Moundville Archaeological Park Community Pavilion

New Address, Same Ladies

After a necessary but painstakingly slow fall semester working to frame the final rectangle of the pavilion and define the edges of both the roof and ceiling planes as accurately as possible, the Moundville Community Pavilion team is gearing up to hit the ground running with big, new changes. As Moundville’s newest residents, the team has shortened their commute time from an hour drive to approximately two minutes walking, and as of this weekend, has a brand new scaffolding platform to work on!

Now that the edge beams, ridge lines, and ceiling heights have been set using the batter boards, ground strings and scissor lift, the team has officially moved into the air. (Another shoutout to Sunbelt Rentals for their incredibly generous donation of a scissor lift that was instrumental in the structural framing of the project). To increase productivity and allow the team to work within the structure in multiple locations simultaneously, Crimson Insulation and Scaffold constructed an eleven foot high scaffolding platform. They were able to extend the scaffolding to cover the entire interior of the pavilion and five feet beyond the drip line, as well as provide “stair stepped” platforming below the high corners.

expertly hugging the columns and bracing

With the platform, the joists for both the roof and ceiling can be put up and reached with just twelve foot ladders. The team is beyond excited to be able to occupy the space in multiple places at one time to work twice as fast on a stable, safe surface.

Prior to receiving the platform, the team ran strings to outline the two roof and two ceiling planes to ensure the joists are set at the right height. From those outlining strings, additional strings were placed along the top of each truss face so blocking can be installed above the truss and the joists set at the proper height following a consistent slope. With an extensive network of strings setting joist heights, the team can begin to install roof joists and check the slope of the planes as they build.

We even through in a house call with one of our favorite structural engineers, Joe Farruggia!

During all the excitement of receiving scaffolding, the Studio also celebrated an important milestone with the arrival of Soup Roast! Guests from all over the world, including the legendary Steve Badanes and Rural Studio sweetheart Jake LaBarre, came to review new projects and celebrate progress of ongoing ones. A two-day event, Soup Roast was great to see the wide range of projects going on at Rural Studio while getting to talk to visiting alumni.

Saturday night was spent at the Faunsdale Bar and Grille celebrating one of the most influential people in Rural Studio history, Johnny Parker. After dinner, different staff, alumni, and close friends got to share stories of Johnny’s unique humor, unparalleled skill and craft, inappropriateness, bluntness, and overall heart of gold. Johnny was our steady guide on truss raising day and we couldn’t have survived it without him keeping us calm and reminding us to breathe because everything would work out. It was an evening of good laughs and a few tears, a perfect memorial for someone close in all our hearts.

Johnny doing what he does best: holding the project steady and smoking a cigarette

Framing the Final Form

The Moundville Community Pavilion team has been mastering the art of sawing and lifting some hefty beams to turn the overall form into a rectangle with four flat planes. Before edge framing could be done, X bracing and “shove it” joists alone the edge were installed to literally “shove” the trusses as needed to create perfectly parallel bays.

X-bracing and edge joists were installed to make the trusses completely parallel to each other and get the widths of the bays equal to each other within 2 inches.
Marking spacing joists to secure trusses as parallel.

Once all of the trusses were pulled and shoved to be parallel to one another, the team began to turn the diamond shape of the diagonal truss lines into a rectangle. String lines on the ground were plumbed and projected onto the trusses to put up edge beams between trusses, creating a rectangular edge. Strings were then pulled to find the correct angles of the sloped and skewed cuts.

Testing the process of cutting boards sloped in two directions.

The form is beginning to take shape with the long side beams up!

For the beams along the short end, connecting at the corners, the cut had to be a 60 degree angle. This had to be cut on the face with a circular saw and then finished with the reciprocating saw to get through the entire width of the board.
For the long edge beams spliced together and the ridge beam, an extra layer was added by needing to cut through two pieces of wood to ensure the right dimensions.

Then came time for the much-feared corners, that surprisingly went up without many complications using the ground strings, existing lines formed by the edge beams, and a brace to secure it won’t sag until joists can be installed.

The rectangle emerges!
Everything from here on out will be secured to the trusses and beams with Simpson hangers, kindly donated by Jim Turnipseed of Turnipseed International!

October was also a busy month of work and celebration with the Park’s 31st annual Native American Festival occurring from the 9th to the 12th. The team had the privilege of taking a break from construction and volunteering for the festival, while meeting and talking to vendors, visitors, and the Native American community that had a lot of positive feedback and excitement for the pavilion!

And before everyone knew, it was Halloween! With all the excitement of the Native American festival and the headaches of turning a diamond parabola into a rectangle with four triangular planes, costumes were (admittedly) scrambled together last minute. However, we still think the team and personalities were accurately portrayed!

Rural Studio’s queens.

Check back in soon as we begin roof joists this week!

Live and In Person

In Moundville, the last few weeks have been focused on securing the structure. This time gave the team the incredible and unique opportunity to experience the scale and space of the pavilion live and in person to test future design decisions including paving, benches, and ceiling cladding. And a new semester brought new students and some much needed and appreciated help to Moundville! This August, instead of participating in neck-downs, the team got to meet some of the new 3rd-year and 5th-year students as they worked on site for the week.

Neck-downs came at the perfect time in Moundville; with the structure raised there was plenty to do to secure and brace the structure and move into framing and testing design decisions. Throughout the week, over 200 pieces of 2×8 lumber were moved from various barns in Newbern to Moundville, X bracing was constructed in each truss bay, the columns were bolted to the trusses, columns braces were removed and deconstructed, the last two columns forming the “A” were installed, and both the wood shop and site were cleaned of all debris. The Moundville ladies could not have asked for better help or a more productive week! Here are some images of the fabulous workers that came out to Moundville and some of the tasks that got done in the past couple of weeks:

Bracing the columns in three directions was structurally necessary to ensure that as the trusses were placed, the columns didn’t shift or collapse under the wind force with the truss weight. However, they also caused a huge impediment with moving within the structure with the scissor lift. As soon as the columns were secured and bolted to the trusses, bracing was installed between the trusses with 2x6s securing the top and bottom chords and forming an X in between. Once the bracing was completed for each bay, the columns could be freed (except for the braces securing the smaller trusses, to maintain stiff corners). This provided much needed space for the scissor lift and a chance to see the delicate profile of the columns in real life.

X bracing connecting trusses 2 and 3.
X bracing on all truss bays.
The first opportunity to see the delicate profile and touch of the columns within the framework of the space.

Stay tuned for updates on how the team took advantage of “design-build” to test bench mockups, ceiling cladding, and paving schemes using the scale of the built structure. Here are some sneak peaks!

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!)

The Big Event

The population of Hale County tripled on April 27th, 2019 for the annual Pig Roast; a day to celebrate the collective work of the studio and the “graduation” of the current fifth year teams. At least 100 cars, carrying family and friends, caravaned around Hale County to get a brief update on each of the current projects. The caravan visited 11 projects in 11 hours, kept on schedule by our own drummer boy, Alex Therrien.

We were the first stop, at 9:00am sharp. With only 15 minutes to present, it was quite a challenge to decide what we wanted to show. After briefly thanking those who have supported us, we introduced the project, and then allowed people to meander about the site to experience the ceiling mockup and visit boards scattered throughout that went into details on certain aspects of the project: community involvement, the history of the park, structure, and construction process. We also had the newly completed truss on site to show the start to the project!

With empowerment from Anderson Inge and our professors here at Rural, we dove head first into the real world and built a 1:1 truss, in one and a half days. The truss is an accumulation of the knowledge we’ve acquired from scaled structural tests and intuition. It was 4’ in depth and 44’ long, it took a village to move it by hand from the workshop to the 16’ trailer and then over to site where it rests safely. We’re looking forward to running some structural calculations on it in the future.

After our 15 minutes of fame we hopped into the caravan and had a jam-packed and amazing day exploring and learning more about the work done by our peers. In the early evening we landed back in Newbern, in the amphitheater. We ended the day with music, a roasted pig, and a “celebration” of the students (through mockery).

To sum it up for you all, our year level is a little boring, a little exclusive, and like each other a little too much. As a team, we’ve been dubbed the sass queens of Rural Studio. In addition to telling anybody who will listen that we are an all girls team, we’re hard working, confident, and determined; we don’t tolerate any BS (Andrew’s words not ours). It was an evening full of laughs, friendship, and celebration ending in a fireworks show of epic proportions. We loved having our families experience some of the magic here at Rural Studio.

What’s next? With our diplomas in hand we’re all heading off to our new lives and jobs! Just kidding, of course. Now that the heat has arrived in Newbern, we’ve been sweating for a few days in Red Barn to hammer out a few final decisions before moving onto the construction site!

Sincerely, your favorite recent Auburn grads: the Moundville Ladies