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Designing and Building with Jake LaBarre

3rd Yr studio with Jake LaBarre

The third-year students at Rural Studio started the 2016 fall semester with the traditional ‘neck-down’ activities. This allows the students to get their toes wet in the culture and community of Hale County, to work hard, and get to know each other. These projects vary widely but offer different lessons about what designing and building requires. We repair past projects and gain a physical understanding of what weather can do to a building over time: this year we spruced up Dave’s house, the 20K investigation version 8, completed in 2009. We also have them complete some smaller portions of larger projects—this year it was installing the roof glass on the Rural Studio Farm Greenhouse. This gave the students experience of working with the fixed tolerances of steel and glass, and helped us complete another phase of a project on the campus.

With neck down week completed, the students began their project for the year: a home for Johnnie Mae Howard in Faunsdale. The project picks up where last year's fifth-year team, 20Kv20 Income House, left off. The third-year studio began with an analysis of the research and documents generated by last year's fifth-year team.

The design provided a two-bedroom home for our client with an additional studio apartment joined by a roof and a porch. This semester students focused on landscape and site studies, structural refinement, and accessibility of the porch. We had reviews from Steve Badanes of Jersey Devils, Rob Hutchison of Robert Hutchison Architecture, and help from the rest of the Rural Studio students and staff. Multiple iterations were studied in plan, perspective, model, and elevation. As they investigated how to approach their design decisions, the students looked at the local building fabric, past projects, and building code to develop a set of construction documents which allowed them to begin construction on site. Also part of this exercise was to determine what decisions needed to be made now and what could be deferred to students next semester.

With the girder and pier spacing determined, site construction started with drilling and pouring the piers and building the platform. Wall plates were laid out and built on top of the platform. Working with the strength of 13 people, the pre-sheathed walls were lifted up and braced and the trusses installed. The walls were straightened and blocking was begun. They finished the semester by organizing the site and updating the construction documents. As the new student team of the spring semester begins, they will complete the rest of the house, siding and roofing, interior trim and casework, decking and landscape all in anticipation to hand over the keys to the new client!