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Birmingham Museum of Art | Third Space Exhibition

Third Space /shifting conversations about contemporary art

This fall the Birmingham Museum of Art commissioned Rural Studio to produce a work of art that can serve as a gathering, reflection, and contemplation space within the gallery space of its newest exhibition: Third Space /shifting conversations about contemporary art.

In 2005, Auburn University Rural Studio began the 20K Home project, which is a research project that focuses on designing small homes which are affordable, efficient, durable, and beautiful. All labor and building materials are procured locally, fueling the local economy. Since timber production is one of the most important industries in Alabama, the Studio focuses on pine as a principal material for the structure of the 20K Homes.

Rural Studio’s installation for BMA’s Third Space is composed of the exact same lumber, in both quantity and dimension, used to build 20Kv08 Dave’s Home. Construction lumber is rough with imperfections in both its appearance and dimension. Its very nature is somewhat irregular and imprecise. The beauty resides in the unique way the lumber is arranged.

Under the high, white oak ceiling of our recently completed fabrication pavilion, the Studio tinkered and experimented with different methods of stacking the lumber to create spaces and sitting areas. The design uses three walls of stacked lumber to create a small room. Additional boards intersect the walls and protrude from the sides creating sitting benches, a ceiling, and light wells. Variations in board width and gaps between stacked lumber create different levels of transparency through the walls. The entire installation is built without cutting or altering the lumber, and it is fastened together using deck screws. Once the mockup was completed, the structure was disassembled and boards were transported to Birmingham and then reassembled in the gallery.

As Rural Studio is always concerned about responsible uses of resources, at the end of the two-year exhibition, the boards will be disassembled once again and carried back to Hale County, where they will be used to build a new 20K Home.

On the evening of Friday, January 27, 2017, the BMA celebrated the opening of the exhibition. It was a rip-roaring success. Nearly 1,400 crowded into the atrium and gallery. Live electronic music and southern cuisine fueled the night. The exhibition, which features over 100 works in a variety of media focusing on creating connections between the American South and other parts of the world, is well worth a visit. Big thanks to the BMA for making it all happen.


Artist name: Xavier Vendrell and Steve Long. Auburn University Rural Studio.
Title: 2x’s
Year: 2016
Material: Southern Pine
Structure: Joe Farruggia
Collaborators: Olivia Backer, Carley Chastain, Anna Daley, Chelsea Elcott, Mary English, Jake LaBarre, Jenny Lomas, Ben Malaier, Janine Mwenja, Tim Smela, John Sydnor, Alex Therrien, Grant Wright 

For more on the exhibit, visit the Birmingham Museum's website: