#vines

Concrete, Concrete, and More Metal

Who said there is such a thing as, “too much concrete”? Definitely not the Horseshoe Courtyard Project team! In the last two weeks, Caleb, Claudia, and the 5th year and Graduate Student helpers poured concrete for the sidewalk extension, wall footing, and the wall mock-up. Oh, the wall? It’s made of concrete. Let’s see how they do it!

In one action-packed afternoon, the team poured the concrete sidewalk extension and the footing for the 9′ concrete entry wall. Both are located at the north end of the courtyard site. Special formwork was made to help keep the footing rebar in place. This rebar extends out of the footing and will be cast inside the wall. Special attention was also paid to the sidewalk extension by giving it a broom finish.

Mock-up # 13: The Concrete Wall

Next up, the thirteenth mock-up. This mock-up tested the finished quality of the concrete for the 9′ wall. The team experimented with how much the concrete needed to be vibrated to create a smooth surface and where to locate seams. It was also important to practice the overall process of making out-of-ground formwork and pouring into it.

Due to the dimensions of a single melamine sheet, a wood composite board with a plastic coating, no single sheet will cover the whole face of the concrete wall. Therefore a couple of options were tested using two, 2′ x 2′ panels. Each panel face tested a different option; single sheet, horizontal seam, vertical seam, and a combination of the two. Silicon sealed the joints and corners and liquid nails connected the different segments of the melamine board together. Once the concrete cured and the forms removed, the team decided horizontal seam would be best.

Only the Corner Left

After removing the formwork for the recent sidewalk extension, the last flat screen on the east side was ready for filling. Caleb, Claudia, and TMBV team members planted three more vines, weaved the rope through, and fastened the corresponding steel cables. The corner screen will be finished, once the concrete sidewalk is fully extended, to avoid trampling the plants in the process.

Spring is Upon Us

In the last couple of weeks, the courtyard has seen new colors pop up! The Carolina Jessamine or Gelsemium sempervirens, one of the two vines planted have started to bud. This week, almost all twenty of the Jessamines have bloomed or have buds that will bloom in the coming days. This beautiful vine blooms twice a year, in the fall and spring; and complements the fragrant white blooms of the Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which will make their appearance in a few weeks!

Benches Coming Together

During Neckdown Week, the team and helpers dug and poured two of the concrete footings for the benches. And last week, the corresponding metal legs for the benches were installed. The team hammer-drilled into the concrete and epoxied the threaded rods into place. The base of the benches will be grouted to the concrete at the correct level once the third bench footing has been poured and hammer-drilled. The benches’ sitting surface consists of two eight-inch square heavy timber cypress, leftover from the Newbern Town Hall project, which will provide durability as well as comfort for the user.

Walkway Capped

Fastening cables to railing end

Finally, the end of the walkway is complete! A new quarter-inch plate was installed into the masonry wall to support the northernmost railing. The process for the installation of the plate was the same as the plates which support the walkway. The main difference being the middle two anchors that extended past the wall plate and attached to the railing aligned with the other railing frame connection point. The corner piece, while singular in its function, follows the same language and rhythm as the rest of the metal. And maintains the two-inch gap in both its connection to the last railing and to the existing ones.

Tieing, Training, and Framing

The Horseshoe Courtyard steel screen frames are filling up! With help from the 3rd-years, more rope laced through the metal frames, leaving space for the steel cables which complete the screen patterns. The cables are placed every 5th perforation and function as an auxiliary support system for the vines. In the process, the steel cables visually transform the rhythm of the screen.

Showing Them the Ropes

While both the Carolina Jessamine and the Confederate Jasmine, are twining plants that will organically grow up the screens, a little help goes a long way. By training the recently planted vines around the rope and cable, they can begin to cover the screen more evenly. In a few years, the stems of the vines will become woodier, and they will become their own structure. Until then the ropes and cables are their support.

Illuminating the Courtyard

Since the last lighting mock-up, the courtyard gained ropes and vines which affect the lighting on the south end. As seen above, there are also more trees, short screens, and a mock-up of the concrete wall. To account for these new elements, the team added more lights to the scheme to see how it changed the space.

Last Brick Pallet!

In the past four months, with the help of 35 Rural Studio students and Horseshoe Farm Fellow, 3,800 bricks have now been cleaned! All salvaged, the bricks came from the site or a home in Selma, Alabama. A typical dig on Horseshoe Courtyard reveals a couple of bricks or an old foundation wall from a previous structure. Luckily all that cleaning is over with, and the team can now begin the brick pad! The team graded the site and removed access soil in order to stack the bricks beneath the trees. This way, the bricks will be with in reach when laying the pad pattern.

Walls Going Up

The courtyard team also started the porch framing! Seen above, the western porch stud wall attaches directly to the existing brick wall. Knee walls hang from the eiling strucuture, to span studs across to the south brick wall. Next for the porch is the eastern wall, re-hanging the double doors, and sheathing all the new stud walls. After this, the whole thing will be covered with exterior dry-wall.

Trees and the Double Overhand Knot

It’s time to thread the ropes through the Horseshoe Courtyard Project steel screens. Before all the rope could be installed, it was necessary to prep the lengths of rope per screen panel. Each tall screen consists of five segments that need 75 feet of rope. The shorter screens need 37 feet. Once the set of ropes was ready, a segment of rope was feed through the perforations and the first knot formed. Once that run of rope was threaded through; A wire stretcher was used to pull the whole segment taut while the last knot was tied. Then the excess rope was cut and carefully burned at the end, to keep it from unraveling.

Image of girl tieing rope behind screen

Different types of knots were tested to secure the rope to the bottom of the screen before the panels were infilled. The criteria for the type of knot chosen included both aesthetics and ease of replication. consequently, the team chose the Double Overhand Knot ( close-up above).

Soon after the rope was finished in each screen panel, one or two people began to train the jasmine vines to wrap and climb the ropes. The jasmine was trained by carefully untangling the vines and twining them around then ropes. From time to time, flagging tape was tied around the vine and it’s rope to hold it in place while it grows up to its new home.

Grouting the footings

On a Tuesday morning, with the help of the TMBV team, the footing plates were grouted. The forms were re-used from the previous grouting job, on the tall screens.

Trench in-fill

A few days after the grout set, the Horseshoe Courtyard team, the 3rd-Years, and Mason filled the trench with soil for the vines. When the trench was filled about halfway, a new PEX line for the spigots was laid. Once the spigots were in place the rest of the PEX was buried with more soil.

All Trees Planted!

The day is finally here, the day where all thirteen Natchez Crepe Myrtles are happily and fully transplanted!! After many weeks of anticipation, digging, and moving dirt, one can see how the courtyard is transformed by the trees. For now, beautiful shadows are cast by the tree branches; however, it is easy to imagine the day when the tree canopy creates much-needed shade on a summer day.

The One where the Short Screens Went Up

students pouring concrete

The Horseshoe Courtyard project team completed their sixth concrete pour on site! The team was incredibly excited to finally pour the footing for the eight-foot screens on the north end. Thanks to Andrew and Mason, the team got the job done in one morning’s time.

Shortly after the concrete cured, the team and helpers started prepping for the steel footings that connect the screens to the concrete. First, they pulled the batter board lines to find and mark the middle point for the footing. This ensures that the screens line up with the project’s five-foot grid. Second, holes were drilled in the concrete. These holes were filled with threaded rods and epoxied in place. Third, wooden templates were places on the threaded rods to hold them in place and keep track of the curing time. After the rods were set and the concrete fully cured the templates were removed. Lastly, the metal footings were placed on the washers and nuts and the plates were leveled.

Two more trees in the ground

Before the last screens could be bolted in place, the last two trees in the “calm space” were brought in. However, they could not be fully planted until after the screens were in place. Once the trees were in their new home, they were shored up to keep them steady until the trench was filled.

North end taking shape

view from beacon alley

In a single afternoon, with the help of 3rd-year students, and Dr.Dorsey, all eight short screens were raised and bolted into place! The following day, they were all aligned and leveled to each other and to the walkway railings. This was possible due to the oversized holes in the footing plate and that it had not been grouted yet. Grout coming up, next week!

Roadtrip for the vines

planting pattern
CJ= Carolina Jessamine, SJ= Star Jasmine. The dotted green line indicates the planting pattern that was chosen. The Jessamine tends to shoot up quicker, while the Jasmine, grows slower but more full.

Another exciting day last week was when the team took a trip to a nursery in Montogmery to pick up the vines! They picked up 60 potted plants. 25 three-gallon Confederate/ Star Jasmine, 15 one-gallon Star/Confederate Jasmine, and 20 three-gallon Carolina Jessamine. The design incorporates the two different vines because of their different growth patterns and blooms. Since the ratio of the two types of vines is 2:1, there needed to be some type of planting pattern that also took into account the plant size variation. Once all the vines were unloaded on-site, the team created a system that placed the taller vines in desired locations and spread out the younger plants. The vines were planted three per screen, to increase the density of the vegetation.