rs3rdyears

And They’re Off!

Newbies in Newbern

The Spring 2024 3rd-year students found their way to Newbern, and for Rural Studio’s own 30th Anniversary year! These past few weeks have been filled with many firsts for this group. They learned quite a lot already about putting things together and have been thrown into Rural Studio history with the traditional first-week Project Tour!

During their first week in Hale County, the newbies discovered trivia at The Stable and weren’t doing too well, stuck in last place throughout the whole night with 53 points. Then came the final round, which was the special twist: answer the question right and you gain the points that your team wagered, but if you get it wrong you must subtract the points wagered. The group of five decided to wager it all to give themselves a fighting chance at surpassing the first-place holder who had 98 points—and it worked! The group won with 105 points! Unfortunately, the following trivia nights sadly do not share the same happy ending.

Winner, winner, pizza dinner!

Notorious Neckdown

During their second week in Hale County, the 3rd-year students had some good old-fashioned bonding time with the 5th-year students and faculty during “Neckdown” Week! Each day, the students battled the crazy weather and were split into groups to help out around Hale County.

The first group visited Perry Lakes Park with Emily McGlohn and Judith Seaman. They swept the walkways and replaced rotting boards on the boardwalk to the Birding Tower, Bathrooms, and Pavilion.

The second group was the Fabrication Pavilion with Andrew Freear, John Marusich, and Steve Long. The students helped take apart and assemble scaffolding that was then used to replace parts of the columns.

The third group had their first days on the farm, helping Eric Ball plant seeds, harvest carrots, and prepare microgreens to grow in the greenhouse. Group four was busy over at the Model Homes sprucing up for a Spring roster of exciting visitors. Students cleaned the homes, painted walls, and helped Mason Hinton and John Allen with general maintenance. Last but not least was the mobile task force later in the week with Emily and Judith. With a rotating team, they cleaned the Thesis Barn, Newbern Town Hall, and Brick Barn. They also scrubbed the fence to a shine along Highway 61 at Morrisette Campus.

“Neckdown” Week wasn’t for the weak, with such wacky weather almost every single day. From freezing weather to lots of rain, the new 3rd-year students got an unusual Neckdown forecast. At the end of the day, they had a great time getting accustomed to the new lifestyle in Newbern.

Rookies at Rosie’s

Working on Rosie’s home had been one of the most anticipated tasks for the 3rd-year students. With help from a few of last semester’s students, they quickly picked up where the Fall 2023 team left. Kati taught Julia how to trim the windows; Tanner, Sarah, Brysen, and Mac all worked on continuing the cypress wood paneling; Caitlin and Deane built louvers for the attic vents; and finally, Yesenia and Jack continued the electrical work. One big hit from the first week on Rosie’s site was the cats! The most famous is Crunch, who is extremely loving.

Over the next few weeks, the 3rd-year students all teamed together to finish putting up the cypress wood paneling that wraps the ceiling. This was a big step in the right direction when it came to finishing Rosie’s Home. The cypress wood ceiling perfectly reflects lighting down into the room creating a beautiful effect.

Once the ceiling was completed, it was time to trim and caulk the windows and louvers throughout the house. This step only took a few days, and soon after, the scaffolding was able to come out and the flooring began! The scaffolds leaving the house and completing flooring in the living and kitchen areas were such big accomplishments, we deserved a good rest on the floor. The flooring is called Marmoleum, a variety of linoleum which is manufactured with linseed oil that uses a click-lock backing system and is part of 3rd-year students’ ongoing study in healthier material alternatives. Along with its health advantages over vinyl, the whole class is loving how easy Marmoleum has been to install.

The class is super excited to keep checking tasks off of the list and pushing towards the finish line of Rosie’s Home.

Head-Turning History

Dick Hudgens is the professor for the history seminar here at Rural Studio. However, his classes are not like any regular history classes these students have had before. Hudgens takes the students on trips to visit historic homes around the Black Belt region and includes the use of natural watercolors in his sketching assignments. At the beginning of the semester, a watercolor-making class is held led by local textile and dye artist Aaron Sanders Head. During this class, the students are shown a few ways that watercolor pigments can be made using natural resources like local plant matter, kitchen scraps, and leftover building materials.

So far, we have visited four homes: Glencairn, Magnolia Grove, Bluff Hall, and Lyons Hall. We learned a lot from these four homes and are excited for the other trips as the semester progresses. If you’d like to see everyone’s work, all sketches and watercolors done throughout the semester can be found at Pig Roast coming up at the end of next month!

Locations of the homes visited so far:

1.          Glencairn, Greensboro, AL

2.          Magnolia Grove, Tuscaloosa, AL

3.          Bluff Hall, Demopolis, AL

4.          Lyons Hall, Demopolis, AL

Working Hard in Woodshop

The 3rd-year students have been spending a lot of time in the woodshop these past couple of weeks and have been keeping the woodshop instructor, Steve Long, on his toes. Each semester students are given two projects to work on within the shop. The first is a cutting board, which allows them to get familiar with the equipment in the shop. The second, and most important, project is to recreate an architect’s famous chair design from found documents. Most of these chairs are manufactured on a machine scale, so the project requires students to design the processes to build these seats by hand using the resources of the Newbern shop! Both finished products will be on display at Pig Roast, so be sure to come by at the end of the semester.

So far, we have made the cutting boards, performed research for our chosen chairs, and created storyboards for them. Most recently, we have started making mock-ups to prepare for the final chair build. We are excited to see how the chairs will turn out!

Here’s each group and their chosen chair!

Denae and Julia: Standard Chair No. 4 by Jean Prouve

Sarah and Yesenia: Stool No. 60 by Alvar Aalto

Brysen and Mac: Frei Edigio (Folding Chair) by Lina Bo Bardi

To end on a good note, get to know the new group! Here are some of their fun little theories…

What’s your fun little theory?

Denae Inniss is from the Bahamas. Theory: Animals that run out in front of your car are controlled by insurance companies.

Julia Van Pelt is from Columbus, Georgia. Theory: Farmersonly.com puts farms out of business.

Sarah May is from Huntsville, Alabama. Theory: Dogs have names for humans.

Yesenia Serrano is from Collinsville, Alabama. Theory: Whales have contact with life in the deep sea and life in space.

Brysen Calvin is from Chicago, Illinois. Theory: There is one cow on the moon; it never jumped.

Mac Harlow is from Atlanta, Georgia. Theory: The Denver airport.

Thanks for checking in, look out for big strides out at Rosie’s Home as we celebrate the home stretch of this 3rd-year project! See you soon.

A Neckdown to Rain-member

Student mixing soil

It’s that time of year again…time for Spring “Neckdown” Week! It was a damp week all around Newbern, but the weather didn’t slow us down. All of the students and faculty got their hands dirty helping out.

Around Morrisette House, the Farm got plenty of attention and preparation for the coming growing season. We pulled out cover crops, tarped beds in the field, and started seeds in the greenhouse when the rain caught up to us. The front fence even got a facelift!

Work on the Fabrication Pavilion was one of the biggest Neckdown tasks this semester. A rotating crew of students spent time reinforcing each column to get ready for the pavilion’s second phase. There was almost as much scaffolding as people on site…

Other spots around town got some love too! The model homes and Newbern Town Hall both had facelifts, with lots of cleaning and repainting all around.

Another one of the main (and muddy!) projects for the week happened at Perry Lakes Park. The park boardwalk now has brand-new boards in place, ready for anyone who wants to come visit.

Now that Neckdown is behind us for the semester, it’s time to really dive into the projects. Keep up with each team’s blog posts to see where this spring takes us!

People carrying lumber through woods

A Big Toast for Soup Roast

The end of the fall semester can only mean one thing in Newbern… Soup Roast!

The 2023 edition included plenty of showing and telling, from 3rd-years, 5th-years, and leftovers alike! The first day of Soup Roast included visits to the two current leftover project sites, the 18×18 House and the Rural Studio Bathhouse. Both teams got the chance to show visitors what they’ve been up to since they began construction.

The 3rd-year class has been busy this semester, and they were able to show off all of their hard work! At Rosie’s Home, they’ve completed exterior finishes, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and are well under way with interior finishes.

students with clients

In the Woodshop and History classes, students made cutting boards, large-format watercolor drawings, and replicas of famous chair designs. All of these were on display for visitors and friends to see!

The 5th-year students stayed hard at work during Soup Roast. Both the CLT Core House and the Fabrication Pavilion teams presented their current work to visiting reviewers. Kim Clements and Joe Schneider from JAS Design Build, Jake LaBarre from Miller Hull Partnership, Jim Adamson from design-build firm Jersey Devil, artist and architect David Lipe, artist Victoria Haven, and architects Isabelle and Nick Robertson were all in Newbern to help keep the projects moving forward. The second day of Soup Roast celebrations brought workshops and more discussion about the 5th-year projects.

The semester came to a festive end, with a celebratory dinner, six PechaKucha-style lectures by our visitors, and a bonfire. Huge thanks to Kim Clements for making this fantastic meal for us! Check back in after the holidays to see what’s next for the current projects!

The Home Stretch

Nearing the Finish Line

Well, hello again! The 3rd-year class is back again for your entertainment. It has finally cooled down here in Hale County: the fans have been stored away for the semester and winter jackets and heated blankets made their debut. Since our last blog, we have been so busy and are excited to tell you all about it!

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing

When we last checked in with the MEP Boys, the plumbing team, Luke and Cayden, were finishing up the dryer vent installation and just starting on water supply lines; while the electrical team, Jack and Casey, were finishing up wiring throughout the house! After a few days of dry-fitting both wiring and plumbing parts, the MEP teams were able to begin setting everything in final positions. Following supply line fitting, the plumbing team began running pressure tests to ensure no leaks in the hot and cold water lines. As the electrical team finished up on wiring, they duly began testing each of their 22 circuits.

After successful tests, the plumbing team moved on to attaching the main water line to the house and placing and leveling the shower floor with mortar. After a day of mixing and spreading mortar, the plumbing team came back to a perfectly level and functional shower pan.

The electrical team successfully tested each interior circuit and moved onto the exterior wiring and placing of conduit on the porch with the help of Mason. After finalizing the interior plumbing and electrical, the MEP team cleaned up their typical mess of wires and nuts so the drywall team could get to work over the Thanksgiving Break!

Cabinets and Carpentry

As the Interiors team awaited the arrival of their tongue-and-groove cypress cladding, our sweet friend from that team, Kylie Kendall joined the ranks of the Millwork team for extra help in the woodshop. While Caitlin and Shannon worked hard on figuring out the composition of the lower cabinet drawers, Biz and Kylie, with aid of instructor Steve Long, used maple hardwood to construct face frames for the upper cabinets. After finishing sanding for all the cabinets, Caitlin and Shannon moved to priming while Biz and Kylie built the plywood bases for them sit on upon install.

Through meeting with our clients Rosie and Frankie, it came to our attention that we needed change in the plans. The cabinets previously formed an L-shaped kitchen that ended in a tall pantry storage unit. However, Rosie is accustomed to a U-shaped kitchen. The team met with Rosie to form a plan for the new kitchen shape and pivoted work to building a small peninsula cabinet instead, what we’re calling “Florida”. So, we headed back to the Studio to start brainstorming “Florida” into reality. Our interpretation was a peninsula added onto the end of the lower cabinets to cap them. This peninsula will add adjustable storage to both the kitchen and living room sides.

We were also tasked with the job of designing and building a closet for the bedroom that responded to the ceiling vaulted and exposed tension members. After many ideas, we landed on the final design and headed to site for a major blocking job for all of the millwork to be installed later.

Interiors

Tanner, Kylie, Emma A., and Emma J. have started cranking out the interior cladding in Rosie’s Home. To prepare for the drywall installation, different and healthier alternative insulations are being applied to the house’s walls and roof. On the east wall, Hempitecture Hempwool is being firmly fitted in the wall, we love the ease of installation on this one! Up above, ROCKWOOL is being hung on the ceiling. The west wall will be all Havelock sheep’s wool batts. On the north and south wall, a mixture of Hempwool, ROCKWOOL, and sheep wool are used for testing the effectiveness of the different insulations. As Kylie was stolen away from the team, the remaining members worked on finalizing the interior finish options and presented the cool, neutral, and warm options. They put together beautiful mood boards that represented the interior cladding, flooring, and cabinet colors and presented to Rosie and family. After that, Tanner and Emma J. along with Mason ventured to Cleveland, Georgia, to pick up the wood cladding and trim needed to finish the interior.

Enclosures

Bailey, Hannah, Kati, and McAllister have been working hard to continue wrapping up the exterior cladding. After finishing the vertical and horizontal battens on the front wall and roof, one of the picture windows arrived and was able to be installed on the north facade.

While Kati and Bailey completed the metal cladding on the north side, Hannah and McAllister stained and installed the wood cladding on the front. Once the whole team started working on the front, the wood cladding went up with ease, and before they knew it the wall was done. After some brainstorming on how the edge of the roof and wall would meet, the team settled on a slight roof overhang and then got to work on the application.

Halloween Review

It was time for the annual Rural Studio Halloween review and the 3rd-years dressed up as whimsical characters from the Dr. Seuss books. Starring in the 2023 Halloween review was…

Biz Helms as Horton the Elephant 

Bailey Kennedy as The Fish

Caitlin Ranheim as Thing 1

Casey Dillard as Mr. Brown

Cayden Davis as Sneetch 

Emma Avery as The Lorax

Emma Johnson as Thing 2

Hannah Weiland as The Fox in Socks

Jack Felder as The Grinch

Kati Warner as The Cat in the Hat

Kylie Kendall as The Once-ler

Luke Bradberry as JoJo 

McAllister Tucker as Cindy Lou Who

Shannon Brennan as Sam-I-Am

Tanner Wallace as Max the Dog 

On site, McAllister, Emma A., Caitlin, and Luke presented Rosie’s Home to visiting architects and got critiques on the progress already made to the house. To end the day, the 3rd-years competed in a costume competition with the rest of Rural Studio and to their dismay, did not win. Congratulations the the 5th-year CLT Core House team for their victory!

Chop, Drop, and Roll

Continuing on our journey into the woodworking world, all five groups have begun our final chairs! After working out any issues that were brought to light by the completion of our mock-ups, we have now refined our techniques and are working hard to finish each chair by Soup Roast.

Steve has continued to help us through all of the challenges we’ve faced, even if that means meeting in the early mornings with us. Regardless of the bumps in the road, we are all ecstatic to show you how much we’ve learned this semester with the final renditions of our iconic chairs!

Pillars of the Past

Since we last talked, we visited The Oaks in Greensboro, Alabama, where we met its steward, Ian Crawford, who just so happened to be one of Dick Hudgens’ past interns! We learned much more about our professor, his work, and this gorgeous and well-loved home. This house represented Greek revival and the class favorite room was the Greek mythology-themed dressing room!

We also visited the Jemison Mansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This house represented Italianate architecture and provided a unique and large wall-to-wall custom carpet and featured the first interior working toilet and bathtub in Alabama.

In our final class with Professor Hudgens, we carpooled all the way to Columbus, Mississippi. We had the privilege to visit the Riverview Mansion first, one of the finest examples of Greek revival in the South. The second destination was Temple Heights Mansion, which also represented Greek revival architecture in a denser neighborhood site. At this stop, we drew elevations of the home and enjoyed the sights of the lush garden and property in a setting unlike previous rural homes we’ve seen. The final destination was Waverly Mansion. This iconic home featured four floors of beautifully executed historic preservation, with more modern restorations in the east wing. We ended this trip with dinner at Harvey’s and said our goodbyes to Dick until we see him again at Soup Roast with our completed watercolor paintings.

Gone Nuts!

As best friends here in Rural Studio, Biz Helms decided she would treasure nothing more than bringing all the 3rd-year students to her hometown of Dothan to attend the National Peanut Festival. So we all packed into cars, some more than others, and made our way to the Circle City itself.

As for the weekend itinerary details; driving, eating, sleeping, eating again, festival rides, watching cattle shows, viewing the peanut gallery, eating AGAIN, riding more rides, eating one last time, shopping for merchandise, and more driving. As one can see from this weekend, our hearts were as full as our bellies, but our wallets were empty.

Well, thanks for stopping by! We are having so much fun and never wanna leave, but for now we are cherishing every moment out here. As Kati Warner always says, “We are living in the good ‘ole days.”  Check back later to see the end of the semester and what we present for Soup Roast!

See you soon!

A West Alabama Welcome

New kids in Hale (Get to know the 3rd-year class!)

The Fall 2023 3rd-year students have landed themselves in Hale! They’ve been through the classic “Neckdown” Week experience and are settling into the daily routine of life in Newbern with a busy schedule. Here to introduce themselves and their “hot takes,” please meet:

Elizabeth Helms is from Dothan, Alabama. Hot take: Milk is better with ice in it.

Hannah Wieland is from Fairhope, Alabama. Hot take: Environmental mistreatment is not a consumer problem.

Tanner Wallace is from Birmingham, Alabama. Hot take: Auburn will beat Bama this year.

Caitlin Ranheim is from Brooklyn, New York. Hot take: Taylor Swift made Kanye famous.

Casey Dillard is from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Hot take: Crocs are a must-have shoe.

Jack Felder is from Savannah, Georgia. Hot take: Morgan Wallen stinks.

McAllister Tucker is from Fairfax, Virginia. Hot take: The movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, is bad.

Kati Warner is from Huntsville, Alabama. Hot take: The live-action Cat in the Hat is the greatest movie in the world.

Bailey Kennedy is from Memphis, Tennessee. Hot take: Dasani tastes good. Spring water is the real criminal.

Kylie Kennedy is from Birmingham, Alabama. Hot take: Architecture is hard-core arts and crafts.

Luke Bradberry is from Suwanee, Georgia. Hot take: We aren’t actually in school right now.

Emma Johnson is from Birmingham, Alabama. Hot take: Pancakes are better with peanut butter on them.

Emma Avery is from Enterprise, Alabama. Hot take: Pineapple is the best pizza topping.

Shannon Brennan is from Newburyport, Massachusetts. Hot take: Cruise ships are a scam.

Cayden Davis is from Coleman, Alabama. Hot take: Auburn will go 10 and 2.

Model Homes or Pod Life?

The living spaces for the 3rd-year class are split up this year! While you may be familiar with Rural Studio’s typical “pod life,” only some of us are living there. The rest of the crew is down the road testing out the Model Homes. Not only did we get to take the annual 20K House tour and make trading cards for each home, but some of us get to live in Joanne’s, Mac’s, and Dave’s Model Homes. When asked how she liked living in Mac’s Model Home, 3rd-year McAllister Tucker answered that she enjoyed, “getting to share a bathroom with only two people and having an in-house kitchen.” She also said an upside is, “having donkeys as neighbors, but the downside is you can smell them.”

Bailey Kennedy, living in the Cardboard Pod at Morrisette House, said that she likes how the pods are on the main campus: “It’s an awesome spot for Enos [hammocks], and it feels like you are a part of the tradition of Rural Studio.” The Model Homes may have donkeys, but the Pod residents are visited every night by Booty, a wandering dog who was first seen scooting across the lawn nearby!

Outside of shared meals and class, Auburn football is what brings these two groups together. The Model Home kids came to the pods to watch the Auburn-California game on the projector one Saturday. No matter where they live, each 3rd-year student is enjoying their time among their friends at their home in Hale. 

Studio Kickoff

This semester, the 3rd-year class of Fall 2023 is charged with the task of completing Rosie’s Home. This has been an ongoing project since Fall semester 2021. We started with creating a digital 3D model of what has been built so far in Rhinoceros. Not only did we learn which details still needed designing, but we figured out stick-frame construction in the span of a week and got to know the ins and outs of this project. During pin-ups at the site, we were able to meet our clients, Rosie and Frankie. 

In this project, we are exploring possibilities with healthy building alternatives, specifically with insulation and interior finish materials. We started with a tour of all the 20K Homes Rural Studio has built in the last 18 years. To understand these precedents, we made a set of trading cards of all the houses. The cards included the materials used in wall construction, as well as what principles they embodied according to “The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building” by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

To begin the design process, we broke into teams based on our own particular interests for the semester. The selections are as follows:

Millwork and Framing Team: Shannon Brennan, Elizabeth Helms, Caitlin Renheim

Enclosures Team: Bailey Kennedy, McAllister Tucker, Kati Warner, and Hannah Wieland

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Team: Luke Bradberry, Cayden Davis, Casey Dillard, and Jack Felder

Interiors Team: Emma Avery, Emma Johnson, Kylie Kendall, and Tanner Wallace

Then, we split up and discussed the design focuses and procedures we would have to work through as a group of fifteen and in site teams. After, we were assigned to do interior perspectives of the living space so we could all decide together the big picture questions of designing the inside of the house. Once we make these decisions as a class, we can begin the last phase of construction—the interior space!

Woodshop, What’s Up?

In the Woodshop this semester, the 3rd-years are going to build chairs! We are split up into five groups of three. Each group is going to tackle a different chair designed by a famous architect and complete it by the end of the semester. The instructor for Woodshop class is Steve Long, and he has started by giving interactive tutorials on processing wood and using the equipment.

Before starting their chairs, the groups have been making detailed drawings and storyboards of the production process. To make us more familiar with woodworking, our first mini-project is designing and making a cutting board.

History Seminar

Dick Hudgens’ first class in Seminar of Aspects of Design was a dye workshop with Aaron Sanders Head. He taught the class how to make dyes naturally from plants so we could make our own watercolor palettes. Our first field trip in the class was a visit to Glencairn! Glencairn is a house built in the 1830s that has been preserved for visitors. The class toured the house and drew the ground floor plan along with a front elevation.

Life in Hale…

At Rural Studio, we like to stay busy—whether we’re building houses, making watercolors from plants, or constructing chairs from scratch. We carry our creative enthusiasm into after-hours. In our downtime, we love to venture around Hale County. We make our way to Greensboro every Thursday night for trivia or bingo at The Stable, or some nights we head to Nick’s Crispy Chicken on Highway 14, where you can find the best catfish po’ boy this side of the Mississippi River. Another great spot is the Newbern Mercantile, known to us regulars as “The Merc,” right in the heart of Newbern. On the weekends, we love to seek out antique shops and visit local markets.

We’ve probably spent more time outside in the last few weeks, than all the years of childhood recess added up. Just the other morning, some students visited a previous 5th-year project, the Birding Tower in Perry Lakes Park. Here they climbed five flights of stairs just to watch the sunrise. We heard it was well worth it. The country has its perks, even if it’s just driving around to watch the sunset over the catfish ponds. 

Check back soon to see us hit the ground running on-site at Rosie’s Home! The final construction push has begun, and we can’t wait to show you what’s happening!