June 8, 2012

Rural Studio: Bryant (Hay Bale) House

The Bryant House, finished in 1994 was the Rural Studio's first completed building. The Bryant household, Shepard and Alberta with their grandchildren lived in a rickety shack without heat or plumbing and enough holes to let in rain, insects and reptile visitors. When the structure was about to collapse, the Hale County's Department of Human Services told Samuel Mockbee about his situation and Mockbee asked Shepard if they could help.

According to Mockbee, "the goal is not to have a warm, dry house, but to have a warm, dry house with a spirit." Along with this attitude and the desire to design each house to specific family needs and using inventive building practices coupled with scavenged and somewhat unusual materials would define their studio's style, in sharp contrast to typical low-income housing projects.

The Bryant House became known as the hay bale house due to its construction. Eighty hay bales were selected for the substructure of the walls, wrapped in polyurethane, stacked like bricks, and secured together by wires. The resulting walls were then coated with stucco creating super-insulated walls. The home was built for only $15,000 dollars, the price encompassing virtually only the materials.

During a talk with Mockbee, the Bryants requested one bedroom for each of their 3 grandchildren, with enough space for a bed and a desk. They also asked for a front porch to entertain neighbors and family, vetoing a 2 story building and opting for a one story home with 650 square feet of living space. The Couples bedroom is located on the opposite site of the home to increase privacy. The Bryants spend most their day on the porch. They opted to cover it with a translucent acrylic roof supported by exposed beams. The house takes its cues from the region's sturdy and low-slung simple sheds and and other ordinary buildings. The three barrel-shaped fingers protrude from the building forming niches on the interior, organized around the wood-burning stove with clerestory windows above.

Shortly after the house was completed, a fifth-year student, Scott Stafford designed and built a smokehouse for Shepard a few yards away from the home for his thesis project. Using concrete rubble from a demolished silo nearby and curbs torn up by the state's transportation department, Stafford managed to build the smokehouse for only $140. Glass was embedded in the walls to admit light. Used and discarded road signs were used as the roof. Bryant said " the light shines through the bottle so it looks like a city at night."

Hay Bale (Bryant) House - storage area

See Also

Rural Studio: The Yancey Chapel


Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean and Timothy Hursley

Mockbee's Rural Studio

Additional Reading

Samuel Mockbee Wins Genius Award
Citizen Architect by Samuel Mockbee

by Samuel Mockbee

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