springsemester

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

I Once Was Lost But Now I’m Mound

The last couple of weeks have been busy for the Moundville Pavilion team, with the revolving door of visiting guest reviewers, a mock-up, and structural meetings.

Looking Up!

With the arrival of our pool tarp material, it was time to utilize the partially built pavilion and to mock-up the ceiling form. With the help of our fellow 5th-year Hailey Osborne, we made quick work of the mock-up which ultimately provided some much-needed perspective on the experiential quality of the proposed form. Seeing the slightly dull material for the underside of the pavilion confirmed the team’s desire for a more reflective surface that will blend the pavilion in with the surrounding environment.

Stood Up!

With the continuation of our meetings with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, the design began to evolve with the structural needs of the pavilion. Replacing the columns meant the opportunity to question the design of the columns, including their connection to the trusses as well as the ground. The first decision the team made was moving from a 3-ply system to a 5-ply system, causing the columns to widen and subsequently blend more with the surrounding tree trunks.

Team members mocking up a 5-ply column.

Secondly, the team decided it was important to make all of the columns vertical, contrasting with the previous design that incorporated angled bracing members. This vertical design provides a more porous plan from covered to uncovered areas and takes away the provisional nature of the diagonals. By taking out the original A and V column system, the necessary lateral stability was absorbed into the roof form, enlarged footings, and stiffer columns.

Meet Up!

Over the previous weeks, Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker (from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS), and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY) spent time discussing and providing constructive insight on the design. Duvall Decker helped the team think about the connection points of the columns and their constructability. This conversation led the team to develop a steel connection between each truss and column that allows for less risk of misalignment.

The team created a drawing exploring the new column-to-truss connection.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien zoomed out from the details and urged the team to strengthen the conceptual ideas of the project. This clarified the goals for the design and propelled the team forward with confidence in the direction the design was headed. We left ourselves with one question: How can you be of the surrounding landscape, without being the surrounding landscape?

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!

A Bittersweet End to the Inaugural Cabinet Class

plan perspective of Ophelia's Home focusing on millwork
plan perspective of the millwork in 20K Ophelia’s Home

The spring semester has come to the end, and what a wild four months it has been! At first, the Cabinet Class endeavored on a new adventure into the land of CNC routing by setting out to design and fabricate the millwork for 20K Ophelia’s Home.  Typically, the 20K Home is outfitted with off-the-shelf cabinetry units for kitchen and bathroom storage from the big box stores, i.e. Lowe’s or IKEA. The quality of the cabinets purchases is usually reflected in what the Studio can afford. To improve durability of these particle board cabinets, we decided to create cabinet designs that would be both more affordable and sturdy. 

Despite all of the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been an exciting semester filled with discovery and empowerment for the Studio as well as the students.  The first half of the semester focued on learning about the CNC router and its accompanied technology. By March, initial design for all of Ophelia’s Home storage was nearly complete, and the students built a physical mockup of their cabinets.

Remote learning, however, began at the end of Spring Break. Yet, the students continued to move toward a final design of storage spaces, which included the kitchen, bathroom, utility room, and bedroom closet storage.  This week, the teams presented a presentation of their final project: a book that explains the context of their cabinetry designs and a stylized guide of instructions on how to build the cabinets.  The class hopes this this books will be used to continue the exploration of millwork when studies resume in Newbern.  Hopefully, the adventure will continue very soon!

Thanks to all those who helped make this class a success, including Dylan & Keith from Wood Studio and John Byler from Dudley Hall’s shop in Auburn.  This semester’s great work would not have been possible without your help!  Most of all, thank you to the Rural Studio 3rd-year students who persevered through tough circumstances.  Great job to all!