neckdown

The Mounds Are Calling and We Must Go

Meetings with Joe

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.

section detail of edge conditon
The students created a section drawing exploring dropped ceiling detail.

“Neckdown” Week!

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.

+ January views around Hale County!

Heads up! “Neckdown” Week is complete!

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.)

“Neckdown” Week with TMBV

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!

Sneak peek of the Test Buildings at the end of “Neckdown” Week.

Gravel Infill

East Entry Stair

South Entry Stair

Steel Stair

Dog Days of Summer

The long, hot, busy summer on the Rural Studio Farm is finally starting to wind down toward autumn.

A student uses an oscillating hoe to weed between rows of pinkeye purple hull peas

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!

A long shot of the sea of sweet potato vines that has blanketed the inside of the greenhouse in palmate leaves

Fall 2021 Neckdown Week

three young people stand together smiling wearing hard hats and harneses

This semester, Neckdown Week was as productive as ever, with the sun shining on us all week long. Neckdown is a studio tradition, during which all students and faculty work together to mend, clean up, or push forward our past and current projects. This time around we worked on student projects in Newbern and sent teams all the way out to Perry Lakes Park in Marion, AL.

At Perry Lakes Park, we cleaned up debris from a big storm that hit the park last year. We also worked on the plumbing for the bathrooms, which included a lot of digging. And we mean A LOT. Up on the Perry Lakes Birding Tower, we finally completed our objective of replacing all the rotten boards that we began removing during Neckdown last year! We hope all of you will be able to come visit the beautiful park as soon as it reopens in the very near future.

Back in good ole Newbern, teams of helpers working a several maintenance projects at our headquarters at Morrisette House. A few teams also worked alongside Eric at the Rural Studio Farm constructing raised garden beds. These beds, made from concrete blocks, are very time consuming to build correctly, and our helpers worked hard in the sun to make them look good and function well! We’d also like to give a shoutout and a big thank you to all of the Auburn University Landscape Architecture students and faculty who came out to Hale County to help us nourish Rural Studio’s outdoor spaces. The AULA cohort not only helped out at the Farm and Morrisette property, but they also worked in our courtyards in downtown Newbern and at Lion’s Park in Greensboro. Our plants and ground surfaces would not be as happy as they have been lately without you all. Thank you!

Our recent graduates also took advantage of a few Neckdown helpers this week to make some progress finishing up their projects! With assistance from new 3rd and 5th-year’s capable hands, our three “leftover” teams accomplished a huge amount of work! The Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team constructed two sets of stairs that lead down into their cooling porch. They also worked on installing battens on the exterior of their Research Pods!

The Myers’ Home team installed tongue-and-groove cypress boards on their interior core walls, and they worked with their helpers to nail their exterior flashing in place. Siding is coming up next for these folks. At Rev. Walker’s Home site, the team completed a massive amount of earth work in order to prep their site for its final grading. This process also included creating an outdoor gravel patio for their client to create a smooth transition from concrete slab to the adjacent ground surface.

Thank you to all the students, staff, and faculty that made all of this work possible this week!