Current Projects

"I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello"

The new group of 3rd-years have arrived and hit the ground running (with maybe a stumble or two) as they begin the process of taking over Ophelia’s Home project and start to get acclimated in their new spot for the semester. Before discussing the details of their project, the students took a tour of several past Rural Studio projects to familiarize themselves with the town and other 20K Homes around Newbern.  Once touring and neckdowns were completed, the initial goal for the newbies was to look through all the hard work last semester’s 3rd year group put in to creating the best version of Joanne’s home for Ophelia. One of the first steps was to understand the foundation and the reasoning behind some major decisions made in the design.

New kids on the block… Meet the 3rd-years!

Adam “Slow-Movin” Boutwell

From: Bay Minette, Alabama

Joke: Today my brother asked me, “Can I have a book mark?” We’ve been brothers for 21 years and he still does not know my name is Adam.

Hobby/Talent: Professional snapper

Yearbook Quote: “Mountains never meet, but people do.”

Alex “Old Soul” Harvill

From: Tampa, Florida

Joke: Some people think prison is one word… but to robbers it’s a sentence.

Hobby/Talent: Riff on the air guitar.

Yearbook Quote: “Surely you can’t be serious”

Daniel “Go-To Goatee” Burton:

From: Prattville, Alabama

Joke: My friend keeps saying, “Cheer up man, it could be worse, you could be stuck underground in a hole full of water.” I know he means well.

Hobby/Talent: Amateur chopstick craftsman

Yearbook Quote: “There’s a stack of freshly made waffles in the middle of the forest! Don’t you find that a wee bit suspicious?”

Elizabeth “Parking Services” Brandebourg

From: Auburn, Alabama

Joke: Two guys walk into a bar, but the third one ducks.

Hobby/Talent: Wildlife photography

Yearbook Quote: “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

Elle “MNOP” Whitehurst

From: Peachtree City, Georgia

Joke: Ask for more info.

Hobby/Talent: Can talk with mouth closed

Yearbook Quote: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley”

Hannah “Trevor” Moates

From: Ozark, Alabama

Joke: Did you hear about the new corduroy pillow? They are making headlines everywhere!

Hobby/Talent: The Auburn Eventing Team

Yearbook Quote: “Better is the enemy of good.”

Jackie “The Marine” Rosborough

From: Deerfield, Illinois

Joke: I’m addicted to brake fluid, but I can stop whenever I want.

Hobby/Talent: Making coffee. Try a pourover from me to decide if it’s a hobby or a talent.

Yearbook Quote: “My vibe is like, hey you could probably pour soup in my lap and I’ll apologize to you.”

Jasvandhan “Jay” Coimbatore Upendranath

From: Coimbatore Tamil Nadu, India

Joke: ur mom

Hobby/Talent: Binge watching

Yearbook Quote: “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them.”

Jooyoung “Tree” Lim

From: South Korea

Joke: Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9.

Hobby/Talent: Soccer

Yearbook Quote: “Your secrets are safe with me… I wasn’t even listening”

Lauren “Patio” Deck

From: Aurora, Illinois

Joke: Your workout routine

Hobby/Talent: Black belt taekwondo

Quote: “No pain, no gain.”

Luke “Shamus” Killough

From: Huntsville, Alabama

Joke: I’m in architecture for the money.

Hobby/Talent: Can shred on a kazoo

Yearbook Quote: “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know I’m doing it really, really well.”

Shijin “Surgeon” Ding

From: Qingdao, China

Joke: At Disney I heard a mother talking to her son say, “We’re in the happiest place on earth. Don’t let me slap you.”

Hobby/Talent: Photoshop, InDesign, CAD, Sketchup

Yearbook Quote: “Your hair is winter fire, January embers. My heart burns there too.”

For the first week of studio a good ‘ol fashioned pull-planning session was held to create a rough to-do list in order to get the project done in time for Pig Roast. The studio was split into four teams that consisted of framing, enclosures, MEP, and interiors. Although there’s a lot to be done for the semester, this framework will allow the project to be completed smoothly with a competent team of 3rd years (good luck finding one!).

(Kidding, they’ve got this.)

The first few days on site were spent digging drainage trenches and preparing for floor framing which will occur next week. The first steps to the floor framing was to place the girder in order to secure the joists. Gravel was poured into the trenches which will surround the drainage tile that is to be put in place.

Let's do some tests!

Hello from Reggie’s Home! In an effort to create a design that fully responds to the conditions of the site we decided to conduct some soil test to determine where the best places to grow Reggie’s desired fruits and vegetables would be. In order to conduct the test we divided our site into three parts: the front of the site, the part where the old family home stood, and the back of the site where Reggie has been cutting down privet. We collected soil from these areas and sent them to Auburn University’s soil testing laboratory to be tested. 

Box used to mail soil samples.

We have also been researching the plants Reggie wishes to grow to figure out what type of sun and soil they need, as well as what seasons the crops would be harvested. This research and the soil test results led us to determine the best place for Reggie to have a garden would be the north side of the site. With this information we were able to get a more accurate master plan of the site. 

Plant research.

In addition to researching plants available to grow on our site we also continued our research with Earth Tubes, a form of passive heating and cooling. Earth Tubes are essentially buried ventilation ducts that heat or cool the air moving through them because of the constant temperature of the soil. A big question that comes with Earth Tubes is whether or not it will work in our climate due to the humidity. Lucky for us, the Rural Studio Farm Storehouse uses earth tubes in an effort to keep produce at a constant temperature. We have been monitoring the temperature and humidity outside the storehouse and outtake of the Earth Tube to see how effective it is. After a month of recording temperature we discovered a change of temperature from 6-10 degrees. With this information we contacted Adam Pyrek, an Environmental Controls professor from the University of Texas at Austin, to consult whether Earth tubes would be feasible as part of our home design. He encouraged us to continue the research on the temperature and humidity of the storehouse and to keep in mind that Earth Tubes are ideal for keeping a small space at a constant temperature.

Diagram showing how the spaces would be divided using Earth Tubes.

With all this information we will be pushing the design of the home as well as the site as a whole forward!

Until next week,

Reggie’s Home

Beginning Design

In considering the programmatic layout for the 2020 20K, we started by analyzing the programmatic layouts of the existing one-bedroom 20Ks and comparing their spatial organizations with our project goals. We liked the logical flow from public to private areas of the “Long Linear” schemes (such as Dave’s), however we felt that the narrow width limited the programmatic possibilities. In contrast, the “Horizontal Bar” schemes allowed for a longer front porch, increasing the area of this valuable outdoor living space. The “Squarish” plan is the most efficient; however, these homes feel smaller than the others when viewed from the outside because they lack a long façade.

In conjunction with our 20K analysis, we also selected a few precedence to study. The three that we settled on were: The Chamberlain Cottage by Marcel Breuer & Walter Gropius, The Sea Ranch Cottage by William Turnbull & Assoc, and Andrew’s Home (architect unknown).

After testing these programmatic layouts in plans of different dimensions, we arrived at a layout inspired by the Sea Ranch Cottage. This plan was not only the most efficient layout but it also provided for the most interior flexibility (allowing for an additional bedroom to be carved out of the living/dining room in the future).

Testing programmatic layouts and dimensions
Situating the plan within the pole barn

By using the post-frame construction method, we are able to build a larger roof and slab structure than previous 20Ks. Although we are still building a one-bedroom 20K, our plan is to situate the home within a larger structure that will allow for easy expansion in the future. Given the constraints of around a 500-600 square-foot home, situated within around a 1000 square-foot superstructure, we began to design the exterior space. From our visits to past 20Ks and other homes in the area, we set some parameters for the width of the exterior space (with a minimum of 6’ to allow for a comfortable sitting porch, and a maximum of 12’ to allow for light to penetrate into the home). With these parameters in mind, we looked at various ways in which our plan could fit within the larger superstructure, settling on two schemes to investigate further, what we call the “L” scheme and the “Front/Back” scheme.

Knox and Hill come to Hale

Over the past couple of weeks, we (the Hale County Hospital team) have been working a lot closer with two of Auburn’s landscape architecture professors David Hill and Emily Knox. During “neckdown” week, David and the 1st-Year Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) students came out to our site to show us how to transplant rose bushes and prune vines. The following week, David and Emily came back to Rural Studio to do a day-long design workshop with us. Their feedback has been incredibly helpful and their presence is always enjoyable!

The first thing David Hill and the MLA students showed us was how to transplant the rose bushes in the marble planters. Because rose bushes have to be transplanted during the winter months while they are dormant, we are moving all eight of them to the front entrance of Hale County Hospital.

We also learned how to prune the Confederate Jasmine vines which have become overgrown on the trellis structure. Trimming back the vines allows the sunlight to filter through the trellis and creates more visibility into the courtyard.

This week, David Hill and Emily Knox came out to Rural Studio to spend a day with us developing design ideas and coming up with our spatial agenda. We began with a review of our presentation and spent the rest of the day charretting different schemes. David and Emily chose five “winners” for us to develop further and build in model form.

After two intense days of designing and model building, we re-presented the schemes to Emily and David over a call. We were unable to identify any clear winners or losers of the five schemes, so we will be developing all five of them further over the next few days. This go around, we will test how flexible all of the schemes are for maintenance, diagram how they would be used throughout the day and seasons, create small and large gathering spaces, and build more articulated models.

Having Emily Knox and David Hill assist us on the Hale County Hospital Courtyard project has been a huge help. We look forward to working with them more in the coming months!

Welcome to the Rural Studio Farm blog!

The Rural Studio Farm is all-organic, small-scale, and intensively managed, making use of sustainable agricultural practices. In addition to providing fresh, organic produce for students and staff, the farm has become an integrated part of all the architecture students’ experience coming through Rural Studio.

Bright and early each morning, a group of students works with our farm manager, Eric Ball, in all aspects of crop production, from seed-starting, to transplanting, to harvesting—and finally enjoying the fruits of their labors during shared meals prepared at the Studio. We feel this is important way to better understand the realities of living in a rural place, especially in Alabama’s Black Belt region where the historical and social legacy is etched into the very landscape.

This is the beginning of the second year of food production since the farm has undergone a major reboot, and you can catch all the updates on what is happening right here every week.

Learn more about the mission and history of the Rural Studio Farm here.