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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. 

Presenting Ophelia’s Home

October 9, Ophelia’s Home was decided! The last two product line homes the 3rd-year studio considered were Mac’s and Joanne’s and the cut was made after a final sprint of drawings and a group discussion Wednesday morning. The 3rd-year students will be building an iteration of Joanne’s home for their client Ophelia.

The very same day the students presented their plans to Ophelia and her family. Here’s to last minute decisions! 

The 3rd-years set up their work on site, and Ophelia, her family, and Mrs. Patrick (last year’s 20K client and Ophelia’s neighbor) sat outside while the students presented Joanne’s Home and the specifics of how and why this home would be best for Ophelia.

The presentation included technical drawings but also a site model and with a version of Joanne’s that Ophelia could keep. The group then moved around the property to podiums of perspectives for the client to look and see the potential views of her new home from various vantage points.

The presentation to Ophelia concluded by walking through a one-to-one mock up of the new home where the students plan to build it, showing every rooms and the views from every window.

The 3rd-years are so excited to have chosen a home for Ophelia and she is so happy with the one they chose! And on that note, both are ready to build! Stay tuned as the studio takes their design into the dirt. 

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!)

Workshop #2: Drawing & Seeing with Frank Harmon and Dan Wheeler

The Drawing and Seeing workshop, by Frank Harmon and Dan Wheeler, taught the importance of drawing in the architectural process. They did not teach an ideal way of drawing, but rather to pay attention to what one looks at and how to use drawing as a way to see. The goal from the workshop was not to become more technical or precise sketchers by drawing what one thinks something ought to look like, but to become better at capturing and communicating the essence and context of the beautiful things and places that surround each of us.

Frank Harmon is a professor at NC State and, for years, has been coming to Newbern to help teach a new generation of architects how to see the world and recognize the common beauty around us through sketching. Before beginning his own firm, Frank Harmon Architect, in Raleigh, North Carolina, he worked in New York and London. Follow his beautiful blog of thoughts and drawings called Native Places here.

Dan Wheeler has been bringing his infectious enthusiasm to Rural Studio since 2001. Since then, he has been teaching students the process of drawing and to appreciate the wonderful differences in how each person draws. Dan co-founded Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago and also teaches at UIC School of Architecture.

Going into the workshop, many students considered themselves poor sketchers and were shy about showing their “bad” work to others. This workshop gave students confidence in their abilities to depict their surroundings and visually describe their ideas to others using a variety of mediums. It was a thoroughly enjoyable process of making drawings without focusing so much on making them “perfect.” Nobody sees the world the same, so nobody sketches the same. Throughout the workshop, each student noticed something different in the same thing, be it light, shadow, color, nature, or the context. These differences allowed students to gain valuable insight into how each person sees the world slightly differently.

The intended outcome was to learn how to use hand-drawing as a larger part of the design process, especially while working toward thesis projects at Rural Studio.