quickly throughout the past couple of weeks as they have been heavily focused on constructability and modifying the design of the columns. The team also got the chance recently to participate in Moundville Archaeological Park’s Knap-In, an annual stone tool makers event where visitors can learn about flint tools and how they’re made.

Columns and Ceiling

After the team clarified the design concept, new iterations of columns began to emerge that focused strongly on the overall intent of the project and its place within the site. The team looked at the columns in elevation, large-scale models, and renderings. 

An axon drawing of a column
Column plan and elevation
Connection between column and truss

In conjunction with the column design, the team has also been exploring ways to give tolerance to the ceiling assembly along with the method of attaching the finished surface material to the underside of the trusses. With the decision to deconstruct the current partially built pavilion, the team has the opportunity to realign the upper or lower ridges and two of the four planes that make up the form. Aligning the upper ridge allows for smoother and faster assembly of the direct-bearing roof structure and gives shelter during the construction of the ceiling. The team also decided to add lumber to the bottom cords of the trusses to align the two lower planes. The overall goal is to allow for the most efficiency and tolerance when reconstructing the trusses.

A drawing explaining the intersection of roof, ceiling, and a truss
A drawing looking at the details of the ceiling panels

Reviewing Executively

All of this work and response to recent guest reviewers culminated in an Executive Review, the event formerly dubbed “stress test.” The annual stress test examines each projects potential and feasibility to continue into the summer. Justin Miller (Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture), Rusty Smith (Rural Studio Associate Director), and Emily McGlohn (Rural Studio Associate Professor and leader of the 3rd-year studio) met with the team to see where the project currently is and where it is heading. 

The team presented their work at the Executive Review.

Rusty and Justin encouraged the team to consider an overlapping clip system for their ceiling and to see how we could simplify the design of the column to find a stronger balance between functionality and concept. At the end of the review, the team was challenged to build a full-scale mock-up of the final column design, complete with the roof structure, to show at the annual Pig Roast celebration at the end of the semester. 

Keep on Pushing!

In response to the feedback, the team is continuing to explore the column design, testing the suggested ceiling construction method, and mocking-up how the structure will be assembled. 

Check back soon to see where we head next as we begin to prepare for Pig Roast!

Back to Our Roots

Spring has sprung, which means Spring Break is quickly approaching! But before we hang up our overalls for a much needed break, we’ll be cranking up production on the Moundville Pavilion project in preparation for the mid-March Executive Review.

Gettin’ Conceptual

A big part of our decision-making process has been based on the refinement of the project’s concept. We went back and looked over our initial reading and analysis of the site and the previous team’s design to better articulate why we were making our decisions.

diagram explaining concept of reflection and blending
This diagram explains the concept of reflection and blending.

Our concept starts with the desire to not be an object on the landscape, and instead be more a part of the landscape by taking cues from the surrounding forest and blending in. By doing so, we give reverence to the site and work to draw the eye away from the pavilion and instead focus it on the surroundings. The pavilion is also all about the gradient that is found in a forest of trees, going from a heavy, sturdy base, to a light canopy that reaches to the sky and lets light touch the ground below. 

drawing looking at gradient created by surrounding landscape
This drawing depicts the gradient created by surrounding landscape.

Reviewers, Mock-ups, Drawings, Oh My!

The design has been gradual and ever changing in conjunction with the last revolving door of reviewers we’ve hosted for the month. We had a short visit from Larry Scarpa, from Brooks + Scarpa based in Los Angeles, CA, who gave a lecture and questioned the team on how the project can be more cohesive from top to bottom. Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburg of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CHS), both based in Chicago, IL, provided input on the column design dilemma and asked the team to build quick and easy mock-ups of all of our column ideas to better understand their implications.

Finally, we had Dan Wheeler from Wheeler Kearns Architects, based in Chicago, IL, come out and take a look at how the project’s details have been progressing. Dan encouraged the team with his knowledge of the various ways we can detail the pavilion and how to embody the points of our concept. Dan led a charrette asking the team to take a step back and draw the overall concept with relation to the park, while also zooming in to the various ways we can have the column details emphasize the heavy-to-light design.

presenting to dan wheeler

+ February views around Hale County

Getting Stair Crazy

Welcome to the February grind time, where the weather is relentless and so are the 5th-years! As the Spring semester intensifies, Patriece’s Home team is working harder than ever on their project—designing and building an adaptable, two-story house for multi-generational residents.

A panoramic shot of three team members sitting in the Newbern Library courtyard while they have a team discussion.

The team was eager to dive into drawing details for the visiting reviewers. The group decided that the roof material should drape over the house and should be a different color and corrugation size than the metal siding. The porch interiors are also clad with wood “like a bite out of the apple,” as Director Andrew Freear likes to say. 

Another thing the Studio loves about this time of year is the weekly reviews from visiting architects and friends. Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS, challenged the Patriece’s Home team to consider the home’s performance strategies before they begin construction details; the team was asked to consider fire protection and ventilating the attic insulation in their approach enclosing the attic trusses, as well as to “fine tune” the passive cooling strategies of the home by carefully selecting where fixed and operable windows are located. In response, the team is working to use the chimney effect of the stairs to their advantage.

The team continues to examine ways to keep the home affordable to build, even with a large footprint. Because this house is thermally and functionally divided in half, the homeowner could choose to finish the larger or smaller unit upon construction and finish the other unit when their living needs change (kind of like the Myers’ Home “shell” research).

Not long after this review, the team FINALLY got to meet Patriece!! An exterior massing model showed her how the house would look from the outside, and an unfolding interior model helped the team walk Patriece through the home and show her adaptations to each room by moving modeled furniture. And she liked it! With her approval, the team can begin to conjecture how her family will use the home and how further decisions will keep it comfortable throughout her life. 

Most recently, the team had a day of review and workshops with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY. They said that the team’s concept was very clear, so now they should loosen up a bit to make the social spaces of the home even nicer and more useful. Tod and Billie also encouraged the team to make spaces at the top and bottom of the stairs that use the light from the dormer window and allow someone to enjoy being on the kitchen landing. 

The team has a lot to work with from these meetings and much to prepare for the meetings to come! They are going to begin surveying the site to find where the best location is to place the home. The team is also going push the house’s details and construction decisions forward as they get closer to the final review of the semester. There’s much more to come for Patriece’s Home—thanks for reading and keeping up with us! 

Company’s Coming

It’s been a busy few weeks for the C.H.O.I.C.E. Emergency House team! With a constant revolving door of visitors coming and reviewing our work, there are always new ideas being thrown our way for consideration.  

First up, we had a short one-day visit from Duvall Decker out of Jackson, MS. Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker helped us make decisions about the environmental strategies for passively heating, cooling, and venting each unit.  

After hearing their advice, we have developed a passive heating and cooling plan for each unit using a combination of operable transoms, large roof overhangs, and fans above the machine volumes to circulate air. As for ventilation, the new details use wider board spacing and perforations in the metal siding to vent the attic through the cladding—the exterior material—on either end of the volume.  

diagram of passive heating and cooling strategies

Last Thursday and Friday, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY, paid a visit to Rural Studio for a two-day extravaganza. On the first day, all the teams presented their work and were given critiques from the pair. The second day, teams were tasked with solving specific design questions brought up during their reviews through a quick, collaborative charrette process.  

For us, that meant exploring different interior arrangements and more efficient storage found at the intersection of service and delight. We were also tasked with discovering what a different foundation could do for the character of the porch, the location and expression of the shared washer and dryer volume, and how we can use a friendly fence to create hard and soft boundaries to the site. 

 Closing thoughts: 

“Big things coming for Big Slab.” – AC  

“Today’s Wordle was really hard.” – Hailey  

“Ok… but really… the skylight is being resurrected!” – Davis  

“To build or to buy off the shelf? That is the question.” – Raymond