Blog

Eat, Drink, and Get Soup-Roasted!

Welcome back to the latest edition of the Rural Studio Bathhouse blog!

During the week before Thanksgiving, we welcomed Ann Marie Duvall Decker and Shannon Gathings from Duvall Decker Architects out of Jackson, Mississippi. They presented some of the amazing work they are doing and were an excellent help in providing meaningful feedback of our project. They really challenged us to think about the formal and sectional qualities of our building.

After Thanksgiving, we were hard at work preparing for Soup Roast. We prepared two, 2-bar schemes that explored the different placement options for the kitchen/dining space and the bathhouse, attached to a central accessible maintenance core. Both schemes consider the design of the entry sequence into the Supershed and leave a bay of the Supershed open next to the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project pods for a possible future pod. More sectional ideas for the projects were explored as well, as one scheme looked at using a butterfly roof and the other looked at using a system of skylights. 

The team produced drawings for both schemes and made a full-scale painted out mock-up of one of the iterations to fully understand the spaces.

Drawing boards pinned to wall
The Soup Roast boards showing the two schemes

At Soup Roast, we welcomed back to Hale County some of our old friends, Kim Clements and Joe Schneider from J.A.S. Design Build and Jake LaBarre from Miller Hull in Seattle. We also welcomed Jim Adamson, Mike Freeman, Nicole Abercrombie, and Will McGarity, into the fold of our project. With the reviewers having an abundance of expertise in many different areas, the team was pleased to receive tons of excellent feedback.

Students and reviewers walk around site
The students and reviewers walked around the full-scale mock-up to understand the proposed spaces

After the roasting portion of the day was completed, the team was happy to get to relax and enjoy some delicious soup with friends and visitors!

One of the biggest concerns raised during the review, was the scale and scope of the project. The team spent the day after the review charretting through several ideas on how to reduce the overall size of our project. We have begun working on eliminating extra spaces within the plans and has also investigated the possibility of reusing existing structures on site to reduce the scope of the project. This will continue to be explored in the upcoming weeks as the team looks to settle in on a solution.

students present as reviewers watch
A final presentation of our ideas after the Soup Roast charrette

As this is being written, the team has left Hale County for winter break. This does not mean that the project is on pause. While we are not all together, we are still meeting online and working hard to continue the design process. 

Thank you so much for reading about our project and following along with us. We hope that everyone has a great holiday season, and we cannot wait to show our progress in the new year!

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team 

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan

2022 Soup Roast

Rural Studio’s Fall semester culminates in the annual Soup Roast, which is typically attended by longtime consultants Jersey Devil’s design/build legend Jim Adamson, and the Seattle crew: Jake LaBarre from Miller Hull and J.A.S. Design Build principals Kim Clements and Joe Schneider. This year, we also were joined by Mike Freeman and Nicole Abercrombie (both from J.A.S.), as well as Auburn faculty and Rural Studio alumnus Will McGarity and our Front Porch Initiative team, Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, Betsy Farrell Garcia. Together they critiqued the work of our 5th-year students with good humor and a fun spirit, despite the unpredictable West Alabama weather. This time was also used to celebrate the progress made by Fall semester 3rd-years on their project, Rosie’s Home, as well as their History and Woodshop class projects. We capped off Soup Roast Review (Day One) with a hot bowl of soup, bonfires, and Hale County tea.

A new tradition, Soup Roast Day Two, gave us a chance to workshop and charrette ideas from the previous day’s reviews with our 5th-year teams and visitors. Afterwards, Jake, Jim, and Mike each inspired students with brief lectures drawn from their own work. And finally, we were treated to a very special dinner created by Kim Clements and another friend from Seattle, Courtney Aguirre, using lots of Rural Studio Farm produce.

Cheers to another semester designing and building in West Alabama. We couldn’t do it without all of our supporters. Thank you!

The 4th Month: 3rd-Year Edition

As the 3rd-year class moves into the end of the semester we’re working hard on our projects to finish strong in 2022. The Rosie’s Home team compiled construction document sets and began framing the roof. In the Woodshop, 3rd-years started final cabinet construction and drew up storyboards to help hand the project over to next semester’s 3rd-year class. Finally, our History Seminar wrapped up with one big final field trip to Columbus, Mississippi, to see some incredible houses of the Federalist and Greek Revival styles.

On Site Happenings

Things have been moving quickly on site at Rosie’s Home. Since raising the ridge beam, we began framing the rest of the roof. This started with the installation of the rafters at the correct pitch.

3rd-year students attach the roof rafters to the ridge beam

While a team on the ground carefully measured and cut each rafter, another team climbed the scaffolding to secure each rafter into place until hurricane ties can be attached. As the rafters went up, the form of the house really began to take shape!

Once all the rafters were raised, we constructed the large tension members that span across the home. These were partly assembled on the ground and lifted up to the scaffolding to be fit in place.

3rd-year Students assemble the roof rafters in the middle bays of the house

Once fitted, the final pieces of each joist were nailed into place. While these teams were constructing the roof, others were working on the house’s enclosure assembly. We began by cutting away the ZIP sheathing where it covered the doors and windows.

Completed Zip Sheathing under the pole Barn

Once all the rough openings were cut, we taped up all the seams and holes in the ZIP to ensure it stays waterproof. In our last week on site, we also prepared our presentation for Rural Studio’s annual Soup Roast!

This included a final review of all our construction documents with our professors and planning out our final presentation at the site.

Woodshop Wrap-Up

In the Woodshop, we began construction of Rosie’s cabinets. We began by organizing and preparing all of the pieces to be cut. This included a number of templates and cut sheets that ensured uniformity across all of our cabinets. Once all the prep work was done, it was all hands on deck!

We worked methodically to cut, plane, sand, and assemble. In our last days, we gathered and packaged all the unassembled pieces to hand off to next semester’s team of 3rd-year students.

Students begin to understand how to assemble the cabinet faces

Along with the pieces for assembly, we created detailed sets of construction documents and a storyboard so that next semester’s team can quickly and easily pick up where we left off. 

Students presenting at review

The Last History Class 

Our final class for our History Seminar was a day-long field trip to Columbus, Mississippi! We set out from Newbern early in the morning.

The day began at Riverview, where we had the opportunity to talk to the home’s owner, who had an expansive collection of period-accurate, mid1800s furniture and decorations.

The Exterior of Riverview

Riverview is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival mansion’s in the South. It was constructed in the early 1850s, and one of its most striking features is a cupola filled with colorful stained glass.

The Spiral Staircase to the Cupola at Riverview

After Riverview, we stopped for a barbecue lunch at The Little Dooey and made our way to the beautiful Temple Heights mansion. We spent time touring the grounds and drawing elevations.

Temple Heights Exterior

The Greek Revival mansion sits on a beautiful, lush plot that we all enjoyed relaxing on. Finally, we stopped at the Waverly Mansion. The mansion had recently undergone a large restoration and expansion, which created an immersive experience as we toured the estate.

Waverly Mansion Front lawn and exterior

The Mansion has a breathtaking atrium that travels the entirety of its four floors!

We ended the day with a dinner at Harvey’s Restaurant with our professor and said goodbye to the class for the semester.

Soup Roast

Our final event of the semester was Rural Studio’s annual Soup Roast! Attendees visited each of the Studio’s current projects and watched presentations from their teams. These included a presentation from the 3rd-year students at Rosie’s Home.

students presenting on site

We pinned up all of our work from the semester on site, and visiting reviewers provided feedback on the project. This critique will carry over and help Spring semester’s 3rd-years get started on the project. At the end of the day the studio gathered for a hearty soup meal.

Awards were given out for last month’s Beaux Arts watercolors and the site sketchbooks we had been keeping. Jenna took home the award for best watercolor, and Amanda took home the honor of best sketchbook!

student paintings on a table at Soup Roast

We’ve all enjoyed our semester at Rural Studio! We faced a number of challenges, ranging from extreme weather to smelly roadkill, but we faced them all with determination and a passion for what we do. Our time in Newbern has taught us many skills that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful.

Group Photo of students teachers and clients

Until next time, Hale County!

Stair-ting to Come Together

For the last few months, the18x18 House team has been refining their narrative and finally settled on their core criteria:

To be marketable as an urban house, an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) and a rural house, the 18×18 must be dignifyingadaptableefficient, and flippable.

The team was given a potential Nashville site by a developer working with the Front Porch Initiative just in time to be visited by Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Shannon Gathings from Duvall Decker in Jackson, MS. They were able to help the team analyze the implications of the Nashville policy that causes affordable housing to be placed in the area usually reserved for parking. They also worked with the team to explore ways to bring beauty and dignity to these places when aggregating 18×18 houses.

While the team had started out exploring dozens of plans, refining the priorities was a big step that made it easier to determine which schemes stood out as the most successful. So, for Soup Roast, the team prepared drawings of their two favorite schemes: The first was a scheme that used a 90-degree stair with a short run at the bottom. The team worked at stacking plumbing fixtures vertically against an exterior wall and named this scheme The Bar.

The second and favorite scheme was named Short Run Above – this scheme used a modified switchback stair with the shorter run of the stairs landing on the second floor. The team liked this scheme because of how generous the spaces were in the plan whether it was ‘flipped’ or not, and for the variety they could get when modifying it slightly with lofts, powder rooms, or other additional program without changing the nature of the layout. These qualities made it the obvious choice to present to the Soup Roast reviewers as the one to move forward with.

Soup Roast brought the return of Seattle visitors, Jake LaBarre, Kim Clements, and Joe Schneider since they first joined the team back during workshops. The Front Porch Initiative team also returned for the reviews. As returning visitors, they were all able to assess how far the project had come since the initial start and were able to give the team some much needed perspective. Along with the returning visitors, others in attendance were Mike Freeman and Nicole Abercrombie (J.A.S.), as well as Will McGarity (Auburn faculty).

During the review the team was encouraged to challenge the way they think about furniture and layouts. They were also encouraged to start getting into some of the details of the stair as a structural member and/or any possible built-ins. The next day they put these ideas to the test with a charrette where the team considered developing a ‘standard’ version of the plan which they could use to delve into structural details.

Now Christmas break has started, but the team has not stopped. They’ll be taking the first stabs at structural drawings and other finer details of the 18×18 House. Come back in 2023 to see what happens next!

The 3rd Month: 3rd-Year Edition

As the semester is beginning to wind down, the 3rd-year class has been very busy! We worked hard to finalize drawings and begin construction for Rosie’s Home. In our Woodshop Class, we spent lots of time in the shop finalizing ideas with our mock-up and getting started on Rosie’s kitchen cabinets. With our history seminar ending, we finished up our watercolors and visited some of our final houses.

Rosie’s Home

Since our last post, Rosie’s House has made a lot of progress. At the Halloween Reviews, visiting architects came to critique and help improve our design. It was not all business though, everyone came dressed up in their Halloween costumes (even the reviewers)!

With Halloween Reviews over and designs complete, we were ready to begin construction! We started construction by re-framing some of the exterior walls, windows, and doors. After the walls were nailed together, we raised and set them in place.

After our walls were up, we began to measure and place our ZIP System sheathing. The sheathing helped brace our walls to keep them nice and square during construction.

With our walls up and sheathing in place, we then turned our attention to the ceiling! First, we set up temporary supports to lift up our ridge beam. Next, we climbed up the scaffolding to nail the ridge pieces together. Soon the ceiling will be completely framed!

Woodshop Class

During our first week back from Fall break, we spent each night in the Woodshop cutting pieces, making jigs, and gluing and assembling to have our cabinet mock-up done by the following week. Our mock-up consisted of three drawers and two shelves. We divided up jobs and worked together to make the construction process go as quickly and smoothly as possible.

The following week, we met with our instructors, Steve Long and Judith Seaman, to review our mock-up process and design. From the mock-up, we decided to narrow our focus on the kitchen cabinets for this semester and noted ways to improve our construction process. We revised our drawings and made a weekly schedule to prepare for the final weeks of the semester.

Finally, in the last few weeks, we started by ordering, processing, and organizing our woods and materials. We have been working hard to plan, cut, and begin assembly on Rosie’s final kitchen cabinets. With most of our pieces cut out and three cabinet boxes assembled, we are excited to continue work on some wonderful cabinets for Rosie’s kitchen.

History Class

Recently in history class, we continued to tour historic Antebellum homes every week. Our focus has been shifting from sketching towards our final watercolor. This watercolor is 24″ x 30″ and depicts an elevation of different architectural details.

In October, we had the chance to tour Tasso Plantation in Orrville, AL. This house has an incredibly rare and intact wooden block wallpaper print. This print, “Banks of the Bosphorus,” depicts a panoramic view of minarets and waterways around the entire room.

The next week, we visited Carlisle Hall near Marion, AL. This grand house was designed by Richard Upjohn in the asymmetrical Italianate style.

The following week, we visited Old Cahawba, AL. On the site, some buildings remain of the abandoned town and foundations outline where others once stood. Outlined in steel is the original courthouse that once stood at the center of town. Rural Studio students disassembled and moved St. Luke’s Church back in the park many years ago.

We also visited Thornhill Plantation in Forkland, AL. This Greek revival house was once one of the largest plantations in the area. It sits atop a hill with 360-degree views of the property.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog to see our final class field trip to Mississippi!