Posts tagged ‘community outreach’

rural studio #6: park toilets


As architects we don’t get to do much more than picking out fixtures very often. Even when the client has tons of money to throw at the toilet room it is usually eaten up in materials rather than in form. I love these sets of projects from the rural studio because they demand a unique response and have so much potential for student creativity.

These student projects are set in Perry Lakes Park near the bridge and tower. Here there are “toilet experiences” connected by a raised pathway that leads to a pavilion. Each project is unique and will have you wishing for a better bathroom.

The tower toilet is 50 feet tall and I imagine using it could be pretty amazing.


This bathroom is composed of two cantilevering walls that frame a tree. The tree acts as a barrier that allows the ‘toiletee’ to view nature without being viewed by others. There were a few wooden boxes obstructing my shot of the toilet but I liked the wall that it is anchored to. The concrete slab met the wood nicely and the reveal to the right speaks to the language of the whole.



This is the Mound Toilet. It creates a panoramic view of the mound that it sets on and the nature behind it. I am pretty sure the angles work out so that the person on the toilet cannot be seen. I especially like that when the door is left open you can begin to experience the view from other parts of the site. As you approach the view becomes more in focus and direct.


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Related Posts:
Rural Studio #1
Rural Studio #2
Rural Studio #3
Rural Studio #4
Rural Studio #5

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March 31, 2008 at 1:28 am Leave a comment

rural studio #5: bridge + tower


Once again we are back with more on Rural Studio this time with a set of projects from Perry Lake Park walking bridge and tower. The bridge is made of cypress wood and covered with salvaged tin. It creates three triangular sections: the outer two sections support the central section which allows it to float above the creek below.


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The steel cable connections accentuate the lightness and allow it to gently sway as you move across it.


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The footpath is simple and hovers over the swamp land below.

and the tower:


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This tower is exactly 100ft tall and is made from an old fire tower and re-galvanized for its new use.

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Rural Studio #1
Rural Studio #2
Rural Studio #3
Rural Studio #4

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March 25, 2008 at 7:31 am 2 comments

rural studio #4: mason’s bend community center

The last Rural Studio post introduced you to some houses in Mason’s Bend but the students also built a community center/ chapel in the area. This is the project that I was most excited to see as all the photographs that I have seen of it are fantastic. I was forewarned that I may be surprised to see the condition of it and that the car windows (which are the skin of the building) had been removed for cleaning.

This is what I saw upon pulling up to the site:



An old trailer has been parked right in front of it and there were chickens roaming around. Unfortunately, this building has not been appreciated as much as it should. I could see it as a great place to hang out for students after school or even for a community meeting are party. The walls have some remnants of children’s drawings left behind which hints to the fact that is has had some use and after its cleaning will get much more.

here are some shots when it was a little newer:

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The walls of the structure are made of rammed earth containing local clay, cement, and a small amount of water. The walls are capped by a rusting metal drip edge that compliments the color of the earth. The roof is a combination of aluminum sheets and 1980s GMC sedan car windows salvaged from a Chicago scrap yard. Both aluminum and glass are bolted to a light weight metal frame.

The details, like all the projects are pretty nice.

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Rural Studio #3

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March 20, 2008 at 6:25 am 1 comment

rural studio #3: mason’s bend housing

When I got to Mason’s Bend (after a long, bumpy dirt road trip) I was taken back by the poverty and lifestyle of the community.

Hay bale house:


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The Bryant House (Hay Bale) was built for Shepard and Alberta Bryant, and their two grandchildren. The 24-inch thick walls are stacked hay bales and are stuccoed over with concrete, providing excellent, natural, and inexpensive insulation.
One wood-burning stove heats the entire structure, and the house remains cool throughout the summer due to the natural ventilation provided by awning windows in the front of the house. The house has a large front porch, covered with an acrylic roof. The family spends much of their summer on the front porch which is evident by the amount of belongings and appliances placed on it.

Lucy’s Carpet Tile House:


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I was very excited to see this house as I heard that Lucy the owner loves visitors and often invites people with cameras in to see her home. She is so proud that her own home is completely unique. Unfortunately I did not run into Lucy but I did explore the perimeter of the house. The project is made of otherwise non-recyclable carpet tiles transforming them into a single family home. The 72,000 stacked tiles are held in compression by a heavy wooden ring-beam. They are so compact that water has yet to penetrate them and they do not burn b/c no oxygen can enter. I scaled my fingers down the wall and it felt like striated stone. The tower contains the parent’s bedroom, which has an open view to the sky with a family room that doubles as a storm shelter (requested by Lucy).

Christine’s House of dirt and newspaper:

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This house was a second year studio project. The students that gave me a tour (now thesis students) actually made the brick used. I enjoyed listening to them describe the process of filling a trash can with cardboard, hale county clay, and Portland cement and mixing it together with a stick to make the mixture. They then poured the mix into cardboard donated by a local grocery to get the form. As sustainable process as is gets. If only they could have found a way to use the forms to make the next brick. As you can imagine there was not much integrity left of the boxes after they were peeled from the bricks.

Willie Bell House:


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Although not as widely known as the Hay bale or the carpet tile house, this home is very nice. There are two porches opening up the house to the site and the outdoor living that is so prevalent in this area. The house does not sit on the site as intended because the clients wanted the bricks around the base. I wish I could have seen it pre-brick base as they described it. You can begin to see it the the studios photographs (the smaller two). I really love the skin of this one.

The Butterfly House:


The skin of the Butterfly House allows the main living spaces to function as a porch. After all porch sitting is a telling sign of the area. I didn’t get to get very close to this one but it looks like it gives a great view to the sky. I love the expressed drain that extends outward in the fold of the roof. Notice how the owners have used it to hang flowers.

This community takes what they are given and make it their own. They are able to take pride in the unique homes that they own and the community in which they exist.

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Rural Studio #2

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March 18, 2008 at 6:03 am 4 comments

Rural Studio #2: Newbern fire hall

In my continuing report after visiting Rural Studio, I focus on Newbern Fire Hall. For more about Rural Studio, see the first post.

Auburn’s thesis students gave Newbern, Alabama their first new public building in 110 years, a fire station/ meeting hall. That statement alone speaks to the impact that the rural studio has in these rural towns. The students attend town meetings, meet with officials, and learn to love and respect the client. Keep in mind that the following projects are student derived and controlled.

The Place:


The Station:


The Details:

The structure is supported by metal trusses and the skin is made of polycarbonate panels protected from the sun by cedar slats. The roof is galvanized aluminum.


-entry & wall detail

The wall at times has a phenomenal transparency while sometimes it is only translucent. This project has so many great details that it is hard to believe that it is student work. This project was the longest spanning project of the studio so several years had a hand in it. Maybe that is where the multitude of connections and details comes from. Overall I would say that the details are pretty well synthesized to make one great space.





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March 12, 2008 at 7:22 am 4 comments

Rural Studio #1


I just returned from a couple of days at Auburn University’s Rural Studio. For those of you with an architectural background and don’t know much about the program, I urge you to find out more. Some really great things are happening architecturally in the second year and thesis studios. The studio is set in Newbern, Alabama but the projects infiltrate surrounding rural areas (some so rural that the town they are built in is unknown). The poverty level of some of these areas is a reality check for those living in mainstream America. Students work with realistic solutions to sustain and improve people lives. Anyone socially or environmentally concerned will enjoy learning more as well.

The place:


Over the next few days (or weeks) I will post a series of projects and lectures that I attended. I found myself inspired by the work of the students as well as their involvement in the community and the lives of the clients that they are serving. Hopefully you will be be able to draw something from it as well.

the student living quarters:

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The mission of the Rural Studio is to enable each participating student to cross the threshold of misconceived opinions to create/design/build and to allow students to put their educational values to work as citizens of a community. The Rural Studio seeks solutions to the needs of the community within the community’s own context, not from outside it. Abstract ideas based upon knowledge and study are transformed into workable solutions forged by real human contact, personal realization, and a gained appreciation for the culture.”

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March 10, 2008 at 6:01 am 2 comments

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