designbuild

Work Begins for the Fall 3rd-Year Students

This new group of 3rd-year students at Rural Studio is a small, but mighty team of two students. Peter and Laura are working with 3rd-year professor Emily McGlohn and instructor Chelsea Elcott to design and build a small home for one of our West Alabama neighbors.

Meet the new 3rd-years

Meet Laura Forrest and Peter Harpring, the dynamic duo! These two, although having just met each other, are proving to be a solid pair.

Peter is from Louisville, Kentucky. He’s an introvert, a younger sibling, and loves summer, dogs, and coffee. Laura is from Corner, Alabama. She’s an extrovert, an older sibling, and loves winter, cats, and tea. Despite their differences, synergy runs well with these two.

Drafting Practice

Emily and Chelsea began the semester by introducing a type of design presentation their students are less familiar with: hand drafting. At Rural Studio, the most-used methods to visually portray an idea are sketching, diagramming by hand, and drafting.

To become more acquainted with hand-drafting toolslike lead holders and T squaresLaura and Peter revisited a design project from their previous architecture school year and practiced hand drawing and diagramming. Through returning to projects they were already familiar with, the 3rd-years could spend more time focusing on the process of drawing by hand rather than learning a new skill while designing a project at the same time.

Learning to Draw 1:1 Detail Drawings

Once the 3rd-years mastered their hand-drawing technique, they began a Full-Scale Drawing Workshop. To better understand what makes up a wood-framed house, the 3rd-year cohort traveled to building sites around Newbern that were under various stages of completion. Starting at Rev. Walker’s Home’s unfinished “bonus room,” Laura and Peter learned a new vocabulary of construction terms and were able to translate the incomplete wall assembly that they saw into a detailed section drawing through a wall. Then, the whole team visited the Model Homes closed-up and finished wall cavities and, with a little guidance, created a one-to-one scale drawing of a section through 20K Joanne’s Model Home, depicting the structure and details all the way from the ground up to the roof.

Full-scale section through 20K Joanne’s Model Home

A Little Bit of On-Site Construction Work

After Labor Day weekend, the 3rd-year crew took a break from their studio work in Red Barn and set out to get some on-site experience. In just a couple of days, the team finished a few small projects at recently completed 3rd-year projects: 20K Ophelia’s Home and Mrs. Patrick’s Home. Laura, with the help of Mason’s welding expertise, fabricated a steel handrail for Ophelia’s back porch. To make Mrs. Patrick’s porch a little safer and more easily accessed, Peter, Emily, and Chelsea added a few stairs to her front porch.

It’s going to be a jam-packed semester. Stay tuned on our blog!

1st-Year Students Visit Rural Studio to Construct ‘Things for Sitting’

Auburn University 1st-Year architecture students graced Rural Studio with fresh faces and eager spirits. Main campus professors Alyssa Kuhns and Gorham Bird organized a wonderful project for the students which culminated in a drive to Newbern and a day of fabrication at the Morrisette Campus. The experience was a blast for Rural Studio faculty and students. Let’s get into how the 1st-Years studied, designed, and made their, ‘Things for Sitting’.

an aerial view of students and faculty using power tools together under a large wooden pavilion
Mid-day construction madness

In Studio Preparation

The 1st-year students began the ‘A Thing for Sitting’ project by studying iconic benches, chairs, and stools. Next, they developed highly crafted 1:5 models and rendered drawings of their assigned iconic ‘thing for sitting’. After this study, in groups, they developed their own ‘thing for sitting’ inspired by what they studied. First, each student individually developed joinery studies connecting planar or linear elements. Those studies were combined to create a group assembly.

The joints and resulting assembly or ‘thing for sitting’ were developed through full-scale cardboard mock-ups, 1:1 drawings, and storyboards to ensure students were working within the material, tool, and process limitations. With approved designs and drawings, they piled into cars for a Saturday caravan to the Rural Studio Morrisette Campus.

a large group of students watch as a male professor demonstrates how to use a table saw
Steve Long demonstrates how to safely use power tools

Welcome to Newbern

The 1st-Years have arrived! The day started with a thorough introduction to the proper use and safety precautions of basic power tools. Steve Long taught the lesson with demonstrations from the ongoing projects’ tool trailers. That’s right, these 1st-Years took on the task of making beautiful objects, not in the illustrious Rural Studio woodshop. Instead, they worked “on-site” at the Fabrication Pavilion with construction-grade tools. With safety training completed, the 1st-Years began practicing with several faculty members and students to keep watchful eyes and dole out advice.

After a little power tool practice and a big lunch from Chef Catherine, the 1st-Years began making their objects. First, they fabricated their pre-designed joints using 2″ x 4″ Southern Yellow Pine lumber and plywood. They also had access to all the tools the trailers have to offer and their own personal Rural Studio student.

Making a ‘Thing for Sitting’

When the students completed their own joint, it was time to fit it together with the rest of their teams’ pieces to create the full ‘Thing for Sitting’. To make the parts come together as one took adjustments to the individual joints and sometimes the entire design. Thankfully, Faculty members Chelsea Elcott, Steve Long, Emily McGlohn, and even Andrew Freear joined in to right all the wrongs and problem solve. In just 5 hours of intense work, every single 1st-year team created a ‘Thing to Sit’ which stood entirely on its own. Even more impressive, every single object was sit-able! No splintering under pressure here.

The day ended with a gathering of students and fabricated objects on the Great Hall. Each student team spoke about their objects’ inspiration and aspirations. Mostly, they spoke of what they learned. Everything from communicating with team members to how difficult it was to take it from drawing to reality. “Things don’t just fit together as you drew them!” Learning typical design-build lessons early. Overall, everyone gained confidence in using tools and fabrication. Hopefully, some of them caught the Rural Studio bug!

Rural Studio faculty and students were impressed and proud of the 1st-Year students’ final product as well as their journey to it. Check out their lovely ‘Things for Sitting’ above! A big thanks to professors Alyssa Kuhns, Gorham Bird, and David Kennedy for planning the day and bringing the 1st-Years over to Hale County. Come back and visit soon!

Excavation Sensation

Hale’s frozen over! Since then, it has melted, soaked, dried, and soaked again. Classic Hale County. But Myers’ Home team broke ground in the fury of it! You may have heard it here first, folks.

Putting a shovel to the ground takes a lot of prep. First they got the dirt on site conditions. This involved first surveying the area. Though not before saying hello some new, sorry moo, neighbors.

Survey the scene…

To begin, both Myers’ Home and Rev. Walker’s Home teams went to Steve Long’s Survey School at Newbern’s own Morrisette Campus to learn the site level basics.

All learned to set the transit to read site elevations on the story pole — the measuring stick. On site, they will draw a grid to measure points and build a topography map. This team went with 80’ by 90’ at 10’ increments for their site grid.

Recording the first corner of the measured grid on site

A well-informed student home-builder tests their soil strength with the pocket penetrometer. Riley and Judith dug four holes on Myers’ Home site at intervals around the footprint. They then took density measurements at descending points spaced 6” apart. The penetrometer is plunged into the wall of the soil and a reading is taken in tons per sq. ft.

Riley digging a 32″ hole for the pocket penetrometer

The team recorded bearing capacity and observed conditions of the site. This informed a plan for excavation and soil replacement. To make this home stable, they’re building an island of engineered soiled. This raft will be a solid bed of engineered dirt, reliable red soil with a definitive bearing capacity.

After speaking with Joe Farrugia, Rural Studio’s consulting engineer extraordinaire, a plan was in place for site excavation and refilling.

Batter up, batter boards!

The team had to place batter boards though before site excavation. At first glance, batter boards are unassuming scrap pieces. The builders level these to near-perfect tolerance around the site. They hold squared strings marking each edge of the footprint of the building.

With the guidance and helping hands of batter board guru, Steve Long, Judith and Madeline set boards for the excavation crew arriving the very next day!

Can you dig it?

The following morning, the local excavating team made their appearance at sunrise. They removed over 2′ of dirt from the area marked by batter boards. Eight (eight!) truckloads of strong engineered soil then arrived, placed in 6″ lifts in the hole. This new dirt was smoothed to ideal home-building elevation (well above the water table) and left to settle as another wave of rain rolled in.

Ready for the next window of sun, this team will be tamping the new soil, trenching for plumbing and electrical, and preparing for THE SLAB.

Formwork makes the Dreamwork

Studio

This week, the 3rd-years worked on creating detail drawings of Ophelia’s Home’s foundation. Being able to see the foundations in person while drawing them is an amazing, unique opportunity. It has quickly given the students an understanding of how crawl-space foundations work. Each student selected a unique piece of the foundation to draw. These drawings will eventually be added onto to create 7 complete section cuts. The drawings show details through the foundation piers, vents, below significant areas, and the front porch. All the drawings were organized onto one construction document sheet, which is a new and very important skill for the 3rd-years to have learned.

Horseshoe Courtyard

This week, the 3rd-years’ continued work at Horseshoe Courtyard consisted of cleaning more bricks. They also began building and setting up wooden formwork for the incoming concrete! Students worked to hammer in stakes, cut wood boards, and drill formwork into place. They are extremely excited (some may say overly excited) about the concrete pour.

Perry Lakes Park

After a few weeks of working in Hale County, half of the 3rd year students ventured out to Perry Lakes Park to help with maintenance and repair. This included working with 5th-year students and graduate students to clear large debris from pathways and replace aging timber boards on the elevated walkways and the Birding Tower. Perry Lakes Park is currently closed to the public until it is rejuvenated. However, once the Rural Studio Students are finished, the park will be open for bird enthusiasts, outdoor lovers, and adventurers alike. 

Building a Catalog

Work over the past couple of months has been very different than what we are used to. Shortly after moving to working virtually it was decided that due to COVID-19 our project would be put on hold until it is safe for Rural Studio to resume normal in-person operations. This means that we are wrapping up the work we have done this year and a future team will carry on the process of designing and building a home for Reggie. With this in mind, our team is creating a book that contains our research and design strategies up until this point. Our hope is that the next team will be able to pick up where we left off and be able to provide a home for Reggie in an effective manner.

Team meeting to discuss book format

During the past seven months we have had the unique opportunity of getting to know Reggie through our time spent on site with him. Our book’s goal is to tell the story of both Reggie and the site, including everything we have learned about him and what will help a future team pick up where we left off.  In an effort to tell Reggie’s story we are explaining the history of the site, what it currently has to offer, and what possible improvements can be made. Reggie wants to live with the site, so our focus has been to stress the idea that Reggie’s Home should be thought about as, “the site is the house.”

To help explain what the site has to offer and show the research our team has done over the past seven months, the second part of our book is a documentation of site analysis. In an effort to provide information that we hope would be most beneficial for the next team, we asked ourselves two simple questions. What does this site have and need in order to support its occupants and function properly? How can the entire site become the home? This section is mainly focused on what systems are already in place on site and what can be added to improve Reggie’s lifestyle.

We’ll be working the next couple of weeks to finish the rest of the book. It will include our design process and a proposal for the future. We understand that a future team will most create their own design so we hope that through this book they will be able to use the information to move forward in their own way and grow to love Reggie the way we have. We are thankful that we have been able to be a part of his story and are excited to see what the future holds for the next team. 

Look out for a link to our finished book in the near future!

Thanks for all the support thus far!

Reggie’s Home