architecture

“I Say Goodbye, You Say Hello”

The end of the semester was a hustle and last hoorah for the fall semester 3rd-Year team. The students were sentimental (and maybe a little stressed) as they finished projects, and assignments and prepared to showcase their semester in one final review. And even though it felt like it was never going to happen, they got to start building a house!!

When it came time for the pour, excitement filled the air as the concrete truck back into Ophelia’s driveway. One full day of pushing and pulling and shoveling and smoothing with just about all the strength the students had to give. The 3rd-Years then drilled into the concrete footing to place and grout vertical rebar.

When the block layers came, everything went off without a hitch! The 3rd-Years got to watch the masters at work, and even help on occasion. Finally, the students then filled the allotted cells of the CMU wall with concrete and placed anchor bolts for next semester to bolt the sill on the foundation wall. And of course, cleaning up the site all along the way.

Oh, and the quilt, the magnificent quilt. The student’s final block iterations were sewn together, a quilt back was made with extra material from the naturally dyed fabric and a layer of cotton and polyester batting (yes kind of like insulation) was sandwiched between the sewn top and bottom. 

The students then basted the sandwich (quick, temporary seams) and made a PVC Pipe frame to hold all the layers together while each student intricately “quilted” area of their own block together to make one cohesive blanket. A border was made and all 13 of the students sat around the Morrisette dining table to whip stitch the edges of the quilt closed, while watching The Grinch and drinking hot chocolate. :,) 

The last class for the 3rd-Year’s History elective as a day long trip to Columbus, MS. The students ended like they began, seeing and sketching the southern vernacular with their wise captain, Dick Hudgens. They were then left to their own devises to finish their final watercolors, and they all, miraculously, finished! The pieces illustrated what the 3rd-years had learned about composition, color, fine water coloring techniques, and the influence of classical design on historic Montgomery homes. The works were displayed in the Morrissette House during the annual Soup Roast, as tradition holds.

Soup Roast bookended the fall semester 3rd-Years’ time at Rural Studio. They got to take one last tour around Hale County to see the amazing 5th-years, graduate students, and leftovers projects. Then, the finally of Soup Roast, the 3rd-Year’s presentation!

The students got feedback from their reviewers about their mechanical exhaust ventilation crawl space foundation (yup that’s a mouthful) and how they approached multiple residents moving into the product line homes. The 3rd-Years presented their ¼ bedroom or “nook” design in Joanne’s modified home through a built mock-up out of 2×6’s and pin up boards, so everyone could see and experience what the space will feel like.

Also, the final quilt was revealed! The students explained the premise of the class and had a conversation with the crowd about how this unconventional representation method expands our understanding of a project, the process of design, and cultivated empathy, in this case with Ophelia. The parade of students, architects, parents, teachers and friends then walked to the project site for Ophelia’s 20K too see the physical progress so far and meet Ophelia! The 13 3rd-Years returned to the site the next day to say goodbye and present her with the final quilt (she was surprised and very grateful). 

The next day, the students packed up the pods, said goodbye to Chastity the mouse and Cupcake the possum, then drove/ flew across the globe to get home, but left with a lot of love in their hearts for Hale County and each other. The fall students felt the honor of borrowing Rural Studio and Newbern as their home for 3 ½ months. For that, they will be forever thankful. Now Ophelia’s 20K is handed over to the spring semester students!

War Eagle to that!  

Getting Dirty with the 3rd-Years

With the decisions made in studio, the 3rd-Years have finally broken ground on Ophelia’s 20K Home! That first means putting up badder boards, and then again, and again, and again …and again. In total seven times. Hey they want to get it right! 

With the exact points and measurement from the boards the team traced the plan of the foundation to the ground and measured where the footing would step. The students also said goodbye to a huge tree hanging over the buildable site, so here’s a quick thank you to the tree for it’s sacrifice. On Friday, the students had an online meeting with engineer Robert McGlohn for conformation and advice on of the proposed foundation changes and approval on the new porch detail.

Finally Tuesday was excavation day! The real fun began as the 3rd-Years got their shovels and cleaned up the hole for the foundation. The students then split into teams to create a quick process for creating the formwork for their concrete pour. Other students also worked on bracing the formwork, laying rebar, adjusting the badder boards (yes, again), finishing construction documents, digging holes for pier foundations, and filling in the smelly pool that formed at the low corner of the foundation.

Taterhead (site cat) desperate for attention.

With the formwork made and the rebar laid, the 3rd-Years are ready to pour concrete. 

Happy Halloween Reviews

The Halloween Reviews week is here! This week for the big review, the 3rd-years presented their 20K design and research for 20K Ophelia’s Home. Much of the busy week was spent in preparation for the Thursday review and their group costume, the “Last Supper.”

The 3rd-years finished their final quilting blocks in the elective class just in time to be hung and presented alongside their initial renderings. Aaron Head (local artist) returned to lead a sticking workshop on Wednesday as the students begin the process of actually “quilting” the quilt top, batting, and bottom together. Those couple hours of stitching were so peaceful, a pleasant break from studio work.

As Halloween grew closer, the students rapidly worked to finalize plan details, construction documents, and presentation flow.

On that hallowed day, guest reviewers Marlon Blackwell, Mike Newman, and Katrina Van Valkenburgh, alongside Rural Studio faculty, probed the students about the decisions they made behind their work, gave insightful critiques, and encouraged the 3rd-years in their research to improve the design of 20K Ophelia’s Home. Overall the review was a success! 

And the students did enjoy itself all the while! The reviews of the 5th-year and master’s students were extremely interesting and engaging (not typically a word used to describe review days) and it was great to see what the rest of Red Barn was up to. Tuesday was the annual community Pumpkin Carve with the Halloween celebrations and costume contest on Thursday. The disciples definitely enjoyed themselves. 

Raisin’ the Roof

With things picking up in the Studio entering fall semester, convocation, and neckdowns, we were working with a tight deadline for when the boom truck was booked to raise trusses before the chaos started. 

While building the trusses, we did a series of physical and sketch studies to test column composition and location and hardware for the splices. Once the trusses were finished, we moved into column construction focusing on how to make the three plys as tight as possible and create a structural and aesthetically pleasing screw pattern.

Using a template to place screws and lag bolts consistently throughout column.

Moving between the woodshop building columns and site, we began to place and steel feet on the column footings and drill holes for anchor bolts. We located each footing focusing on centering them along truss lines so that the truss can slide into the column. We then set the threaded rod using apoxy and set leveling nuts to ensure the steel plates were all sitting at the same height.

Truss raising day finally came (after weeks of stress dreams and some long days). With the generous help from West Alabama Mechanical and United Rentals for a scissor lift and man lift, we were able to get all of the trusses up in a day! Seeing the structure raised and beginning to understand some of the spatial aspects of the pavilion in real life has been a big boost in the project for us.

The four happy (and relieved!) ladies
Thankful for the BEST clients (we’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it because it’s true) and some incredible community volunteers who believe in this project and love Moundville!
The men “helping” (but really, we couldn’t do it without them!)