moundville

Same Mounds, New Faces

Hello world, the Moundville Archaeological Park Pavilion project is back on with a few new faces!

Team members in front of presentation

Located along the Black Warrior River, the Moundville Archaeological Park is a Native American Heritage site that preserves 29 earthen mounds from over 800 years ago, that at its peak was one of America’s largest settlements north of Mexico. While the park currently operates as an active archaeological site, it remains open to the public for community gatherings and activities.

In 2018, the archaeological park approached Rural Studio about the need for an outdoor gathering space located in their campgrounds. The previous student team designed and began construction of the new pavilion but, due to the global pandemic, Auburn University had to halt construction and the project was put on hold until this fall. The new team of 5th-year students includes Brenton Smith (Dothan, AL), Caitlyn Biffle (Rogersville, AL), Collin Brown (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), and Jackie Rosborough (Deerfield, IL). 

Individual polaroid photos of team

Collaborating with Anderson Inge

The first step in the project was to begin researching the previous team’s design and evaluate the structure’s current condition after being exposed to the elements for over a year. To get a more accurate representation of the structure, the Studio worked with Assistant Professor Danielle Wilkens from the Georgia Institute of Technology, perform a LiDAR scan. Together they created an exact 3D model of the current pavilion’s structure. We also met with structural engineer Anderson Inge from Anderson Inge Building Workshop via Zoom, who provided some general observations from his visit and answered questions from the team. From the LiDAR scan and Anderson’s notes and suggestions, an accurate physical model was also made to act as a tool in the design process.

Charretting with Emily Knox and David Hill

Professors David Hill and Emily Knox of Auburn University’s Landscape Architecture program led a workshop with the team that focused on the potential of utilizing the landscape in the design. This first meeting focused mainly on using groundcover and shrub layers of vegetation to define space, paths, and views in and around the site.

A Discussion with Hank and Julie

We also had a visit from Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg of Koning Eizenberg Architects, who led us in a design charrette to highlight the possibility of rethinking the pavilion’s cladding. By building the model and working through some first design iterations, we left with more clarity in our understanding of the current structure and the potentials for the design moving forward.

Get Jiggy with It

The Moundville ladies are preparing the roof and framing the extended edges and corners of the pavilion for roof sheathing!

In order to begin roof joists, blocking was attached using the bypass system off the trusses to give the hangers ample room to grab. This was necessary since the roof geometry is created using the planes of the joists and the connection to the ridge beam to create the inverted plane.

The blocking was installed to follow the string lines setting the roof heights. This allowed the team to mark 16 inches on center to install each joist that meets a truss on both ends. To place each hanger, an off-cut of a 2×8 with the correct, angled cut was used to temporarily place and screw in the hangers according to blocking height and spacing.

Then each joist was field measured and placed into the hanger, checking height obsessively to ensure a flat plane. Once a bay was placed, checked, and rechecked, the joists were nail gunned to the hanger and truss. Blocking was added to keep 16 inch spacing and fix any bowing in the wood.

Once the joists in the center of the bays were completed, there was a new challenge in determining the correct spacing where the joists hit the edge beams or ridge beam. Since the beams intersect the form at an angle, varying based on the tolerance in their placement, measuring along the beam produced too many inaccuracies in keeping the joist spacing and ensuring the boards aren’t skewed.

Jigs were created for each beam similar to the truss in which the slope and skew of the cuts were determined and a sample “joist nub” was used to place the hanger. A 14.5 inch piece of wood was then attached to the side to butt up against the previously placed joist to determine spacing 16 inches on center, perpendicularly from the joist. Another 2×4 was also attached running along the top of the “joist nub” and spacer to keep the correct height. This allowed the team to attach the hangers, place a joist and then adjust if needed based on spacing from the master joist and height along the existing plane and strings.

The edge beam along the short side and the ridge beam involved a similar jig and process with slight alterations to match the difference in angles and cuts.

Now, all of the roof joists are installed except for the two low corners (due to tight space constraints with the scaffolding platform, the ceiling needs to be framed in these areas first). The ridge was the last section to be completed, giving a real sense of the roof shape and profile!

Looking down the ridge as it intersects the middle, diamond truss which shows the two flat planes and their relationship to the overall form.
Seeing the joists framing the ridge from below, inhabiting the structure.

Concurrently, the team worked on building the pieces that will form the soffit. Each soffit “wedge” will attach to the edge beam and continue the differing slopes of the roof and ceiling to meet at a 4 inch edge. These pieces will extend the perimeter of the pavilion while allowing the structure’s edge to get as thin as possible. Due to the 18 inch depth where the joists terminate, each wedge was too deep to be engineered out of 2-by material. Therefore, the arrival of new 3rd-year students and neck-downs brought a week of much needed extra help to laminate plywood with both glue and screws as well as set up an assembly line to cut the wedges out (three of these cuts being angled).

Over 90 wedges were completed with four unique templates for each pavilion edge! The next few weeks will be spent installing them. Check back in for a fully framed soffit and roof (hopefully) soon! Meanwhile, enjoy these action and detail shots of this last month of progress!

Raisin’ the Roof

With things picking up in the Studio entering fall semester, convocation, and neckdowns, we were working with a tight deadline for when the boom truck was booked to raise trusses before the chaos started. 

While building the trusses, we did a series of physical and sketch studies to test column composition and location and hardware for the splices. Once the trusses were finished, we moved into column construction focusing on how to make the three plys as tight as possible and create a structural and aesthetically pleasing screw pattern.

Moving between the woodshop building columns and site, we began to place and steel feet on the column footings and drill holes for anchor bolts. We located each footing focusing on centering them along truss lines so that the truss can slide into the column. We then set the threaded rod using apoxy and set leveling nuts to ensure the steel plates were all sitting at the same height.

Truss raising day finally came (after weeks of stress dreams and some long days). With the generous help from West Alabama Mechanical and United Rentals for a scissor lift and man lift, we were able to get all of the trusses up in a day! Seeing the structure raised and beginning to understand some of the spatial aspects of the pavilion in real life has been a big boost in the project for us.

Thankful for the BEST clients (we’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it because it’s true) and some incredible community volunteers who believe in this project and love Moundville!
The men “helping” (but really, we couldn’t do it without them!)