Current Projects

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!

Lofts and Lots of Fun

The 18×18 House team got all dressed up and presented at the Halloween Reviews as cubes: an oven, an ice cube dressed as Ice Cube, a LEGO, and a present.

Their review gave the team some much needed insight into what was working well in their design schemes and how to further improve them. They were pushed by guest reviewers to dive deeper into some of the details and to find the potential “beautiful” qualities of the 18×18 House.

Since then, the team has been pushing the 18×18 House design to its limits by asking: How much more can you get beyond the essential design needs? The team categorized essential and non-essential elements. The next step was to test how small changes to the plans could give way for things like additional storage, additive porches, or sleeping lofts.

At the beginning of November, we were visited by friends of the Studio Frank Harmon (Frank Harmon Architect in Raleigh, NC) and Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL). They pushed the team to explore how the interior layouts and roof shape can facilitate porches and lofts. The team developed concepts showing how the buildings can aggregate and they tested appropriate sizes for the spaces through models and sketches. The loft exploration got the team especially excited about the idea of an upstairs living room and how beautiful the space can be when a sleeping loft pairs with a living-sleeping configuration.

Dan and Frank also led the 5th-years in very special hand-drawing workshop. The students practiced one-point and two-point perspectives and enjoyed a relaxing watercolor session.

After that, the 18×18 House team worked together to mock up ceiling heights downstairs in Red Barn. They tested 7′ 6″ and 8′ ceiling heights to find out the minimum comfortable height for a ground floor bedroom. One failed pulley system later, they decided to mock up only the 7′ 6″ ceiling instead.

Most recently, the Studio had a few more visitors: David Baker, Amanda Loper, and Brett Jones (from David Baker Architects, with offices in San Francisco, CA, and Birmingham, AL). They helped the team refine their priorities so they could finally narrow them and move forward with two. 

Now the team is getting down to the details and working towards Soup Roast, which is in two weeks! Catch the next post to see where the 18×18 House lands next!

Just a Bunch of Toilet-Trees

Hello again, and welcome back to the Rural Studio Bathhouse team blog! The past few weeks have been super busy, but they have also been very fun and festive. We are excited to show what we’ve been up to!

Every year, Rural Studio goes all out for Halloween. To begin the events, our team enjoyed taking a small break in the work of our project to carve pumpkins and spend time with the 3rd-years. We also got to know more of our neighbors. 

The festivities continued through to the day of Halloween Reviews. The day began with the long-awaited reveal of everyone’s costumes. Our team made our debut as a clever pun on the bathroom word “toiletries.” (Obviously, the ladies misunderstood the assignment.)

The good times kept rolling with reviews of each project while everyone remained in costume, of course. We presented to a wonderful group of reviewers after lunch and received an abundant amount of excellent feedback. 

The day of mischief ended with a parade of the costumes and the crowning of the costume contest champs, ahem, yours truly.

Students in costume walk across road

Since Halloween, we have had more presentations and reviews with visitors. 

First, Frank Harmon and Dan Wheeler visited Newbern. They gave our team something beautiful: constraints. They spent a morning with us charretting through smaller floor plan iterations within a boundary determined on site. 

We found this to be extremely helpful since it gave us a framework for making decisions. Frank and Dan challenged us to fully consider the prospect of adding a kitchen and dining space into the program as well as to really imagine the experience of occupying the spaces within our building, especially the showers.

Frank and Dan ended their visit with an informative and refreshing sketching and watercolor workshop around Newbern!

More recently, we welcomed David Baker, Amanda Loper, and Brett Jones from David Baker Architects into the fold. They challenged us to remember the scale of the campus as well as to really dive deep into the sizes of pieces of program. 

Man sketches as team and others watch on

After another charrette with them thinking about these concepts, the team made a full-scale mockup of a plan to see its size and relationship to the objects surrounding. It was great to also see the size of a kitchen within our building!

Our team is excited to move forward with a clear logic for placing the building. We feel that it is important to place the building in an open bay of the Supershed to allow covered access from the Pods. By placing the building next to the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Pods, the street edge is reestablished and activated. The public spaces such as the kitchen, dining, and laundry will front the Supershed, while the private spaces such as the bathrooms and showers will spread out toward the forest to the North.

We are continuing to work through plan iterations but we have also begun to zoom in to look at what the experience of showering and bathing could look like. These models explore different ways to arrange the spaces: apertures for allowing light to enter, apertures for allowing views out into the forest, and different types of fixtures and materials.

We look forward to continuing these studies and working through floor plans further. We are quickly moving towards Thanksgiving break and Soup Roast will be here before you know it!

Thanks for reading along and stay tuned for an update soon!

Team of 4 students poses inside mocked-up floor plan

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan

Someone Get the Drill Out of the Rain

Howdy, folks. It’s time for another C.H.O.I.C.E. House roof raising roundup. Y’all know the drill, so let’s jump right into what we’ve been up to since our last post.

end of day site progress

It’s been a long time coming, but we are happy to finally report that trusses are up! Thanks to our friends working on Patriece’s Home and the expertise of “Crane Shane,” we raised all 25 trusses in one day. Everyone was pleased to see our 8:12 gabled roof make its way off paper and onto the streets of Uniontown as well as a first look at our big hit, the porch!

After truss day, we wasted little time moving right along to bracing and purlins. The bracing helps connect the trusses to each other and offers some more stability while sheathing the roof is in progress. Purlins are horizontal support beams that support rafters in the roof. We also installed hurricane straps as another layer of protection against future severe weather events.

Purlins were a multi-day adventure. For our readers looking to put up some purlins of their own, the process looks something like this. First, harness up (safety first!) Next, install the sub-fascia along the East and West ends of the units. Use the sub-fascia as the starting point for your first purlin. Make sure the purlins that are exposed under the eaves are painted gray before you install to ensure a coherent detail language. Alternatively, locate a younger student and hand them a ladder and a paintbrush. Begin moving up the roof! Adjust your harness as you climb. As you ascend, use the previously installed purlin as a step stool for placing the next one. Brace yourself against the wood to nail in the next 2×4. Take a moment to ask yourself: Why you didn’t wear knee pads? Finish nailing and make a mark for the next board at two feet on center. Repeat process until all purlins are installed.

On top of purlins, we also took some time to raise the trusses for the third volume with the help of Steve and the “Bob crane,” a.k.a. our Bobcat with a crane attachment. In the next few days, we’ll get the third volume sheathing going just like the roof of the main units.

Back at the main units, we’ve moved on to sheathing the roof. This team knows that the girls are capable of some tough stuff, so Hailey and AC have taken over the roof and turned it into a girls-only zone. Next time you see us, we’ll be dried in for winter, allowing us to frame up our interior walls without worrying about winter wind and rain. 

hailey and ac sit on roof

In the middle of all of this progress, we even took a day to dress up and check out the current 5th-year projects at Halloween Reviews. I guess you can say we think we’re hot (and spicy!) stuff.