#ruralstudio

More Bricks, Dirt, and Concrete Prep!

The team and assisting students took a trip to Fuller’s Building Supply, in Selma, AL, to re-stack 3,000 bricks! Said bricks had been purchased by the courtyard team a little over a year ago. Due to the pallets sitting outdoors for so long, they started to deteriorate and eventually rotted away. For one day, a crew of five sorted through the broken and whole bricks, and re-stacked them according to brick color on new pallets. Once the bricks were delivered to the site, the cleaning process began! Similarly to the previously found bricks, these have been scrapped of remaining mortar.

Curb formwork removal

Before the site was graded, the students removed the formwork of the concrete curb from the previous week’s pour. They also created a temporary boundary box to retain gravel or dirt from covering the curb and the grinder pump lid.

Grading the site

Batter boards used to indicate edge of gravel underlay
Image of whole site after grading work finished

In order to proceed with construction, the ground needed to be re-leveled. Certain areas of the site needed to come up four or so inches and others needed dirt removed. Tyler, who had previously helped the team with excavation work, returned with his mini-excavator and got the job done in one day. Caleb, Claudia, and 3rd-year students assisted with hand tamping and moving dirt by hand in areas the larger equipment could not reach. About fifty tons or two tandem trucks worth of dirt was utilized to grade the site. And about twenty-five tons of gravel was brought in as an underlay for the brick pad.

Cleaning up the alley

Simultaneously to the site being graded, time was spent on tidying up the building on Beacon Alley. The wooden doors and window trims were painted black to diminish the attention they drew; the black window trim makes the whole window disappear into the shadows rather than sticking out being a bright white.

Prepping for concrete

As formwork under the walkway started, it was necessary to remove a layer of bricks on the door threshold. To ensure that the level of the concrete and interior finished floor have a smooth transition and avoid water coming into the building. Shortly after that, people working on site were split into two groups. One group was to work on the formwork for the porch/stage area and the other to start staking down the formwork along the south and east façade.

Bricks, Bricks, and French Drains

Students pallet bricks

Horseshoe Courtyard

This week a small group of 3rd-year students helped Caleb and Claudia at the Horseshoe Courtyard. The work began with a trip to Selma to restack approx. 3,000 bricks (in storage) from pallets that had deteriorated in preparation for moving them to site in the near future. Upon returning to the site, the team helped remove formwork from a recent concrete pour and continued painting the exterior of the building along the alley on the north edge of the site. The 3rd-years also helped clean off and sort some of the bricks that were already on site, which will be used for the brick pad portion of the courtyard. The Horseshoe Courtyard space is quickly transforming since the walkway and metal work have gone up, the site has been graded, and gravel spread.

20K Ophelia’s Home

Starting week two, a new group of 3rd-years were given the opportunity to work on 20K Ophelia’s Home. Students created a new French drain, which took quite a lot of digging. Many of Ophelia’s cute “babies” (aka her cats) came to greet the new 3rd-years.

As the week continued, several students helped work at Morrisette House, where a small shed was being demolished, while others installed sun shades blinds around the front porch of Spencer House to provide a shady area for future project critiques. 

Week two has left the new students sore and tired, but more excited than ever for the semester. Hard work and game nights are drawing the seven students closer than they expected after only two weeks together. Between working on an actual job site and exploring detailed construction documents, the students are learning that hands-on experience provides a new perspective compared to a typical studio. 

Testing Steel Cable and Hardware

Team instaling cables on railing
Caleb and Claudia installing the steel cables for the railing

This week the team started installing the eighth-inch in diameter, steel cables that infill the railings. The cables are spaced two inches apart in order to ensure that a four-inch sphere won’t fit in between them. Two railing panels worth of cable were installed this time around; in order to understand the process and time that cutting, threading, and tightening the cables will take.

Shortly after working on the railing panels, the team moved on to the screens. They had a sample piece of cable for each screen; the eighteen-foot screens, the nine-foot screens (that allow passage underneath them), and the eight-foot screens for the north end. This was also the first time the team was able to observe the beautiful cable hardware on the screens. As soon as the slab under the walkway is poured, the rest of the cables and rope infill will go up!

Gate Iterations

As site work progresses, design work for the gate on the north end also progresses. Some of the design explorations include having the gate look similar to the rest of the screens, translucent and light. Other iterations test a solid sheet of metal, in which to etch-out words or logos; or simply being a found object that looks entirely different from the rest of the project. While considering the language of the gate, the team is also taking into account the height and width of the gate itself, and its relationship with the eight-foot screen and the concrete wall on the other side.

Steel Edging & Pump Cover

The brick pad on the south end of the site requires a barrier or transition between the brick and slate. The team is resolving this by using quarter-inch steel edging, similar to the Newbern Library project. However, rather than creating the edging from scratch, they will use off-the-shelf edging and adjust it as needed. Since the finished look will be similar to that of the Newbern Library, the Horseshoe Courtyard team contacted Stephen Durham, one of the Library team members, to get some tips on what they did.

Grinder Pump

Detail section of pump cover structure
Detail close-up of pump structure

When designing the brick pad, it was important to take into account the grinder pump that is located within its perimeter. First, because once the site is re-graded, the finished surface will be above the current level of the pump. Secondly, we need to make the pump accessible in case of maintenance needs. And lastly, we hope make it aesthetically pleasing and not slippery as a ground surface. Having all this in mind, the team has been working through details for the structure, as well as thinking of ways to make the cover lighter through different types of perforations and material choices.

Back On The Ground

The Horseshoe Courtyard team is back on site again!

Since the team stepped away from their site in mid-March (due to COVID-19), the trenches under the tall screens were filled with topsoil in preparation for planting the vines. In the coming weeks, the site will be graded and additional dirt will be added, bringing up the site ground level four to six inches. Gravel will also be installed in the south end of site, where the brick pad will be formed.

Before the team begins any concrete work under the walkway, the gas line needed to be moved away from the building’s eastern facade so that it would not be cast in concrete. The day after the line was moved, Spire Energy relocated the gas meter around the corner and connected the gas line to the meter (image above is before the job was completed).

New signage for Project Horseshoe Farm!

Another element that the team has been working on is signage for Project Horseshoe Farm (PHF). At the moment, there is a sign by the front door that lets people in the community know where they are located. However, unless visitors are familiar with the organization, new users may not know how to find the program. The team studied a series of images from Greensboro in the 1900s to gain knowledge on the types of signs that were previously downtown, including current nearby signs, both hung and painted.

An important factor when considering different signage strategies is typography, not only for the aesthetics, but also for legibility and scale. There are different design strategies when considering pedestrians vs. vehicles on Main Street. The team considered a system of modular signs depending on the types of signs the organization might need, such as the primary sign at the front entrance or smaller programmatic ones. In terms of typography, the current typeface that Project Horseshoe Farm uses was tested, as well as the program’s logo. The team also researched typefaces that were previously found in the old cornice of the building (when it was a hotel) and the threshold plate at the front entrance of the building.

After meeting with PHF’s Director, Dr. Dorsey, and Sarah Hallmark, the Assistant Director, the team’s designs were narrowed down to three possibilities, all in either a cream or white background. Since the windows and the base of the building will be painted white, like in the mock up image above, they are considering a white background. Stay tuned for the final decision!

Detailing, Editing, and Writing

Now that the details for the porch cladding have been resolved, we moved our attention to detailing the door opening. While working through the details we studied the doors in the rest of the hotel, and in our imediate surrounding, particularly the triming and how other doors that have trasom windows, have been adressed. In order to design something that fits with the language of the cladding, but also works with the language of the door.

Zoom call, Pdf detail drawing of bench in background

As is the norm now, the team has had weekly meetings with Andrew and Steve to talk about details and design or book progreess. And from time to time we get to talk with Dr. Dorsey, Director of Project Horseshoe Farm, and our client or consultants such as David Kennedy, about our heavy timber bench.

Sneak Peak of a draft! While working remotely the team has started working on the book, which is an in depth documentation of the design and construction process.