UB10 rolls toward completion

Although much of the spring has been dedicated to my thesis project, I’ve also been participating in the URBANbuild 10 construction process. URBANbuild is a great program, one of the real strengths of the Tulane School of Architecture. I feel very fortunate to have participated in the design last semester and to now be working with the great team building this house. The progress since the start of the semester has been excellent. Despite some significant rain, as well as design changes, Mardi Gras, and all the other issues that crop up on a New Orleans construction site, we have a house with a finished …

Latest project: Dew Drop Inn

Early this semester, I was recruited by the Tulane City Center to lead the construction of a temporary facade installation at the Dew Drop Inn, a landmark in Central City, New Orleans. In its prime the Dew Drop Inn contained a hotel, a barbershop, and a prominent nightclub where icons like Ray Charles once played. Its owners are raising money for its renovation, but for now this historic building is dilapidated and vacant. To beautify the facade and generate awareness and interest during the fundraising period, the Tulane City Center designed a large temporary art installation for the facade of the Dew Drop. …

A typical work day

Work continues to go very well on the second house. The crew is working hard and we’ve improved on some of the details that were missed last week. The trusses and purlins are up, the front and back doors are installed, and we’re looking at a good chance of finishing up tomorrow, ahead of schedule. Work days here tend to follow a routine. People are up early, around 6-6:30. There’s no full breakfast, but the family serves bread with very sweet strong coffee and sometimes hot chocolate as well — all grown right here. We work until lunchtime, have a …

Haiti: Week 3 Begins

I’m now in my third week in Haiti, and today was the second work day on the second of six kays (houses) I’ll be building. This will be an interesting week. It’s the only week for which I’ll have no American volunteers, just the Haitian crew. That’s fine, it’s just an extra challenge to have no recourse to English if a complicated issue comes up! On the other hand, I’m learning a lot, both language-wise and about the greater context in which I find myself. We took a long walk through the mountains after work today, and the homeowner proudly …

Step 1: Installing side “bumpers”

  In order to attach my “mystery build” to the trailer, I have two main problems to solve. Most utility trailers are built to a maximum total width of 8′-6″. That’s the widest allowed dimension for road travel. And that’s measured to the outside of the wheel wells. Unless the trailer bed sits on top of the wheels (which mine does not), the actual trailer bed is smaller — typically 7′ or slightly less. To get the widest possible structure on the trailer, therefore, it needs to extend past the trailer frame on either side. But I didn’t want to …

Mystery Build

Today I got the first piece of a new project. I’m calling it the “Mystery Build”, because what I will be building is a mystery to others (and also to me). However, the first piece is not a mystery. It’s a 7′ x 18′ flatbed utility trailer, with a double axle and a total weight rating of 12,000 lbs. More to come.

Building an Incentive Kay

I returned this past Saturday from my week-long trip to Haiti with the Building Goodness Foundation (BGF). The trip was a great experience, although there are plenty of challenges involved in working in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Not least, I was sick and well below 100% for three of our five work days, but luckily we had a great team of American volunteers and Haitian carpenters and the construction went without a hitch. The house is small by most standards, 12′ by 20′, although not too small because many aspects of Haitian life, such as cooking and …

Terre-de-Bas tourist center inaugurated

This news dates back to March 16, but I just recently found the picture that truly drives it home. This time last summer I was in Guadeloupe working with a group of students from VISIONS Service Adventures on a project to convert an open-air pavilion into a tourist welcome center for the small island of Terre-de-Bas. We left the project substantially built but unfinished — lacking paint and many finishing touches. Well, the local community stepped up to finish the job in style. The new tourist welcome center was inaugurated in March, in a ceremony that included the mayor of …

The house

As promised, here is the house in Seattle that I am working on. It is a partial renovation; the existing house, which had no foundation to speak of, is being supported on a temporary structure (one of the wooden beams is visible under the house) while we pour a new concrete foundation. In this photo, the concrete footings have been poured, and the metal sticking up out of the ground is the steel reinforcement that will tie into the foundation walls. The new house will keep features of the old, while expanding in front and gaining a second story as …

New tourist welcome center for Terre-de-Bas

The Office de Tourisme of Terre de Bas asked VISIONS to help convert an open-air pavilion near the port into a tourist welcome center where information about the island and its attractions could be displayed to the public as they disembarked from the ferries. Measuring just over 5 by 6.5 meters (17 by 21 feet), the existing structure included a roof, posts, and partial walls. The project entailed creating an information counter, office space, and display space that would occupy the rear two-thirds of the pavilion. This space would need to be fitted with awning windows and doors so that …