It’s a Cover-Up: Cladding the Interior and Exterior

History professor Dick Hudgen’s TMBV Test Buildings Sketch!

Right now the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation team is all about concrete and cypress. They’ve been busy creating and installing the shiplap jointed, 1-1/8″ thick concrete internal thermal mass panels. These panels line the walls of one of the Test Buildings and create the designed cooling and ventilation effects. With Jeff at the helm of formwork building, they’ve completed three out of four panel pouring phases. The panel-making process is separated into phases, so most of the formwork can be used more than once, eliminating waste. Formwork, or molds, are fabricated with precision in the woodshop. The team installed phase 1 before Cory began his journey to Nova Scotia to participate in a residency with McKay-Lions Sweetapple Architects Ltd. Congratulations Cory, we miss you already!

Also on the agenda as of late; exterior finishes! With weather-proofing complete, the team has taken to installing the cladding part of the ventilated cladding system. This system is completed with 8″ and 6″ cypress boards which are protected with Cabot® Bleaching Stain. The stain also helps the wood age consistently in the sun. With Livia cutting and Jeff and Rowe installing, the cypress siding is flying up!

Unseen are the myriad of other little things the team is finishing up such as electrical and grading. The team is keeping the momentum up so stay tuned to see the buildings fully wrapped!

Panel Production

Panel pouring process: Mix concrete, fill form, transfer to vibrating table, trowel, and finish!

Cypress Siding

The Reverend’s Home

When I began this journal, I made my intent clear. The aim of this log was to accurately document the efforts of Rev. Walker’s Home team from start to finish, from render to reality. I have come to cherish this opportunity to reflect and recount to a wide audience, and make our story is known. Looking back on every success, failure, hardship, triumph, and moment of comradery of my crew has further endeared me to my time as their captain. It is truly bittersweet to say then, dear reader, that this will be my last entry.

Work on Rev. Walker’s (Reggie) Home concluded on the 27th of September, in the early afternoon of a cool Fall day. With great fanfare, cheers, and tears, my crew will disband and embarked on new adventures. Reggie and I will continue to sail this ship for as far as she will take us. I digress, dear reader, my task is yet complete. I will now give an account of the completion of Rev. Walker’s Home. As per tradition, I will offer a description of the current state of the county to provide a context to place the actions of my crew.

To the delight of every soul in Hale County, the seasons have turned. The languid heat of summer has been replaced by a refreshing breeze. This is the only time of the year when the air is your friend around here. Another summer endured, and the feeling of change in the air, the Studio staff and students enjoyed a new burst of energy. In this encouraging atmosphere, my crew set about finish work. The tasks included painting, trimming, flooring, cabinetry, finish plumbing, finish electrical, installing screen doors, and cleaning up for the project opening.


Of course, a properly finished home needs a splash of paint. The shape of the interior of Rev. Walker’s Home made it a long process. Everything that was painted got a coat of primer and two coats of finish paint. Originally, the plan was to give everything a white coat, however, five gallons of a cream color were accidentally purchased. We ran with it and concluded that it was a happy accident. We feel that the result is an interior that feels warm and house-like.

Plywood Walls

The interior of the home uses birch plywood selectively. The two sides of the galley kitchen are plywood, implying the ability to mount things to it, whether that be hooks, shelves, or additional cabinets. The wall dividing living space from core space is also finished in birch plywood to further emphasize the core volume. Knowing that walls are often not straight, making it difficult to align the sheets of plywood, we used a plunge-saw on a track to get precise cuts. The saw allowed us to whittle sheets down to fit perfectly into their designated spaces. The sheets are fastened with pneumatic-driven finish nails.


The floor in Rev. Walker’s Home is a cold-welded rubber system, kindly donated to our project by Interface®. Commonly found in commercial and institutional settings, this floor is robust and watertight. We found the flat quality of the material was preferable to the highly textured aesthetic of more traditional floor systems. We got this done in a day.


With painting concluded (I use the word concluded lightly), we could move forward with other tasks like trim work. Baseboards, window and door trim, and kitchen wall trim were all done out of cypress boards. We were planning on painting these but ended up liking the look of the cypress and decided on a stain. We don’t have any photographic evidence of us doing this but I can assure you we did. Here’s some finish shots of the interior trim.

Also Paul Did This

House Warming

With all of this done, plus a thousand other odds and ends, we swept and mopped the home, and left feeling satisfied and ready for the project opening. We held a housewarming party for Reggie the following afternoon. Rural Studio staff and students, families of the team, and friends of Reggie were in attendance. It was a joy to be able to celebrate Reggie and his new home, and to have an opportunity to offer our thanks to everyone who made the project possible. Seeing the porches come alive for the first time was an amazing moment.

big roof coming in handy

Rev. Walker’s Home

We hope you love the place, Reggie. (We know you read this.)

A Fond Farewell

In 13 months, a home was designed, a slab poured, a large roof built overhead, and a living space made underneath. However, this is not the end of a story. Rev. Walker’s Home will continue to adapt to the needs and wishes of the client. Given enough time, we expect it will scarcely resemble its current form. For many, the idea of one’s conception becoming another thing over time is frightening. For us, it is the source of excitement that led us on this journey.

If cats could cry, I would be while writing this. Our endeavor was not modest, dear reader, nor our obstacles small. It would take a good team and a charismatic leader to be a success. My crew joined this expedition as fresh as they come. In the beginning, I led with a strict paw. Over time, they earned my trust, leaving me more time for napping. They depart now as confident and skilled sailors out to make names for themselves on the high seas. I suspect that many other great adventures await them, so keep an eye out.

As for me, I have elected to continue my journey with Reggie. I have found this new home an excellent place for laying about, and intend to do so for as long as I can. I’ll be sure to keep a close eye on Reggie and that confounded dog he keeps around. When the time comes to modify the house, I will resume my position as a swift delegator and fierce captain once again. Alas, dear reader, my crew demands a portrait and I must oblige them. This will be my final entry, until our next adventure.

Yours fondly,

Captain Taterhead

Hello, Goodbye

Rural Studio Farm is a small-scale, organic vegetable production farm run by our farm manager, Eric Ball, who relies on the labor of each and every Rural Studio student who passes through the program. Each year, two new 5th-year students are hired part time to work alongside Eric in co-managing the farm’s operations.

Eric poses with two student workers

With the beginning of a new academic year, it means we must say goodbye to our two former farm workers: Cory Subasic and Madeline Ray. Madeline and Cory were both diligent and hard-working students who, together, managed the operations of the farm and acted as leaders to the other students for several months while our farm manager, Eric, was away on parental leave. Cory, who worked on the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project has since taken a fellowship with Brian MacKay-Lyons in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And Madeline is devoting all her time to finishing up work on the Myers’ Home. Their contributions to the farm were essential, and their presence will be greatly missed.

Two new student workers pose in front of the greenhouse
Jackie (L) and Laurel (R)

We are also excited to have two Project Horseshoe Farm fellows working with us on the farm as part of their community engagement. This will be Maggie Rosenthal’s second year working at Rural Studio Farm, and we welcome Diana Omenge to Hale County!

Freear Elected Into the National Academy of Design

Rural Studio Director Andrew Freear has been selected as a member of the National Academy of Design in recognition of his contributions to arts and architecture.

As the oldest artist-run organization in the United States, the National Academy of Design advocates for the value of arts and architecture. Since their founding in 1825, nearly 2,400 members have been elected. Freear joins more than 400 living members, including architects Marlon Blackwell, Elizabeth Diller, Billie Tsien, Tod Williams, David Adjaye, and Renzo Piano, as well as artists Richard Serra, Robert Irwin, Yoko Ono, and Claes Oldenburg. He is the only architect elected this year along with seven visual artists. He will be inducted as a National Academician in October at a ceremony in New York.

Meet all of the newly elected National Academicians here, including Andrew Freear and artists Joanne Greenbaum, Peter Halley, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Joanna Pousette-Dart, and Gary Simmons.

Andrew Freear sitting in Newbern Firehouse

On behalf of Auburn University and Rural Studio, I am very proud to receive this honor, particularly given the roll call of academicians and the history of the National Academy of Design. This truly acknowledges and legitimizes the quality of the design work that Rural Studio has undertaken in our rural community over the last 30 years.

Read the full press release here.

Photo by Rob Culpepper

Another Day, Another Pole Barn

3rd-Years Study 20K Homes and Post-Frame Construction

This week, Laura, Peter, Emily, and Chelsea jumped straight in to researching their semester’s housing project, which will focus on post-frame construction. To familiarize themselves with Rural Studio’s housing studies, the 3rd-year team toured past 20K projects and attended a presentation from the Myers’ Home team and Rev. Walker’s Home team. In their presentation, the students described the detailed post-frame housing analysis they conducted last year during their design development.

After this preliminary research, the 3rd-years began to study how 20K Product Line Homes might fit under a pole barn structure. Using Rev. Walker’s Home’s pole barn size as a base, Laura and Peter diagrammed different layout possibilities for Dave’s, Mac’s, and Joanne’s Homes set within a pole barn shell. These quick studies provided valuable insight into scale, orientation, and 20K concepts. Next, 3rd-year will visit their client’s site and apply their plans and sections to a real place. Even with only two 3rd-year students, they were able to fill the entire studio wall with their drawings!

Dan Wheeler’s Sketch Workshop

The students took a break from studio work for a day and participated in Dan Wheeler’s sketching workshop for both the 5th and 3rd-year students. During the workshop, students wandered around Morrissette Campus, capturing the beauty of built objects and the landscape. Dan taught how to properly sketch in one and two-point perspective, capturing both wide views and close details.

First Week of Electives

Although studio has been in full effect, the woodshop and history classes have just begun. Their professor, Steve Long, began woodshop class by teaching the 3rd-years proper tool safety and PPE for the shop. Steve then tasked them with making a cutting board to help them get them more comfortable with using the table saw, planer, and jointer.

Each week, history professor, Dick Hudgens, takes the 3rd-Years on field trips to historic buildings in the surrounding area. During these house museum tours, Dick shares the history and construction details of each building and site. Not only do they learn the history of the buildings through tours, but the students also sketch the buildings to understand them better.