Hale County has been scrubbed, painted, and shined twice over this week. The first “Neckdown Week” of 2023 is complete! We spent the week maintaining community projects around Newbern and Greensboro alike. In Greensboro, the Safe House Black History Museum got a fresh coat of paint. The Newbern Firehouse, Bodark Amphitheater, and Newbern Playground were also cleaned and repainted.
One of our biggest tasks for Neckdown Week was building a new set of raised garden beds in the Rural Studio Farm Greenhouse. It took a lot of hands and shovels, but the Farm is now ready for a new planting season. The team also found some surprises hiding in the soil. We took a brief mid-week intermission from diggin’ and paintin’ to help Patriece’s Home team unload some of their roofing material. The projects are still moving right along as we all get our hands dirty!
It was a long week of early mornings. But there was plenty of time for fun (and sometimes, cake) while we took care of this place we call home. Neckdown Week was a perfect warm-up for what’s looking like a great semester. Our students and faculty are ready to really get to work! Follow along to see what spring brings for all of the current projects: Patriece’s Home, C.H.O.I.C.E. House, Rosie’s Home, 18×18 House, and Rural Studio Bathhouse.
Reporting from Hale County, the Moundville Pavilion 5th-year student team members—tasked with designing and building a pavilion and surrounding landscape on a historic Native American settlement site—are back after a restful holiday season and are ready to roll. While we were away, the team met with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, via Zoom and assessed the integrity of the existing pavilion structure. Due to the structure being left alone for so long and not being a fully tied system, the current columns and steel plate connections need to be replaced with a more robust design. Joe shared his plan for replacing the columns and plates and led the team to start developing new dimensioned drawings to work from.
Zooming in, Zooming out
Once we all got back to Hale County, the team started digging deeper with a more zoomed-in approach to designing. This led to creating new detailed drawings, playing with furniture design, and rendering a 3D model to play with materials in a more accurate way. The detailed drawings include the edge condition and the exploration of an outdoor suspended ceiling plane that mitigates the current misalignment of the bottom ridge of the trusses. The ceiling material should be something that reflects the surrounding landscape while also helping to bounce light into the space underneath.
To kick off the Spring semester the Studio had its traditional “Neckdown” Week, in which students, staff, and faculty worked together in an intensive volunteer week, tackling small projects across the county. The team had a group of helpers out on site moving plywood off of the scaffolding to prepare for upcoming mock-ups and construction. Some pieces were no longer usable due to water damage, but we managed to save 63 pieces for future use. A huge shout out to the 3rd-years and our fellow 5th-year Daniel Burton for helping us!
Next up (literally): A ceiling mock-up on site to test out the proposed ceiling material.
Last week was a busy one out in Newbern. We kicked off the semester with the time-honored tradition of “Neckdown” Week. “Neckdown” is a week where the thinking caps come off and the gloves go on for a week of physical tasks working in the community and on the Rural Studio campus. It’s also a time for current 5th-years to meet the Spring 3rd-year crew.
The week started with some housekeeping around home base where teams worked to replace boards on the Great Hall, tidy up the pods, and help out on the farm.
We also took some time to spruce up past projects like Lions Park, which was started in the early 2000s. The baseball fields at Lions Park have some brand new bleacher seats, the bathrooms are back in working order, and to everyone’s delight, the concession stand opens as well as ever!
Additionally, a small group ventured out to Perry Lakes Park—Rural Studio’s first large-scale, multi-phase landscape project—to do some work on the bathrooms (still the best loo view in Alabama!). The park is open again after a brief hiatus due to storm damage, so go check out the view for yourself!
We rounded out the week with a helping hand over at the Newbern Library, the town’s main social center and source of technological amenities, thus ending a long week of hard, but worthwhile work.
P.S. Next time you speed into Morrisette House’s driveway, send a thank you to our fearless leader, Andrew Freear, who took to tamping the driveway like a champ. (We hear his bones are still rattling as we write this.)
Live from Fall 2021 “Neckdown” Week, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team (TMBV)–and helpers! This week, the team accomplished a variety of tasks with the help of the 5th and 3rd-year students.
First on the agenda, the team completed the Cooling Porch ground surfaces. This included packing crushed ground surface concrete pieces and building the stairs. The Cooling Porch stairs were comprised of stacked concrete pieces cut from the foundation pour excess. David Hill, professor in Auburn’s School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning, got in on the concrete saw action! Continuing on the stair action, the team also installed the steel stringer and handrails for the Test Building entry. After pouring a concrete footing for the steel stair, Rowe came back and welded on all the treads.
With all the groundwork in the Cooling Porch finally complete and three sets of stairs built, the TMBV team is calling this “Neckdown” Week a huge success. Thank you to all our helpers this week! Next up, thermal mass concrete panels–stay tuned!
The long, hot, busy summer on the Rural Studio Farm is finally starting to wind down toward autumn.
With several of our recent graduates once again spending their summers here in Hale County, we have been experimenting with the timing and varieties for multiple crop cycles of summer favorites: tomatoes, squash, eggplant, sweet corn, and cherry tomatoes. The Sun Gold cherry tomatoes have been the biggest hit of the summer!
We’ve been able to provide fresh produce for those students working over the summer (with extra to be preserved for the future) and still have some fresh for the students whose semester has just begun. We have also harvested mountains of pinkeye purple hull peas, garlic, onions, zucchini, peppers, melons, butternut squash, and many leafy brassicas.
This summer we added sweet corn and sweet potatoes to the crop rotation (more on these in future posts). The fresh sweet corn was a big success with two crops of fresh juicy corn. The sweet potatoes have also proven to be a great choice because we have been growing them in the greenhouse where few other crops are able to thrive during the long hot summers. They have performed so well that there is no longer any room to walk!