Tour of Past Projects
All incoming students begin the semester with a guided tour of selected Rural Studio projects, from some of the earliest work to the recently completed, illustrating the evolution of the program. The tour also highlights past successes and opportunities for improvement. It shows students the value of critiquing our own work—even after a project is finished. What worked: what didn’t work! Where we did good…and where we screwed up…..
Neck-Down Project Week
For the first full week of class, students, faculty, and staff work together in an intensive, team-building effort to complete small projects throughout the county, as well as to lend a hand to the construction of ongoing 5th-year projects. Little design work is required for these volunteer projects, only the exertions of everything from the “neck down.”
Each September, 5th-year students participate in roughly four weeks of workshops led by consultants with expertise in subjects like landscape, sketching, structural engineering, building codes & ordnances, geotechnical and environmental engineering, as well as artists and graphic designers. This process is directed toward students gaining familiarity with the year’s projects, with consultants exploring important questions related to their field. Students also divide into charette teams to share the newly acquired knowledge amongst each other and thereby get to know one another better. The workshop process culminates with students choosing the project and designing the team they will be working both on and with for the rest of their time in the program.
Monday Morning Meetings
All the students and faculty meet together, once a week, to discuss the week ahead: who needs a manual labor help, which teams are using equipment, when reviews and pin ups will occur during the week, which visitors are coming in town, and what, in general, a given team is working on for the week. These meetings ensure that the community members of the Studio understand what each is doing and can learn and help one another.
Lecturers & Lectures
The Studio hosts guest lecturers throughout the semester, usually twice per month. Visiting lecturers are typically architects and consultants who present about their body of work after touring our work and critiquing student project designs. The lectures are valuable opportunities to exchange ideas and for students to glimpse the professional world of architecture. Students get accustomed to regularly presenting their projects to the many studio visitors and receiving critiques and feedback from a multitude of voices representing many backgrounds.
Once design begins on 5th-year projects, it is important that their progress be communicated to our community partners and client, as well as other general members of the public. This occasion is an opportunity to create a dialog between students and stakeholders to better inform design decisions and address any concerns. Community presentations occur about once every six weeks until the project is completed. Throughout the semester, 3rd-year students also meet regularly with their home client.
Halloween is the first public review and critique of 5th-year student projects and teams; reviewers includes Auburn professors and visiting architects, such as Marlon Blackwell (who often frequents the occasion dressed fittingly as the grim reaper). This event is also the mid-term review for 3rd-year students. In order to cut the tension, this review is paired with a costume contest and pumpkin-carving competition, both judged by Newbern community members. In a serious, academic atmosphere, ridiculously costumed student teams formally present their work to likewise costumed professors and architects. The point we make with this juxtaposition is that we all take the work very seriously but strive not to take ourselves too seriously.
This occasion is the final public review for 3rd-year students enrolled in the fall semester. The timing of this review also helps to maintain the students’ focus on their project before they leave for the holiday.
Soup Roast Review
The Soup Roast Review culminates the Fall semester and is typically attended by longtime consultants and Jersey Devil design/build legends Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson, along with former visiting 3rd-year professor Jake LaBarre. With good humor and a fun spirit, despite the typical cold weather, together they critique the work of the 5th-years and master’s students. This time is also used to celebrate the work made by fall semester 3rd-years on their project, as well as their Beaux Arts watercolors and woodshop-constructed chairs. In recent years, the celebration has been preceded the day before by a catfish dinner and a mini lecture series given by Rural Studio alumni and held at the local honky-tonk Faunsdale Bar and Grill. The Soup Roast Review day itself culminates with a hot bowl of soup, bonfires, and Hale County tea.
Neck-Down Project Week
Like the fall semester, the first full week of class begins with another set of community volunteer projects to tackle. Because this work is completed during January, instead of the summer, we try to schedule projects that are better suited to the cold weather for this segment.
Guest lecturers continue to visit twice monthly throughout the spring semester, giving talks about their work and reviewing student work.
5th-year students continue to inform their clients and other community stakeholders of the progress made on their projects. These presentations occur roughly every six weeks until the completion of the projects.
The months of January and February each typically have two reviews with consultants and guests. Set at the beginning of spring semester, these reviews are meant to refine and push the trajectories for the projects in all three programs: 3rd-year, 5th-year, and master’s.
Typically at the end of March, the 5th-year students must present their work to Studio faculty; the head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; and the program chairs at Auburn before they are permitted to proceed further with their projects to take them into the building phase. This occasion is also an important demonstration to the administration at Auburn University that Rural Studio has the resources to support and sustain the projects as they move into construction.
Pig Roast Graduation
The Pig Roast is the culminating event for the academic year, occurring at the end of April or beginning of May. It is a celebration and showcase of the work completed by 3rd-year, 5th-year, and master’s students, with friends, family, and clients all attending. Typically the day consists of a car convoy to building sites across Hale County where students present their projects and introduce the community partners and clients. The events of the long day finish with an outdoor public catfish and pork dinner, followed by live music and a graduation ceremony for the 5th-years, all washed down with a fireworks display.
The rhythm of the Studio carries on into the summer for “leftover” 5th-year and master’s students. Students continue to work on projects—often in the early phases of construction—have weekly meetings with professors, and present with their clients.
In the fall we will start all over again!
In the fall we will start all over again!