Don’t Be Stair-tled By A Review

Hey, Hi, Hello, and welcome back to the Patriece’s Home blog! Since the last blog post, the team has been busy preparing drawings for the 5th-years Executive Review (informally know as “stress test”) with Justin Miller, Associate Professor and new Head of Auburn’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and Rusty Smith, Associate Director of Rural Studio. The annual stress test examines each project’s potential and feasibility to continue into the summer.

In preparation, the latest designs were drawn with a greater degree of detail. (No more pochéd walls, folks!) And with the site now surveyed, the team began studying the position of the house in the surrounding landscape, focusing on forming comfortable, shaded exterior rooms.

The reviewers challenged the team to examine and test the design’s passive heating and cooling systems. The team was also asked to address potential foundation challenges; with a eaveless house design, water may collect at the base of the wall and undermine the strength of the building’s ground connection.

After a unanimous thumbs-up from their reviewers, Patriece’s Home team has moved forward drawing plumbing, electrical, and lighting plans. They hope to soon order their manufactured attic trusses. The 6’ space the doubled-up trusses straddling the stairs created has facilitated a double-height celebratory space. To highlight and delight in the space, the team has also decided to clad it with a hardier, more durable wood material. 

The team ended the intense week of preparation and reviews with a model-stand building workshop with a group of visiting 1st-year Auburn architecture students. Everyone enjoyed getting out of Red Barn, working with fellow architecture students, and reminiscing about the old days at Dudley Hall.

Andrew Freear gives a lecture to the first years under the Great Hall at the Morrissette campus.

The team still has lots more to do! They are now drawing their most difficult details and combining them into a plan for a 1:1 mock up. They will also begin soil testing and prepare the site to build the home’s foundation! Onward and upward! Check back in a couple weeks to see how far the team gets on their 1:1 mock-up!

If You Can’t Take the Heat, Get Out of the Pavilion!

Howdy from the Moundville Pavilion team! The design has continued to evolve quickly throughout the past couple of weeks as they have been heavily focused on constructability and modifying the design of the columns. The team also got the chance recently to participate in Moundville Archaeological Park’s Knap-In, an annual stone tool makers event where visitors can learn about flint tools and how they’re made.

Columns and Ceiling

After the team clarified the design concept, new iterations of columns began to emerge that focused strongly on the overall intent of the project and its place within the site. The team looked at the columns in elevation, large-scale models, and renderings. 

An axon drawing of a column
Column plan and elevation
Connection between column and truss

In conjunction with the column design, the team has also been exploring ways to give tolerance to the ceiling assembly along with the method of attaching the finished surface material to the underside of the trusses. With the decision to deconstruct the current partially built pavilion, the team has the opportunity to realign the upper or lower ridges and two of the four planes that make up the form. Aligning the upper ridge allows for smoother and faster assembly of the direct-bearing roof structure and gives shelter during the construction of the ceiling. The team also decided to add lumber to the bottom cords of the trusses to align the two lower planes. The overall goal is to allow for the most efficiency and tolerance when reconstructing the trusses.

A drawing explaining the intersection of roof, ceiling, and a truss
A drawing looking at the details of the ceiling panels

Reviewing Executively

All of this work and response to recent guest reviewers culminated in an Executive Review, the event formerly dubbed “stress test.” The annual stress test examines each projects potential and feasibility to continue into the summer. Justin Miller (Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture), Rusty Smith (Rural Studio Associate Director), and Emily McGlohn (Rural Studio Associate Professor and leader of the 3rd-year studio) met with the team to see where the project currently is and where it is heading. 

The team presented their work at the Executive Review.

Rusty and Justin encouraged the team to consider an overlapping clip system for their ceiling and to see how we could simplify the design of the column to find a stronger balance between functionality and concept. At the end of the review, the team was challenged to build a full-scale mock-up of the final column design, complete with the roof structure, to show at the annual Pig Roast celebration at the end of the semester. 

Keep on Pushing!

In response to the feedback, the team is continuing to explore the column design, testing the suggested ceiling construction method, and mocking-up how the structure will be assembled. 

Check back soon to see where we head next as we begin to prepare for Pig Roast!

A Site in Site

The Patriece’s Home team continues to present, question, revise, and present again their designs and research for an adaptable, two-story home. Visiting architects from across the country helped the team see opportunities to make an even better design!

The team decided to keep a defined room for living on the first floor that is open to the entryway and kitchen. This led to establishing two closed off rooms upstairs for bedrooms and an open space at the top of the stairs for more nuanced uses. For example, a desk could make it a study or office space, or a twin bed could turn it into a fifth bedroom. The team also realized that there is a 6-foot tributary area between the doubled-up trusses for the stairs, so they widened the dormer so that the open space can benefit from its light and the nook it creates.

However, when the team mocked up the dormer flashing detail, they began to question whether the benefits of the dormer could be achieved without the complexities created by breaking the roof plane.

That’s when help arrived from Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburgh of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CS), both based in Chicago, IL. Mike suggested using a skylight to bring light upstairs without breaking the line of the roof. Katrina also suggested the team spend more time looking closer at the kitchenette and entryway to add opportunities for more storage in this home’s tight design. The visitors stayed a second day to host a mini workshop with the team and mock-up the skylight and storage. The outcome was the idea of having the skylight and window next to each other on the second floor—one for light and the other for framing the view as someone ascends the stairs.

Immediately after Mike and Katrina left, the team began preparing for the Studio’s go-to guy for masterful details, Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL, “Detail Dan”. The team showed him 1:1 detail drawings for the dormer and skylights, then drawings on how those changes might affect the cladding strategies for the house. They also discussed possible ways the interior stairs can be finished with a heftier material to show their significance to the home and to combat wear on this heavily used surface. Dan reviewed the team’s eave details and gave advice about the construction and expression of home’s exterior. Dan also suggested that the team streamline their window strategy by using the same few windows throughout the home, aggregating them in different ways to create repeatable details.

After all this helpful discussion, the team concluded that a low, wide window without a dormer already gives the upstairs significant light and excellent sitting views in the nook space.

As an appreciated change of pace, the team lugged out their equipment and spent a day surveying their home’s site! They found out that the slopes drain well and that it is located on a road with lots of other houses nearby (good for the corner porch and a gable end approach).

Now there’s always more to do for the upcoming Executive Review in mid-March! We will get see where the home is best placed on the site and how the team is designing the foundation. They will keep drawing those 1:1 details and fine tuning the home’s systems to get the house to its best thermal performance come summer or winter! Thanks for the read, and come back soon!

three students pose in front of their drawings pinned up for review

Company’s Coming

It’s been a busy few weeks for the C.H.O.I.C.E. Emergency House team! With a constant revolving door of visitors coming and reviewing our work, there are always new ideas being thrown our way for consideration.  

First up, we had a short one-day visit from Duvall Decker out of Jackson, MS. Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker helped us make decisions about the environmental strategies for passively heating, cooling, and venting each unit.  

After hearing their advice, we have developed a passive heating and cooling plan for each unit using a combination of operable transoms, large roof overhangs, and fans above the machine volumes to circulate air. As for ventilation, the new details use wider board spacing and perforations in the metal siding to vent the attic through the cladding—the exterior material—on either end of the volume.  

diagram of passive heating and cooling strategies

Last Thursday and Friday, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY, paid a visit to Rural Studio for a two-day extravaganza. On the first day, all the teams presented their work and were given critiques from the pair. The second day, teams were tasked with solving specific design questions brought up during their reviews through a quick, collaborative charrette process.  

For us, that meant exploring different interior arrangements and more efficient storage found at the intersection of service and delight. We were also tasked with discovering what a different foundation could do for the character of the porch, the location and expression of the shared washer and dryer volume, and how we can use a friendly fence to create hard and soft boundaries to the site. 

 Closing thoughts: 

“Big things coming for Big Slab.” – AC  

“Today’s Wordle was really hard.” – Hailey  

“Ok… but really… the skylight is being resurrected!” – Davis  

“To build or to buy off the shelf? That is the question.” – Raymond  

Survey Says

After a restful winter break, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team—in charge of designing and building an emergency shelter for a nonprofit organization—is back and ready to work! To kick off the new semester, we took a trip to Uniontown, AL, to survey and document everything on our site. This information will help us to create more accurate drawings and make better informed decisions about how the units will relate to the site and its surrounding context.

hailey holding story pole on site

Once the site was surveyed, we had the chance to begin exploring how the prefabricated machine modules will be delivered and placed on site. We explored different foundation types, methods of transportation—such as dragging vs. craning the modules—and extents of site preparation. To help us with this process, guest reviewer John Forney of John Forney Architecture & Planning in Birmingham, AL, paid us a visit. His expertise in turning projects inside out forced us to reflect on our previous decisions, redefine what modulation means for this project, and broaden our views on what methods of transportation are available. 

meeting with reviewer

Currently, our plan is to prefabricate two core modules that will contain the bathing and cooking spaces—aka “The Machine”—underneath the fabrication pavilion, load them onto a truck. The truck will drive them to the site, back into a pre-existing pier foundation, and lower the modules to the foundation (this final step is still a little fuzzy, but we’re getting there).  

Now, we are working on detailing this process out and are starting to think about how we’re going to build the stick frame unit on site, but you’ll have to wait until next time for that! 

Until then: 

The survey has spoken to the conditions of the site, 

Of which the results inspired a way to transport the modules upright. 

Now, how will they provide structure and bring light into the cubes? 

In the future I’m seeing… it may be trusses and solar tubes!