The 2020-2021 5th-year students are ready for their introduction! They may have been off the radar so far this semester, but they are working the days away. The 2020-2021 Rural Studio thesis program began with eight students and several weeks of “neck down” work, the kind that uses everything but your head! This meant performing maintenance at Morrisette Campus and the Red Barn, lending a hand at Horseshoe Courtyard, and rebuilding park structures at Perry Lakes Park.
Thanks to the pandemic precautions being taken by all Rural Studio members, the 5th-year project teams are able to work face-to-masked face this semester. They’ve been working on site, in studio, and on the farm safely and gratefully. Presentations and critiques are all al fresco, but the work is just as hard, coffee as strong, and spirits as high.
While completing the “neck down” site work, the 5th-year students began their thesis research. Their thesis projects are to design and build two homes using a post frame structural system. This post frame strategy was first introduced to the studio by last year’s Master’s Outreach Team in their 2020 20K Home. The teams will be building for the clients of Reggie’s Home project team and the 2020 20K project team, both projects which were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team of eight is studying how to take full advantage of the pole barn frame. With several thesis research presentations on deck, the team began the routine of site work by day and studio by night. As the pros say, “healthy body, healthy mind!”
Meet the post frame structural system, sometimes known as a pole barn. It’s a kit of parts purchased as a complete package from one manufacturer or multiple suppliers. In both cases, the post frame system is made up of columns, trusses, roofing material, and often a concrete slab. The order of construction allows the roof to go up first. This is the opposite of traditional stick frame construction, how many past Rural Studio residential projects are built. In stick framing, exterior and interior framed walls are raised prior to installing trusses and roof metal. In this case, inclement weather means a losing a valuable day building on site if the roof has not been constructed yet.
Post frame gives the team the ability to raise the roof first, the initial structure being trusses and roofing material on columns over a now-covered slab. Exterior and interior walls as well as cladding and utilities come after the roof. This means come spring and all its rain, build days can go on through what would normally be weather delays. The 5th-years were able to visit one of these structures mid-build in a visit to one not too far from their home base.
But post frame is not all that’s on the mind. The group of eight has been researching, documenting, and analyzing homes in the area, including 20K Homes. They are studying how 20K Homes have expanded and adapted over time. This led to two approaches responding to rural expansion coupled with a post frame structure. One is a home under a separate roof, expanding outward beneath it, explored in Rev. Walker’s Home. The other is a home focused on interiorized expansion within the envelope of the post frame system, what will be Myer’s Home.
John Forney from Birmingham and Mike Newman out of Chicago were the first outside voices to weigh in this semester. Their feedback on the first public explanation of project goals helped them shape their arguments in the time after. Since then they’ve been developing the “why?” of the post frame structure and the “how” of our two expansion strategies. The former is that due to the speed of initial post frame construction, labor costs reduce the budget by 10% overall. The latter is in constant progress.
Following these reviews, teams and projects were chosen in traditional, mystic Rural Studio Fashion. With a full review schedule this fall of familiar faces including Julie Eizenberg, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Marlon Blackwell, Jake LaBarre, and a November Stress Test date, the teams jumped in headfirst.
Here they go, Myers’ Home team: Riley Boles, Madeline Ray, Robbin Reese, and Judith Seaman. They will be exploring the post frame home through interiorized, upward expansion. You will get to know the new kids on the block as they journey to a new frontier—the attic!