stairs

Don’t Be Stair-tled By A Review

Hey, Hi, Hello, and welcome back to the Patriece’s Home blog! Since the last blog post, the team has been busy preparing drawings for the 5th-years Executive Review (informally know as “stress test”) with Justin Miller, Associate Professor and new Head of Auburn’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and Rusty Smith, Associate Director of Rural Studio. The annual stress test examines each project’s potential and feasibility to continue into the summer.

In preparation, the latest designs were drawn with a greater degree of detail. (No more pochéd walls, folks!) And with the site now surveyed, the team began studying the position of the house in the surrounding landscape, focusing on forming comfortable, shaded exterior rooms.

The reviewers challenged the team to examine and test the design’s passive heating and cooling systems. The team was also asked to address potential foundation challenges; with a eaveless house design, water may collect at the base of the wall and undermine the strength of the building’s ground connection.

After a unanimous thumbs-up from their reviewers, Patriece’s Home team has moved forward drawing plumbing, electrical, and lighting plans. They hope to soon order their manufactured attic trusses. The 6’ space the doubled-up trusses straddling the stairs created has facilitated a double-height celebratory space. To highlight and delight in the space, the team has also decided to clad it with a hardier, more durable wood material. 

The team ended the intense week of preparation and reviews with a model-stand building workshop with a group of visiting 1st-year Auburn architecture students. Everyone enjoyed getting out of Red Barn, working with fellow architecture students, and reminiscing about the old days at Dudley Hall.

Andrew Freear gives a lecture to the first years under the Great Hall at the Morrissette campus.

The team still has lots more to do! They are now drawing their most difficult details and combining them into a plan for a 1:1 mock up. They will also begin soil testing and prepare the site to build the home’s foundation! Onward and upward! Check back in a couple weeks to see how far the team gets on their 1:1 mock-up!

A Site in Site

The Patriece’s Home team continues to present, question, revise, and present again their designs and research for an adaptable, two-story home. Visiting architects from across the country helped the team see opportunities to make an even better design!

The team decided to keep a defined room for living on the first floor that is open to the entryway and kitchen. This led to establishing two closed off rooms upstairs for bedrooms and an open space at the top of the stairs for more nuanced uses. For example, a desk could make it a study or office space, or a twin bed could turn it into a fifth bedroom. The team also realized that there is a 6-foot tributary area between the doubled-up trusses for the stairs, so they widened the dormer so that the open space can benefit from its light and the nook it creates.

However, when the team mocked up the dormer flashing detail, they began to question whether the benefits of the dormer could be achieved without the complexities created by breaking the roof plane.

That’s when help arrived from Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburgh of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CS), both based in Chicago, IL. Mike suggested using a skylight to bring light upstairs without breaking the line of the roof. Katrina also suggested the team spend more time looking closer at the kitchenette and entryway to add opportunities for more storage in this home’s tight design. The visitors stayed a second day to host a mini workshop with the team and mock-up the skylight and storage. The outcome was the idea of having the skylight and window next to each other on the second floor—one for light and the other for framing the view as someone ascends the stairs.

Immediately after Mike and Katrina left, the team began preparing for the Studio’s go-to guy for masterful details, Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL, “Detail Dan”. The team showed him 1:1 detail drawings for the dormer and skylights, then drawings on how those changes might affect the cladding strategies for the house. They also discussed possible ways the interior stairs can be finished with a heftier material to show their significance to the home and to combat wear on this heavily used surface. Dan reviewed the team’s eave details and gave advice about the construction and expression of home’s exterior. Dan also suggested that the team streamline their window strategy by using the same few windows throughout the home, aggregating them in different ways to create repeatable details.

After all this helpful discussion, the team concluded that a low, wide window without a dormer already gives the upstairs significant light and excellent sitting views in the nook space.

As an appreciated change of pace, the team lugged out their equipment and spent a day surveying their home’s site! They found out that the slopes drain well and that it is located on a road with lots of other houses nearby (good for the corner porch and a gable end approach).

Now there’s always more to do for the upcoming Executive Review in mid-March! We will get see where the home is best placed on the site and how the team is designing the foundation. They will keep drawing those 1:1 details and fine tuning the home’s systems to get the house to its best thermal performance come summer or winter! Thanks for the read, and come back soon!

three students pose in front of their drawings pinned up for review

Where Do We Stair-t?

Patriece’s Home team was busy over their winter break continuing to work on their adaptable, two-story house intended for multi-generational residents. With some insightful feedback from Soup Roast, Rural Studio’s final fall review event, the design has been rigorously refined and tested over the past month to make the home more easily adaptable. The laundry room in the house now has two potential locations, so it is accessible whether the home is used as one unit or two. The team has also begun drawing the home’s interior elevations to evaluate how comfortable the rooms are to live in, to determine the exact best placement of windows, and discover opportunities for storage in underutilized spaces. 

They have also gotten an early jump on engineering their attic trusses. The team’s design will use an existing bearing wall to decrease the lumber size of the trusses’ bottom chord.

Additionally, the team has begun drawing their construction documents and developing a slight roof overhang to protect the home’s windows from the wash of roof water. 

Last week the group had a review with John Forney, an architect and friend of the Studio based out of Birmingham, AL, that allowed them to prove that their research is relevant by using “scenario buffering” to scheme all of the possible adaptations for this house. 

In the next couple of weeks, the team will also make decisions on materials to begin drawings their details. They plan to meet with their client Patrice to learn how this home might actually be lived in and placed on the site. The team can’t wait!

Also, due to the upcoming weekly guest reviews, February will be full of old friends of the Studio as well as new faces! We’re excited to see everyone!

Ingredients for Stair Soup

Patriece’s Home has been diligently refining their plans (and sections and perspectives) to decide what scheme of a closable adaptable unit in a home works best. The team affectionately renamed their shotgun scheme to the “Hotdog” and the wrapping scheme to the “Hamburger,” and it was apparent before reviews began that the Hamburger scheme is what the team wants to continue with! 

The Hamburger has a corner porch that is an easier approach to place on a variety of sites while also condensing its main circulation in one path through the home’s center. The team has also taken the Myers’ Home team’s approach to rooms without names and applied it to their own definition of adaptability. Now the team is designing rooms that change names, so some living and bedrooms that are easy to rearrange without demolition or constructing immovable fixtures are designed so they can comfortably flip their program as the homeowner needs. 

A plan view of the team's hamburger scheme shows landscaping leading to a gable end approach. A closed door in the center of the plan shows the ground floor can be separated into two halves.

On the Tuesday of Soup Roast, the reviewers discussed the nuances of how the home will be used and pointed out to the team where their project could use some development. And to be even more helpful, the reviewers stayed in Newbern to do a workshop with the team. They got into the details of how eaves (or no eaves) could be detailed, the successes of the dormer, and encourage the team to get a closer view of their design by drawing all the interior elevations of the building. 

As the team continues to work through the Christmas break, come back in 2022 to see them jump into finer details of the project!

Free the Stairs!

Since Halloween Reviews, the 5th-year students designing Patriece’s Home have shifted their design focus of the extra unit within the home. The team is now exploring pushing the larger of the two units to the second floor.

But how would the home function if one family is using all of the spaces? With a helpful review from visiting architect and Rural Studio alum, Amanda Loper, from David Baker Architects, the team is cooking up two schemes that divide the first floor but keep the laundry shared. One scheme is a long shotgun unit and the other is a wider wrapping unit.

The strategy to keep spaces separate frees the stairs to be wholly used by the users living on the second floor. Next, the team will investigate opportunities and challenges of an open staircase in the home, including light, ventilation, storage, user experience, and (potentially) a dormer.

Vignettes of sixteen ways that stairs can be used other than circulation.

The team continues to cook these various schemes and analyze the connection of the interior to exterior porches. Keep watching out for Patriece’s Home team to see what these ideas bake into!

An arial photo of the four team members working at their desks in Red Barn.