springsemester

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

I Once Was Lost But Now I’m Mound

The last couple of weeks have been busy for the Moundville Pavilion team, with the revolving door of visiting guest reviewers, a mock-up, and structural meetings.

Looking Up!

With the arrival of our pool tarp material, it was time to utilize the partially built pavilion and to mock-up the ceiling form. With the help of our fellow 5th-year Hailey Osborne, we made quick work of the mock-up which ultimately provided some much-needed perspective on the experiential quality of the proposed form. Seeing the slightly dull material for the underside of the pavilion confirmed the team’s desire for a more reflective surface that will blend the pavilion in with the surrounding environment.

Stood Up!

With the continuation of our meetings with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, the design began to evolve with the structural needs of the pavilion. Replacing the columns meant the opportunity to question the design of the columns, including their connection to the trusses as well as the ground. The first decision the team made was moving from a 3-ply system to a 5-ply system, causing the columns to widen and subsequently blend more with the surrounding tree trunks.

Team members mocking up a 5-ply column.

Secondly, the team decided it was important to make all of the columns vertical, contrasting with the previous design that incorporated angled bracing members. This vertical design provides a more porous plan from covered to uncovered areas and takes away the provisional nature of the diagonals. By taking out the original A and V column system, the necessary lateral stability was absorbed into the roof form, enlarged footings, and stiffer columns.

Meet Up!

Over the previous weeks, Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker (from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS), and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY) spent time discussing and providing constructive insight on the design. Duvall Decker helped the team think about the connection points of the columns and their constructability. This conversation led the team to develop a steel connection between each truss and column that allows for less risk of misalignment.

The team created a drawing exploring the new column-to-truss connection.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien zoomed out from the details and urged the team to strengthen the conceptual ideas of the project. This clarified the goals for the design and propelled the team forward with confidence in the direction the design was headed. We left ourselves with one question: How can you be of the surrounding landscape, without being the surrounding landscape?

The Mounds Are Calling and We Must Go

Meetings with Joe

Reporting from Hale County, the Moundville Pavilion 5th-year student team members—tasked with designing and building a pavilion and surrounding landscape on a historic Native American settlement site—are back after a restful holiday season and are ready to roll. While we were away, the team met with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, via Zoom and assessed the integrity of the existing pavilion structure. Due to the structure being left alone for so long and not being a fully tied system, the current columns and steel plate connections need to be replaced with a more robust design. Joe shared his plan for replacing the columns and plates and led the team to start developing new dimensioned drawings to work from.

Zooming in, Zooming out

Once we all got back to Hale County, the team started digging deeper with a more zoomed-in approach to designing. This led to creating new detailed drawings, playing with furniture design, and rendering a 3D model to play with materials in a more accurate way. The detailed drawings include the edge condition and the exploration of an outdoor suspended ceiling plane that mitigates the current misalignment of the bottom ridge of the trusses. The ceiling material should be something that reflects the surrounding landscape while also helping to bounce light into the space underneath.

section detail of edge conditon
The students created a section drawing exploring dropped ceiling detail.

“Neckdown” Week!

To kick off the Spring semester the Studio had its traditional “Neckdown” Week, in which students, staff, and faculty worked together in an intensive volunteer week, tackling small projects across the county. The team had a group of helpers out on site moving plywood off of the scaffolding to prepare for upcoming mock-ups and construction. Some pieces were no longer usable due to water damage, but we managed to save 63 pieces for future use. A huge shout out to the 3rd-years and our fellow 5th-year Daniel Burton for helping us!

Next up (literally): A ceiling mock-up on site to test out the proposed ceiling material.

+ January views around Hale County!

A Bittersweet End to the Inaugural Cabinet Class

plan perspective of Ophelia's Home focusing on millwork
plan perspective of the millwork in 20K Ophelia’s Home

The spring semester has come to the end, and what a wild four months it has been! At first, the Cabinet Class endeavored on a new adventure into the land of CNC routing by setting out to design and fabricate the millwork for 20K Ophelia’s Home.  Typically, the 20K Home is outfitted with off-the-shelf cabinetry units for kitchen and bathroom storage from the big box stores, i.e. Lowe’s or IKEA. The quality of the cabinets purchases is usually reflected in what the Studio can afford. To improve durability of these particle board cabinets, we decided to create cabinet designs that would be both more affordable and sturdy. 

Despite all of the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been an exciting semester filled with discovery and empowerment for the Studio as well as the students.  The first half of the semester focued on learning about the CNC router and its accompanied technology. By March, initial design for all of Ophelia’s Home storage was nearly complete, and the students built a physical mockup of their cabinets.

Remote learning, however, began at the end of Spring Break. Yet, the students continued to move toward a final design of storage spaces, which included the kitchen, bathroom, utility room, and bedroom closet storage.  This week, the teams presented a presentation of their final project: a book that explains the context of their cabinetry designs and a stylized guide of instructions on how to build the cabinets.  The class hopes this this books will be used to continue the exploration of millwork when studies resume in Newbern.  Hopefully, the adventure will continue very soon!

Thanks to all those who helped make this class a success, including Dylan & Keith from Wood Studio and John Byler from Dudley Hall’s shop in Auburn.  This semester’s great work would not have been possible without your help!  Most of all, thank you to the Rural Studio 3rd-year students who persevered through tough circumstances.  Great job to all!