Here Comes the Leftovers

Students walk across the street

Since the team’s last blog post, a lot has happened. All of April was spent preparing for Pig Roast and the Executive Reviews that followed. The team focused on refining our thesis to fit our goals. We tried to bring the level of detail of the whole house up to as high a standard as possible. There always seems to be another layer of detail to dive into as we learn more about the project.

One to one detail drawing of whole house section.

These big upcoming reviews naturally meant that we needed to spend more time on how the house feels, inside and out. We are having a good time zooming out of detail land and drawing through how the elevations may look and what kind of interior finishes we want. We have some general criteria for making these decisions, but we are approaching a time when seeing how these things look in real life is becoming ever more important.

We also finally have a site! Due to the nature of our project being non-site-specific, it made sense to spend a certain amount of time designing the house without the bias of knowing where our version would go. We are excited to dive deeper into the site, analyzing every inch. Our site is fairly flat undeveloped land, surrounded by trees. Also, it is located right off the road in downtown Newbern. With the downtown projects so close by, we have a high bar to live up to!

Model of house photoshopped onto site photo

We still have to explore through drawings, models, and research before we can try building. Even so, a mock-up is on the horizon. While the finishes are important, the most critical parts of the building process are what need to be tested with this mock-up. The processes of building, moving, installing, and protecting these cores throughout that duration is the real focus of our thesis, along with how all of that process will impact the house.

Pig Roast!

Enough about the preparations. We had a great Pig Roast Weekend! Both 5th-year teams worked hard, and we all felt our presentations went well. It was a beautiful day, and the wind blew our drawings away only once—nice! We tried to have some fun and act out our building process. A little improv went a long way. In the end, it was great to celebrate with friends and family, and the event at Chantilly was unforgettable.

Did someone say leftovers?!

After all that fun, we had to go to Auburn for the much less fun but equally (in some ways) important Graduation. So that’s it. We are adults now who have all the answers to everything. There is nothing we are unprepared for in the real world because now we have a degree. All jokes aside, it has been a pleasure to spend our final school year at Rural Studio. We are so thankful for our time at Auburn and beyond excited to start our time as leftovers to continue the hard work.

Students pose together at graduation

30th Anniversary Pig Roast

Rural Studio 30th Anniversary Pig Roast Fireworks (Photo by Timothy Hursley)

Auburn University Rural Studio celebrated its 30th anniversary on Friday and Saturday, April 26-27th at the 2024 Pig Roast, the annual event that highlights the year’s work and our home, West Alabama. The “Roast” in Pig Roast refers not only to how the pork at the final meal is prepared but also to the roasting and toasting of our graduating 5th-year architecture students. The event has grown into a two-day experience that features distinguished alumni speakers, stellar foods from local eateries, tours of and updates on Rural Studio projects and initiatives, live music, fireworks, and a shower of confetti (“Whiffle Dust”). It pulls together members of the Hale County community, faculty and staff, students and their families, program alumni, visiting architects, and university representatives. Often the Studio has a project opening to throw into the mix as well.

Pig Roast is its own experience, one that can’t be captured in a program or recap of activities, though you can read that below. You must dive in to fully understand. Imagine a day and a half with almost no cell phones in sight. With people shaking hands and hugging, deeply engaging in conversation. With everyone giving students their rapt attention and marveling at what these young people have designed and accomplished in such a short time. Picture a project ribbon cutting with a client couple who are so moved that the husband breaks out in a Gospel song, and visitors so moved that, in all their diversity, they hush, punctuating the rhythm with claps as his voice floats over the yard with the smell of the wild grasses. Close your eyes to see clusters of children running free on the grassy hill of an amphitheater, a few collecting confetti and proudly presenting it to parents who are sitting on blankets and letting music fill their souls.

30 years?!

100+ Rural Studio alumni in attendance for the Pig Roast 30th Anniversary weekend! (Photo by Timothy Hursley)

This year’s Pig Roast was an extra-big deal. Thirty years ago, Samuel Mockbee and D.K. Ruth ran with the then-radical vision of putting down roots in a little rural community, hours away from their university to teach students the value of rural, to teach them that place matters and that good design is for everyone, to cultivate what Mockbee called “citizen architects.” Their commitment laid the course for Andrew Freear’s directorship, which began in 2002, and for the Studio’s educational success. Over three decades, the program has educated more than 1250 students at our humble Hale County campus. This year, the celebration included over four hundred people, with alumni coming from as far as England. Families of both founders joined, too.

First Night: Alumni and Dinner!

Alumni Lectures begin in Horseshoe Courtyard (Photo by Timothy Hursley)

The first night’s festivities started in Greensboro with a spread catered locally by Mo Kitchen of The Stable and Sarah Cole of Abadir’s. Every part of dinner and dessert tantalized, but Sarah Cole’s dukkah roasted carrots left the crowd scrambling for seconds and thirds. Dukkah is an Egyptian dish of spiced nuts and seeds, and the lemon tahini sauce and chili oil drizzle had everyone talking. Other dishes, too, used fresh-grown foods from Rural Studio Farm. Alumnus Alex Henderson played guitar in the Horseshoe Courtyard, a space designed and transformed by Studio students between 2018 and 2021. Alex Therrien, who was also one of the speakers, DJed the event after the alumni presentations.

Alumni speakers represented many phases of Rural Studio’s development, starting with two who attended during the Mockbee/Ruth years.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Ruard Veltman ’95, Charlotte, NC
  • Steve Durden ’95, Nashville, TN
  • Jacquelyn (Jacqui) Overbey Hart ’98, Birmingham, AL
  • Trent (Trinity) Davis ’01, Mobile, AL
  • Abby Davis ’04, Mobile, AL
  • Hana Loftus ’05, Colchester, England
  • Brittany Foley ’09, Birmingham, AL
  • Candace Rimes ’10, Atlanta, GA
  • Stephen Kesel ’12, St. Louis, MO
  • Thomas Johnston ’14, Seattle, WA
  • Callie Kesel ’15, St. Louis, MO
  • Alex Therrien ’15, Los Angeles, CA
  • Anna Halepaska ’19, Montreal, Canada

They’ve taken a variety of paths, but each has been on an exciting adventure. In true Rural Studio fashion, alumni were earnest and self-effacing. In 13 PechaKucha-style talks, alumni reflected on their individual journeys, capturing the joyful spirit of chasing heartfelt ideals and passions.

Second day: Project tours and such

Day two highlighted work by students, faculty, and staff before turning to dinner, honors, and entertainment. It began in Newbern with a breakfast of fresh cinnamon rolls from local Wayside Bakery at Rural Studio’s Great Hall, a long, open-sided gathering space. Attendees likely doubled Newbern’s population. The group carpooled north to the first project stop, following Andrew Freear’s classic tropical blue 1966 Ford F-100 truck sporting two flags on the back: the American flag and Auburn’s flag. The Hale County Sheriff’s Office helped the long line cross AL-69. Drivers heading south respectfully pulled over, likely thinking they were watching a funeral procession. Far from it, though! Over the course of the day, this large crew learned about, toured, and celebrated five student projects: the 18×18 House, Rural Studio Bathhouse, the Fabrication Pavilion, CLT Core House, and Rosie and Frankie’s Home. The last project included a ribbon cutting, with a yellow ribbon almost the length of the home and a bow the size of a barrel top. And, of course, it included Frankie breaking out into the Gospel song “Jesus Will Never Say No,” pouring out his joy with a resonant voice. While these student accomplishments filled our hearts, we were also nourished by a taco-and-sides lunch featuring an awesome salad by Abadir’s, made with produce from Rural Studio Farm.

Visitors also learned from Emily McGlohn about the Rural Wastewater Demonstration Project that is testing a solution for the Black Belt’s wastewater crisis, as well as from Mackenzie Stagg and Betsy Farrell Garcia about the Front Porch Initiative, which is bringing Rural Studio designs and technical assistance to 24 housing provider partners in ­­­­12 states. Directly after lunch, Eric Ball introduced guests to the ins and outs of the Farm, starting in the greenhouse. Steve Long then presented student work from the 3rd-Year Woodshop Class, a course in which students use hand tools to craft three classic designs of chairs, in the process learning the properties of wood and the techniques for craftsmanship. Next, Dick Hudgens showcased student work from the 3rd-Year History Class, where students tour historical homes and buildings that have stood the test of time and become intimately familiar with their form and function as they produce sketches and a final Beaux Arts watercolor of an assigned building.

Woodshop Class presentation by Instructor Steve Long (Photo by Timothy Hursley)

Pomp and circumstance

Parade to the Bodark Amphitheatre in Newbern (Photo by Timothy Hursley)

The ceremonial part began in the late afternoon with a parade back to Chantilly House, just north of the main campus’s Morrisette House on AL-61, Newbern’s main street. The return to Chantilly was its own procession. The wee woo of the fire engine announced the parade’s arrival at least a quarter mile before local friend Bobby Scott pulled his truck onto the grass towing his black smoker. Students helped serve roasted pork and fried catfish, and still folks had their cell phones tucked away. People mingled and ate while Rural Studio alumnus Hana Loftus played her fiddle with Chip Spencer and friends from Marion Junction, AL. Bluegrass, y’all!

Whiffle Dust Welcome (Photo by Timothy Hursley)

Everyone knew to turn their attention to the front of the Bodark Amphitheatre when they were showered with confetti during the traditional Whiffle Dust Welcome. The honors were many and the program substantial. Emcees Andrew Freear and Emily McGlohn kept everyone engaged with humor, sass, and an unwaveringly high level of energy. Samuel Mockbee’s wife Jackie and D.K. Ruth’s wife Linda were in attendance with their families for this special occasion. Andrew and Emily brought them up on the stage, as well as the Walthall family, longtime supporters of the Studio. The Walthall family recently donated the Red Barn Studio to Rural Studio, and we plan to name the main space after their father, Robert Walthall, Sr.

Auburn University Provost Vini Nathan was in attendance. Interim Dean Karen Rogers of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction spoke, and she honored Samuel Mockbee and D.K. Ruth by announcing that each had been posthumously awarded emeritus status.

“Leftover” student Jake Buell received the Samuel Mockbee Book Award, a new award sponsored by Wanda Dye, our friend and former student of Mockbee, to honor a recent graduate with a passion for art and architecture. One copy of the art book, selected by Wanda, was gifted to Jake and another copy was gifted to the Newbern Library.

Dick Hudgens brought his singular experience to the microphone. As the only current Studio faculty member who has been there since the beginning, he spoke on the sense of place that the Studio cultivates and the “local identity” that students learn to appreciate so they can “solv[e] problems in a thoughtful and beautiful way.” A kindred spirit to Rural Studio, the extraordinary Roy Decker of Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS, who gave the valediction speech, said “What is special about the Rural Studio is that it is a place with integrity searching for a better tomorrow.”

The group celebrated Brenda Wilkerson (who retires this summer after 22 years) and Catherine Tabb who retired this spring, as well as alumnus and instructor Judith Seaman, who is moving on to her next adventure after four years here.

The eight 5th-year students—the graduates—smiled, laughed, and mugged for the audience as Steve Long and John Marusich took turns roasting each one. First up was the Fabrication Pavilion team: Marcelo Aldrete, Anna Leach, Tatum DeBardeleben, and Laura Forrest. Then came the CLT Core House team: Connor Warren, Sarah Recht, Peter Harping, and Paris Copeland. Paris’s accomplishments were recognized outside of Rural Studio, and Andrew had the pleasure of announcing these awards: the BTES Edward Allen Student Award, the ARIA (Interior Architecture) Book Award, and the Meyer Davis Portfolio Prize Honorable Mention.

Just as Whiffle Dust (the confetti shower) ushered in the stage ceremonies, fireworks closed them out. The fireworks started with an intensity seen in the finale of grand shows. The audience tilted their heads back, immersed in the light, crackle, and booms. The folk-rock band Small Trucks (alumnus Dan Splaingard and Joseph Gorman) opened the evening entertainment, performing a series of originals and covers. Headliner Alvin Youngblood Hart then took the stage, wowing the crowd with his selection of blues songs. One audience member described his performance as transcendent, as music that carries you away.

Campaigns for the future, near and far

Rural Studio raised money for three different projects during the 2024 Pig Roast. Third-year students sold coaster sets stamped with the 30th anniversary logo; the coasters were made of the same Marmoleum that they installed in Rosie and Frankie’s home. (Marmoleum is a more healthful alternative to traditional linoleum.) Each purchase supported buying Rosie and Frankie a stove, and the team sold out, meeting their goal. Also, students staffed merchandise tables at events to raise money for the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS). People lined up to buy apparel, totes, pins, sketchbooks, and posters, for starters, netting about $6,000 for NOMAS. And finally, Andrew Freear announced Rural Studio’s 30th Anniversary Endowment Campaign. With 14 slots filled, the Studio hopes to reach a total of 30 donors/groups pledging $30,000 each over the next five years ($6,000 per year) to ensure a solid future—a solid next 30 years—for its architectural education program. There’s still room to be one of the 30!

Thank you to our Pig Roast Sponsors!

We want to give a very special thank you to our Pig Roast sponsors: Alabama Power; Poole & Company; Seay, Seay & Litchfield Architects; AERCON; Bill Mackey Real Estate; Clary’s Country Market; Faunsdale Cafe; Greensboro Pie; Hale County Hospital; Patrick Braxton & family; Reynolds Electric & Refrigeration; Seale Holmes Ryan, LLC; The Partridge Berry; Blue Shadows B&B; NAPA Auto Parts; Peoples Bank; Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee; Dozier Hardware; Michael Harrow Realty; Holmestead Company; Stillwater Machine; The Smelley family; The Stable; Citizens Bank; A1 Fitness; City Furniture; and Wood Fruitticher.

War Eagle, y’all! Cheers to another 30!

2023 Pig Roast

Another two-dayer is in the books! We started Pig Roast weekend on Friday, April 28, in the Project Horseshoe Farm Courtyard in Greensboro, AL. We began with a scrumptious meal, a collaboration between Mo Kitchen of The Stable and Sarah Cole of Abadir’s. The Stable provided tasty wraps, and Abadir’s the viabrant and zingy salads and sweet desserts, including their famous sprintime coconut cake. Sorry, Mo, the wraps were outstanding, but the Sarah’s flowers and petals visually stole the show, especially on the chopped greens and chickpeas AND the strawberry cobbler with lavender biscuits!

Seven alumni PechaKucha-style lectures followed the meal. Our speakers, spanning 12 years at Rural Studio:
• Mary Melissa Taddeo, ’12, Auburn, AL
• Chris Currie, ’10, San Antonio, TX
• Jamie Sartory, ’10, San Antonio, TX
• Evan Forrest, ’09, Chicago, IL
• Rob White, ’04, Nashville, TN
• Patrick Nelson, ’03, Birmingham, AL
• RaSheda Workman, ’00, Tuscaloosa, AL

And then . . . great music by Louis V to dance by.

On Saturday morning at 8:30, we gathered at Morrisette House to set out on our journey behind a Ford pick-up truck regaled in American and Auburn flags. The tour of projects included five in progress and several research initiatives, with a break in the middle back at Morrisette for a delicious lunch prepared by Rural Studio’s own Catherine Tabb and Doris Ward. Attendees heard the latest updates on the Front Porch Initiative from the team—Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, Betsy Farrell Garcia, & Christian Ayala—and toured and caught up on progress on Rural Studio Farm with Eric Ball. Emily McGlohn gave a rousing presentation on the new Wastewater project in Newbern.

Below is the rest of the rundown:

Projects presentations and clients
• C.H.O.I.C.E. House. 5th-year team of AC Priest, Davis Benfer, Hailey Osborne, and Yi Xuan (Raymond) Teo. Client: Emefa Butler of C.H.O.I.C.E. (CHOOSING to HELP OTHERS In our COMMUNITY EXCEL)
• Patriece’s Home. 5th-year team of Adam Davis, Daniel Burton, Laurel Holloway, and Lauren Lovell. Client: Patriece Gooden
• Rural Studio Bathhouse. 5th-year team of Carla Slabber, Ambar Ashraf, Ashley Wilson, and Logan Lee. Client: Morrisette Campus.
• 18×18 House. 5th-year team of Naomi Tony-Alabi, Jake Buell, Meagan Mitchell, and Julie DiDeo. Client: Detyrick King
• Rosie’s Home. Spring 3rd-year team of Canon McConnell, Trenton Williams, Junting Song, Finn Downes, and Lucas Henderson. Client Rosie and Frankie

Presentations of classes’ semester-long work
• History and Watercolor Class by Dick Hudgens
• Woodshop Class by Steve Long

We arrived back to Morrisette House for dinner led by Newbern’s fire trucks and the roasted pig! This year’s dinner and graduation ceremony was moved from Bodark Amphitheater to Morrisette House due to impending thunderstorms. (Thanks to our team for swiftly switching venue locations on the fly!) Saturday evening featured Newbern Mercantile’s famous fried catfish and barbecued pork—it is Pig Roast, after all—and all the sides (of course!), with everyone kicking back to live tunes, first from the young performers of the Blues School Graduate Band and then the stylings of Debbie Bond Blues Band featuring Debbie Bond, “Radiator” Rick, Earl “Guitar Williams, Marcus “Jukeman” Lee, and Jonathan Schwartz.

The ceremony introductions began with Joe Lee Hamilton, Hale County Commissioner; Ben Farrow, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and International Programs for Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction; and Justin Miller, Head of Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.

It was our pleasure to honor special guests Melissa Foster Denney and Bobby Scott. We were delighted to have Frank Harmon from Frank Harmon Architects in Raleigh, NC, to give this year’s graduation speech. And it was with pride and sweet tears that we congratulated our graduating 5th-year students: Ambar Ashraf, Ashley Wilson, Carla Slabber, Jake Buell, Julie DiDeo, Logan Lee, Meagan Mitchell, Naomi Tony-Alabi. Huge congrats, folks: you poured your hearts into your work and earned those degrees!

As tradition requires, “Whiffle Dust” shot from the Spencer family’s cannon, and fireworks rose to their heights behind Morrisette House.

We couldn’t have Pig Roast without our outstanding local sponsors! We’d like to thank Alabama Power; BDA Farm; City Furniture; Greensboro Pie; Hale County Hospital; Harvest Select Catfish; NAPA Auto Parts; Parker Tire & Muffler; People’s Bank; Reynold’s Electric; Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee; Blue Shadows B&B; Dozier Hardware; Greensboro Depot; Holmstead Company; M&M Mustang; Newbern Mercantile; The Partridge Berry; Seale, Homes, Ryan, LLC; Stillwater Machine; the Smelley family; The Stable; Citizens Bank; Mosley Feed and Seed; Greensboro Nutrition; Superior Metal Works; Clary’s Country Market; Patrick Braxton; and Wood Fruitticher!

If you couldn’t get out here to Newbern this year, check out blog posts from each team here.

Thanks to everyone for your support! #WarEagle

2022 Pig Roast!

Our small, rural community of Newbern, AL, nearly tripled in size for the 2022 Pig Roast weekend! This year’s event, the first since 2019, was a two-day celebration of West Alabama filled with three project ribbon cuttings, eight alumni lectures, a 100-mile current projects tour, graduation ceremony, and lots of fantastic food and music! A lot happened, so let’s take a look at Pig Roast by the numbers!

3 Project Openings

8 Alumni Lectures, PechaKucha-Style

  • Samuel Maddox ’14, Boston, MA
  • Stephen Durham ’13, Kauai, HI
  • Ally Klinner ’12, Washington, DC
  • David Frazier ’11, New York City, NY
  • Cameron Acheson ’10, Birmingham, AL
  • Betsy Farrell Garcia ’08, Auburn, AL
  • John Marusich ’07, Birmingham, AL
  • Laura Filipek Patterson ’06, New Orleans, LA

2 Bands

  • Friday night: Raina Shine from Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Saturday night: Debbie Bond Blues Band feat. Carroline Shines, “Radiator” Rick, Marcus “Jukeman” Lee on drums and Alabama Blues Camp graduates

4 Projects Presentations With 4 Amazing Clients

2 Class Presentations

  • History and Watercolor Class by Dick Hudgens
  • Woodshop Class by Steve Long

2 Rural Studio Initiatives Updates

4 Meals

Friday night’s dinner at the Horseshoe Courtyard was provided by The Stable and Abadir’s. We had mountains of tasty turkey and veggie wraps from Monique Kitchen at The Stable. Sarah Cole from Abadir’s treated us with a special farm salad, a chard + chickpea grain salad, an orange blossom ginger cake, and a coconut cake. Seriously delicious! We kicked off Saturday morning with treats from Wayside Bakery, then our favorite tacos for lunch from our very own Catherine Tabb and Doris Ward in the Rural Studio Kitchen. Saturday night, we had delicious BBQ pig by Bobby Scott along with more yummy BBQ and fried catfish from Mustang Oil!

23 Sponsors

Thank you to our incredible local sponsors! We couldn’t do this without you! Alabama Power, AerCon, BDA Farm, Hale County Hospital, NAPA Auto Parts, Parker Tire, Peoples Bank, Price Drywall, Reynold’s Electric, Superior Metal, Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee, The Stable, Blue Shadows B&B, City Furniture, Dozier Hardware, Greensboro Depot, Holmstead Company, Partridge Berry, Stillwater Machine, the Smelley family, Citizens Bank, Freeman Chiropractic, & Johnson-Torbert House

1 Graduation Ceremony

Introductions were given by Hale County Probate Judge Arthur Crawford and Karen Rogers, Acting Dean of Auburn University College of Architecture, Design & Construction. We also honored several special guests: Chelsea Elcott, Emefa Butler, Mary Jane Everett, Timothy Hursley, and Dr. John Dorsey. With surprise valediction speakers Julie Eizenberg and Hank Koning from Koning Eizenberg Architecture in Santa Monica, CA, we celebrated our graduating 5th-year students: AC Priest, Adam Davis, Brenton Smith, Caitlyn Biffle, Collin Brown, Daniel Burton, Davis Benfer, Hailey Osborne, Jackie Rosborough, Laurel Holloway, Lauren Lovell, and Yi Xuan Teo.

AND 1 Marriage Proposal

Congrats Jake & Lauren, two returning alumni!

And, of course, no Pig Roast would be complete without a few of our favorites: the Spencer family’s cannon blast of “Whiffle Dust” and beautiful (and massive) fireworks seen from every corner of Newbern.

If you missed Pig Roast, you can still catch up on the news from Rural Studio with blog posts from each team here.

Lastly, BIG congrats to our 5th-years who graduated from Auburn last week. We’re so proud of y’all!

Thank you to everyone for your support! #WarEagle

Pomp and Staircumstance

Now that the Patriece’s Home team has a chance to catch their breath, let us tell you about the exciting last few weeks! Pigs have been roasted, mock-ups have gone up, executives have reviewed, so get ready, because we’ve got a full story!

A sketched perspective sits behind a tree on Patriece's site

Site Design Time! The students began investigating details of the site, including the existing trailer, driveway, and a beautiful, healthy Water Oak tree. The team met with David Hill (professor and graduate chair of Auburn University School of Landscape Architecture) to get some advice on how to draw and diagram zones of different uses on the site, such as play areas and parking. He advised the group to use simple but powerful landscaping tools, like subtle berms and trees that will last and grow over the home’s long lifetime.

The team did a charrette to learn how programmatic zones and natural elements could inform where the house sits, instead of the other way around!

The team also began making mock-ups of many of their home’s unique details!

At the SAME time, the student team was preparing for the Studio’s annual Pig Roast weekend. The students mocked-up their most recent landscape plan on the site and created a scrolled slideshow to present their design of an adaptable two story home to the Studio’s families, friends, and alumni.

And at the same time (are you sensing a theme here?), the Patriece’s Home team prepared for the Executive Review 2.0! The guest reviewers suggested the team use an elevated slab to mitigate their site’s slope, order materials and windows, and get in the ground as soon as possible. YAY!

After Pig Roast and the Executive Reviews, the team rushed over to Auburn to graduate! They’ve worked hard on their research the last two semesters, but when they come back to Hale County next week, as leftovers, the real design-build work begins!

four students stand in the auburn football field, smiling in graduation caps and gowns