Trees and the Double Overhand Knot

It’s time to thread the ropes through the Horseshoe Courtyard Project steel screens. Before all the rope could be installed, it was necessary to prep the lengths of rope per screen panel. Each tall screen consists of five segments that need 75 feet of rope. The shorter screens need 37 feet. Once the set of ropes was ready, a segment of rope was feed through the perforations and the first knot formed. Once that run of rope was threaded through; A wire stretcher was used to pull the whole segment taut while the last knot was tied. Then the excess rope was cut and carefully burned at the end, to keep it from unraveling.

Image of girl tieing rope behind screen

Different types of knots were tested to secure the rope to the bottom of the screen before the panels were infilled. The criteria for the type of knot chosen included both aesthetics and ease of replication. consequently, the team chose the Double Overhand Knot ( close-up above).

Soon after the rope was finished in each screen panel, one or two people began to train the jasmine vines to wrap and climb the ropes. The jasmine was trained by carefully untangling the vines and twining them around then ropes. From time to time, flagging tape was tied around the vine and it’s rope to hold it in place while it grows up to its new home.

Grouting the footings

On a Tuesday morning, with the help of the TMBV team, the footing plates were grouted. The forms were re-used from the previous grouting job, on the tall screens.

Trench in-fill

A few days after the grout set, the Horseshoe Courtyard team, the 3rd-Years, and Mason filled the trench with soil for the vines. When the trench was filled about halfway, a new PEX line for the spigots was laid. Once the spigots were in place the rest of the PEX was buried with more soil.

All Trees Planted!

The day is finally here, the day where all thirteen Natchez Crepe Myrtles are happily and fully transplanted!! After many weeks of anticipation, digging, and moving dirt, one can see how the courtyard is transformed by the trees. For now, beautiful shadows are cast by the tree branches; however, it is easy to imagine the day when the tree canopy creates much-needed shade on a summer day.

The One where the Short Screens Went Up

students pouring concrete

The Horseshoe Courtyard project team completed their sixth concrete pour on site! The team was incredibly excited to finally pour the footing for the eight-foot screens on the north end. Thanks to Andrew and Mason, the team got the job done in one morning’s time.

Shortly after the concrete cured, the team and helpers started prepping for the steel footings that connect the screens to the concrete. First, they pulled the batter board lines to find and mark the middle point for the footing. This ensures that the screens line up with the project’s five-foot grid. Second, holes were drilled in the concrete. These holes were filled with threaded rods and epoxied in place. Third, wooden templates were places on the threaded rods to hold them in place and keep track of the curing time. After the rods were set and the concrete fully cured the templates were removed. Lastly, the metal footings were placed on the washers and nuts and the plates were leveled.

Two more trees in the ground

Before the last screens could be bolted in place, the last two trees in the “calm space” were brought in. However, they could not be fully planted until after the screens were in place. Once the trees were in their new home, they were shored up to keep them steady until the trench was filled.

North end taking shape

view from beacon alley

In a single afternoon, with the help of 3rd-year students, and Dr.Dorsey, all eight short screens were raised and bolted into place! The following day, they were all aligned and leveled to each other and to the walkway railings. This was possible due to the oversized holes in the footing plate and that it had not been grouted yet. Grout coming up, next week!

Roadtrip for the vines

planting pattern
CJ= Carolina Jessamine, SJ= Star Jasmine. The dotted green line indicates the planting pattern that was chosen. The Jessamine tends to shoot up quicker, while the Jasmine, grows slower but more full.

Another exciting day last week was when the team took a trip to a nursery in Montogmery to pick up the vines! They picked up 60 potted plants. 25 three-gallon Confederate/ Star Jasmine, 15 one-gallon Star/Confederate Jasmine, and 20 three-gallon Carolina Jessamine. The design incorporates the two different vines because of their different growth patterns and blooms. Since the ratio of the two types of vines is 2:1, there needed to be some type of planting pattern that also took into account the plant size variation. Once all the vines were unloaded on-site, the team created a system that placed the taller vines in desired locations and spread out the younger plants. The vines were planted three per screen, to increase the density of the vegetation.

Testing Steel Cable and Hardware

Team instaling cables on railing
Caleb and Claudia installing the steel cables for the railing

This week the team started installing the eighth-inch in diameter, steel cables that infill the railings. The cables are spaced two inches apart in order to ensure that a four-inch sphere won’t fit in between them. Two railing panels worth of cable were installed this time around; in order to understand the process and time that cutting, threading, and tightening the cables will take.

Shortly after working on the railing panels, the team moved on to the screens. They had a sample piece of cable for each screen; the eighteen-foot screens, the nine-foot screens (that allow passage underneath them), and the eight-foot screens for the north end. This was also the first time the team was able to observe the beautiful cable hardware on the screens. As soon as the slab under the walkway is poured, the rest of the cables and rope infill will go up!

Gate Iterations

As site work progresses, design work for the gate on the north end also progresses. Some of the design explorations include having the gate look similar to the rest of the screens, translucent and light. Other iterations test a solid sheet of metal, in which to etch-out words or logos; or simply being a found object that looks entirely different from the rest of the project. While considering the language of the gate, the team is also taking into account the height and width of the gate itself, and its relationship with the eight-foot screen and the concrete wall on the other side.

Steel Edging & Pump Cover

The brick pad on the south end of the site requires a barrier or transition between the brick and slate. The team is resolving this by using quarter-inch steel edging, similar to the Newbern Library project. However, rather than creating the edging from scratch, they will use off-the-shelf edging and adjust it as needed. Since the finished look will be similar to that of the Newbern Library, the Horseshoe Courtyard team contacted Stephen Durham, one of the Library team members, to get some tips on what they did.

Grinder Pump

Detail section of pump cover structure
Detail close-up of pump structure

When designing the brick pad, it was important to take into account the grinder pump that is located within its perimeter. First, because once the site is re-graded, the finished surface will be above the current level of the pump. Secondly, we need to make the pump accessible in case of maintenance needs. And lastly, we hope make it aesthetically pleasing and not slippery as a ground surface. Having all this in mind, the team has been working through details for the structure, as well as thinking of ways to make the cover lighter through different types of perforations and material choices.

Railings and Transparency

This week, the goals were to lift the railings and nine-foot frames into place, and secure them to the other screens or walkway. Before that could happen the team spent a couple of days making sure that everything was level and plumb to each other, so that when those smaller screens went up, there wouldn’t be as much adjustment needed. Right after the screens were adjusted to the right position, the team made formwork out of 2x6s that facilitated pouring the grout under the footing plate. Having three to four inches of grout below the plate, allowed the adjustment of the overall structure, before the grout was poured. Ensuring all perforations lined up.

After the footing plates were grouted and formwork removed, the Horseshoe Farm Fellows helped fill in the trench along the neighbours building, with the pile of dirt that had been previously excavated from the trenches. Unsurprisingly, a large percentage of that mound was mixed with bricks from the collapsed structure that used to inhabit the courtyard. Luckily the team can re-use those brick for the “rug” that will be the ground surface between the tall screens. The trench was filled about halfway up, the rest to be filled with soil for the vines later on.

Screens attached to walkway

The smaller, nine foot screen eases circulation from under the walkway into the “active space” that sits before the stage porch, which also has nine foot screens. These screens are made up of a single galvanized frame instead of the standard two. Mainly beacuse it doesn’t require the cavity in the middle for planting, the vines will reach from the neighbouring screen and to reduce the amount of material used.

During transportation and the galvanization process, some of the screens got bent. Most of the damage was decreasing the four-inch gap between the frames. In order to fix them, the team used a car jack to bend the frames back into place. Another important thing to keep in mind when galvanizing metal, is that the finish quality is largely dependent on how well the “trash” is cleaned once the metal comes out of the plant. The trash is galvanized clumps or residue that sometimes remains on the metal when hot-dipped. Some of the larger chunks can be removed by using a grinder or by tapping the edge with a metal chisel and hammer.

Dr.Dorsey standing on walkway seeing railing for first time
Shortly after railings were installed, Dr. Dorsey came out the walkway. Here he is talking about the impact the walkway will have on the second floor once it is finished.

During the design process, one thing that was important for us was that while this walkway is nearly six-foot wide, and eighty-feet long, we wanted the material to be translucent. Something that read as being light. While the grate itself is quite heavy, the gaps between the bearing bars provide this effect when the light hits it. Creating beautiful shadows on the textured brick wall. Another effect the sun has, is when it touches the walkway structure, the gap between the walkway bracket and the plate is highlighted, at every connection point.

Looking up at the corner screen
South-East coner of tall screen. This image shows the bolted connections that disappear when looking at the frames straight on.

Within a Sixteenth

The moment we have been waiting for years! The screens are finally going up! This week all the metal frames took their last trip around Hale, thanks to Shane Jackson from Stillwater Machine, for transporting all the material and lifting the frames into place with his boom truck. A huge shout out to Mason Hinton, and all the 5th and 3rd-year students that helped lift, carry, and bolt things into place. We couldn’t have done it without all the help! And last, but not least, a big thank you Alabama Power for letting us use their parking until the screen went up.

In order to work as efficiently as possible, we split into groups: a group of four to six including the team bolted the pieces together, with two at the top and four at bottom. Our other volunteers lifted the screens from the ground onto the trailer that drove from the parking lot to site. Then Mason would attach the screens to the boom truck chains and undo the wooden jigs ( jigs held the legs of the frames from bending during transportation). Next Mason or Claudia would guide the screen with a strap into its correct location, and the crew of four would guide Shane ( boom operator) until lifted into place. While the screens were bolted the rest of the volunteers would move on to loading the next screen on the trailer.

footing bolted to screen leg

Leaving the bottom of the footing plate un-grouted while installing the screens allowed us some flexibility to move the footing between an eighth to a quarter of an inch in all directions, depending if it was connected to the walkway or not. This allowed us to level the top of the screens in relation to each other, as well to ensure that all the holes in which the screen connected to each other lined-up within a sixteenth of an inch.

sunset reflecting on screens and wall plates
One of the fun things we observed after the screens were up, was that they reflected the beautiful colors of the sunset or the blue sky in the mornings. In the image above the metal is reflecting the sun, but a few minutes later the it would reflect the oranges and pinks of the sky.

Up next: railings and 9 foot frames!