Horseshoe Courtyard

The Wall is Up, and the Bricks are Down

The Horseshoe Courtyard project team is putting the final touches on the amazing outdoor space! Recently, they’ve poured the concrete entry wall, completed the brick pad, and began prepping the timber benches.

A couple of weeks ago, the tallest pour the courtyard team has ever done took place! In preparation for the pour, they carefully assembled all the formwork and secured all the bracing. This bracing prevents the formwork from bulging once the concrete is placed into the formwork. An thus, a 9′ x 5′ 10″ wall came to fruition! The team used the same techniques tested with the mock-up for the wall. The only differences from the trial run being the rebar reinforcement and the chamfered edges. The 5th-years, as well as Andrew and Steve, helped by filling ad passing buckets of concrete to the top of the wall formwork. Thanks bucket brigade!

Sitting Surfaces

You may remember from the previous post, talk of benches and installations of the legs. Well, here we’ve got the sitting surfaces. The team is using heavy timbers leftover from the Newbern Town Hall project as the bench surface. In the images above, Caleb and Claudia are cutting the wood to 6 ft length which will be sanded, routed, and sealed. Next, they will attach the timber to the quarter-inch plates that make up the structure of the legs. During this time, they also excavated and poured the footing for the last bench!

The Completed Puzzle!

Folks, it is time to cut a rug on the best dance floor in Greensboro! After many, many days working on the brick pad, all bricks have been cleaned, placed, leveled, and sanded!

After placing all the bricks, the team removed the temporary wooden edging. Next, they installed the quarter-inch, galvanized steel edging. Some of the off-the-shelf pieces needed length modification so the team cut and welded them on-site.

After securing a corner at the right level, the team installed the first 16′ piece of metal edging. They adjusted the following legths to alighn with the first piece. The metal was clamped together and staked in placemet at the corners. Scrap wood was used to keep the edging flush against the bricks until backfilled. After all the edging was in place the bricks along the edge were readjusted.

Construction at the courtyard is coming to a close so make sure to stay updated as it nears completion!

Concrete, Concrete, and More Metal

Who said there is such a thing as, “too much concrete”? Definitely not the Horseshoe Courtyard Project team! In the last two weeks, Caleb, Claudia, and the 5th year and Graduate Student helpers poured concrete for the sidewalk extension, wall footing, and the wall mock-up. Oh, the wall? It’s made of concrete. Let’s see how they do it!

In one action-packed afternoon, the team poured the concrete sidewalk extension and the footing for the 9′ concrete entry wall. Both are located at the north end of the courtyard site. Special formwork was made to help keep the footing rebar in place. This rebar extends out of the footing and will be cast inside the wall. Special attention was also paid to the sidewalk extension by giving it a broom finish.

Mock-up # 13: The Concrete Wall

Next up, the thirteenth mock-up. This mock-up tested the finished quality of the concrete for the 9′ wall. The team experimented with how much the concrete needed to be vibrated to create a smooth surface and where to locate seams. It was also important to practice the overall process of making out-of-ground formwork and pouring into it.

Due to the dimensions of a single melamine sheet, a wood composite board with a plastic coating, no single sheet will cover the whole face of the concrete wall. Therefore a couple of options were tested using two, 2′ x 2′ panels. Each panel face tested a different option; single sheet, horizontal seam, vertical seam, and a combination of the two. Silicon sealed the joints and corners and liquid nails connected the different segments of the melamine board together. Once the concrete cured and the forms removed, the team decided horizontal seam would be best.

Only the Corner Left

After removing the formwork for the recent sidewalk extension, the last flat screen on the east side was ready for filling. Caleb, Claudia, and TMBV team members planted three more vines, weaved the rope through, and fastened the corresponding steel cables. The corner screen will be finished, once the concrete sidewalk is fully extended, to avoid trampling the plants in the process.

Spring is Upon Us

In the last couple of weeks, the courtyard has seen new colors pop up! The Carolina Jessamine or Gelsemium sempervirens, one of the two vines planted have started to bud. This week, almost all twenty of the Jessamines have bloomed or have buds that will bloom in the coming days. This beautiful vine blooms twice a year, in the fall and spring; and complements the fragrant white blooms of the Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which will make their appearance in a few weeks!

Benches Coming Together

During Neckdown Week, the team and helpers dug and poured two of the concrete footings for the benches. And last week, the corresponding metal legs for the benches were installed. The team hammer-drilled into the concrete and epoxied the threaded rods into place. The base of the benches will be grouted to the concrete at the correct level once the third bench footing has been poured and hammer-drilled. The benches’ sitting surface consists of two eight-inch square heavy timber cypress, leftover from the Newbern Town Hall project, which will provide durability as well as comfort for the user.

Walkway Capped

Fastening cables to railing end

Finally, the end of the walkway is complete! A new quarter-inch plate was installed into the masonry wall to support the northernmost railing. The process for the installation of the plate was the same as the plates which support the walkway. The main difference being the middle two anchors that extended past the wall plate and attached to the railing aligned with the other railing frame connection point. The corner piece, while singular in its function, follows the same language and rhythm as the rest of the metal. And maintains the two-inch gap in both its connection to the last railing and to the existing ones.

A Little Bit of Everything

The Horseshoe Courtyard Project Team is bringing even more concrete to a blog near you! The team started to dig the footing for the concrete wall at the North end of the site. And, without fail, they ran into more old, buried brick and concrete foundations. Of course they also found dead metal pipes.

These foundations are from the old structures that used to occupy the site. Nevertheless, that did not stop the team from digging the footing to the right depth. They smashed the foundation remnants while carefully avoiding breaking the waterlines.

Snow in Hale?

As much of the country experienced frigid temperatures last week, so did Greensboro, AL. Last Tuesday night, the site was blanketed with a thin layer of snow! Thankfully there was no damage to the project. Just these snowy pictures of the Horseshoe Courtyard.

One Corner Left!

The end of the bricklaying is approaching! The team only has the northwest corner of the brick pad to finish. At the moment, the bricks on the west side reach past the grinder pump, once some plumbing work gets squared away, the remaining bricks can be placed and sanded. After that, all that’s left for the pad is the metal edging, which is already on-site, ready to be installed!

Students laying bricks on sad

A Continuous Railing

For most of the elevated walkway, there are metal frames that serve as railings, with cables spaced out every two inches. However, on the south end of the walkway, the team perforated the back half of the metal screens, to allow the screens to double as railings. The cables span the same length as a railing, meaning one set of cables covers two of the screens.

When installing the cable in the southernmost point, the team used special masonry anchors that attach to the brick wall. In order to make sure the holes for these anchors were drilled in the correct spot and equidistant, the team used a metal jig. To hold the plate jig in the correct spot while drilling, the team screwed some blocking pieces into the masonry wall. Once the perforation holes were cleared of debris, the anchors were tapped into the wall and the hardware piece that holds the cable in place could be attached. And lastly, after cutting the cables to length, they were tensioned with the fastener that attached to the screens.

Out of sight, Out of Mind

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog for a while, this infamous grinder pump cover has come up for months now. And you are probably curious as to what all the fuss is about. Well, here you have it!

In the last post, the metal frame was seen installed in place. Most recently, the “tabs” that are held up by the threaded rods were attached, and the cover lifted into place. In the images above the process of this installation is seen.

First, the metal plate tabs were placed at the correct height and held in place with a nut and washer, while tack welded in place. Second, the washer and nut were removed, and the excess threaded rod ground off, and the plate fully welded to fill the gap. Third, the surface of the plate was ground smooth and clean. Fourth, the remaining debris was cleaned off and the welds covered with spray paint. Last but not least, the team and friends placed the cover once the paint has dried!

Another Brick in the Pad

New year, new faces! Throughout the Fall semester, the 5th-year, 3rd-year, and graduate students leant helping hands to the Horseshoe Courtyard Team. Spring semester Neckdown week introduced the team to new 3rd-year students. Check out their blog ( 20k Ophelia’s Home) to meet them all! Tasks for Neckdown week at Horseshoe Courtyard included pouring concrete bench footings, cleaning up the site, expanding the brick pad, and sheathing the porch walls.

Since the weather was so great mid-week, the team was able to break up the pours into different days. The next step for the benches is drilling and installing threaded rods into the concrete. The threaded rod will attach to the steel structure which holds the bench seats.

Less Puzzling, More Sanding

The brick pad keeps growing by the day! It’s reached the grinder pump. This allowed the team to install the grinder pump cover structure and infill around it with sand and custom bricks.

In the last few weeks, the team has been keeping track of how “straight” the bricks are being laid. To do this the team pulls string lines to create grids or guides that ensure the bricks are not way out of square by the time the bricks reach the last corner. This sometimes meant going back and straightening some of the already sanded bricks, and choosing which lines to prioritize since these are beautiful but imperfect bricks.

Sheathing the Porch

image of porch with plywood walls
(For the moment being please disregard the rope strands hanging past the screens, will soon be trimmed!)

During Neckdown, the team and helpers added plywood to the porch stud walls. The plywood will be where the exterior gypsum attaches. There will be a set of doors, and a transom window installed on the East side of the porch ( image on the left). The doors will directly connect the interior of the building with the porch, and bring some natural light into the main hallway of the building.

The Biggest Puzzle in Hale County

Exciting times at the Horseshoe Courtyard, after cleaning nearly 4,000 bricks, the brick pad is finally coming to life! The team and their helpers began laying bricks to create an intricate, hard surface in the main courtyard space.

Begining corner of brick pad

First, the team made a wooden frame of 2″x 6″ lumber staked into the ground which created a perimeter. This perimeter frame acted as a tray for the sand, which built up underneath the bricks. The sand is tamped and leveled, creating an even surface on which to lay the bricks. Also, the frame acts as a guide, keeping the entire pad square.

A Puzzling Pattern

Diagram of brick pattern

After filling small sections of the frame with leveled, tamped sand the bricklaying begins. The team chose a basket weave pattern for the brick pad. However, it was not until all the bricks were cleaned and sorted that the team understood the variety of shades and sizes of the material. How these different bricks filled the pattern added another layer of complexity. The basketweave pattern is made-up of “squares” which contain eight specific bricks of different colors, sizes, and textures.

So, within the designed pattern, the most important rules were aligning the outer edges of the “squares”, keeping gaps between bricks small, and leveling the bricks to the height of the neighboring concrete. Seen above is the final pattern which contains red, brown, burgundy, orange, and grooved bricks. Some are large, some are small, but together they create a dynamic pattern.

As the brick pad kept growing, Dr.Dorsey would stop by and test out the future dance floor. However, when he didn’t dance away quick enough, the Horseshoe Courtyard team put him to work spreading out sand between the finished bricks!

Once the brick pad is complete, metal edging will keep the bricks in place. As mentioned earlier, the brick pad surface will be level to the concrete for seamless access to the main courtyard space. The brick pad is crucial to the flexibility of the courtyard design, giving a hard surface for outdoor activies such as Dr. Dorsey’s dancing.

More Frames

Time for a throwback! Recently, the team picked up the last of their fabricated metal pieces. This included the railing, grinder pump cover, and bench legs. They took all these pieces to be galvanized, after some on-site welding on the grinder pump cover. Keep checking in to see the Horseshoe Courtyard Project continue to transform.