Back in 1993, professors Dennis K. Ruth and the late Samuel Mockbee created Auburn University’s design-build program with the intention of bringing architecture to some of Alabama’s poorest areas. Rural Studio quickly gained international attention as the students responded to the needs of the less fortunate with innovative and thoughtful designs. The students participating in the studio not only benefit from the hands-on experiences of physically constructing their ideas, but also from fulfilling our profession’s social responsibility by providing a person’s most basic need, shelter.
With the passing of Mockbee, Andrew Freear became director of the studio and began to shift the program from the design and construction of small homes to larger community projects. Currently, the studio is in their fourth year of an ongoing project which, when finished, will be the largest public park in Hale County. The project, which began with building baseball fields, basketball courts, etc., quickly showed the potential for becoming a fully realized master plan. And now, the Lions Club, the City of Greensboro, Hale County, and the Greensboro Baseball Association formed a joint committee to manage and care for the future of Lions Park.
More about Lions Park after the break.
During the 2008-2009 school year, the plan for Lions Park grew to include mobile concessions stands and skatepark projects designed by thesis students. The community’s desire for a skatepark led to the application and reception of the largest Tony Hawk Foundation grant.
Conceived as a series of thin concrete strips, the skatepark meshes with the landscape as the strips peel up and slide past one another to shape a variety of skating elements. The design carries a sculpturesque aesthetic, allowing the built components to be more easily integrated into the park’s rural landscape while also creating a unique ride for the skaters. The ledges and rails are made of cor-ten plates welded into volumes that protrude from the concrete strips.
The mobile concessions stands allow the volunteers at the Greensboro Baseball Association to be able to watch their kids play baseball while serving customers. Clad in aluminum, the structure playfully opens and closes like a mouth as the roof portion hinges open with an electronic winch and is then pinned into place. The concept of the operable opening came from several discussions about the novelty of buying food out of a “mouth”. Not only does the opening allow an unobstructed panoramic view of all four baseball fields it also obviates the need for additional security measures. Once the “mouth” is closed it provides a difficult-to-compromise shell. Mobility was also a concern in the park that has multiple users who also might want to sell concessions; therefore the stand is mounted on a trailer chassis that allows it to be docked at separate hubs of activity in the park.
The two projects have added to the overall plan for Lions Park and we’re excited to see the finished master plan. The studio is quite an inspiration and we wish the students continued success in all their endeavors!
Project : Lions Park Skatepark and Mobile Concessions
Location: Greensboro, AL
Skatepark Designers: Rural Studio Thesis Class 2008-2009 – Evan Dick, Brett Jones, Carrie Laurendine
Mobile Concessions Designers: Rural Studio Thesis Class 2008-2009 – John Plaster, Terran Wilson, Sandy Wolf
Rural Studio Instructors and Staff: Andrew Freear, Rusty Smith, Lindsay Butler, Dick Hudgens, John Marusich, Daniel Splaingard, Danny Wicke, Steve Long, Johnny Parker
Consultants: GFGR Architects & Engineers, Chicago – Joe Farruggia; Atlier Ten, New York and London – Paul Stoller; Xavier Vendrell Studio, Chicago and Barcelona – Xavier Vendrell; Wheeler Kearns Architects, Chicago – Dan Wheeler
Donations and Sponsors: The Tony Hawk Foundation (skatepark); Ready Mix USA (concrete skatepark); Capital Steel (rebar skatepark); Delray lighting (lighting concessions); Alabama Power Foundation (general park); Turnipseed International – Jim Turnipseed (steel skatepark and concessions); Williams Tree Farm (trees general park); Encore Azalea (plant donation)
Photo Credits: Timothy Hursely