2011 Implementation Award Winner

Thinnings Bathhouse

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Four students from Auburn University's Rural Studio are partnering with the U.S. Forestry Service to design an architectural thesis project with mutual goals. The District Ranger of the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee District, requires a restroom and bathing facility as one of the first steps toward providing high quality recreation opportunities in a healthy forest ecosystem at Payne Lake Recreation Area, located in West Alabama. The Rural Studio is using it as an opportunity to research a locally available but underutilized material – small-diameter timber known as thinnings.

Mary Pruitt, Franklin Frost, Michael Dowdy, & William McGarity

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June 18, 2013
  • Trans
Composting toilets and greywater disposal systems return waste to the forest as nutrient rich materials.
Initial sketch: an elevated walkway provides space underneath for composters and a unique experience of the forest above
The designed result of a technical requirement
View of the project as it begins to elevate off the ground: the first two buildings are showers and the last three are composting toilets
Construction strategy: build a level platform on the sloping forest floor on which scaffolding can be safely erected, then build trusses from the inside out

Our goals are two-fold: discovering the possibilities of an underutilized/ unrealized building material (Thinnings) and implementing it in a public restroom facility (Bathhouse). Our process has remained cognizant throughout, of the dilemma of building in this healing ecosystem and educating users about the forest system.


Our solution is to enable users to experience the forest at its different levels while learning about the practice of thinnings as a forest management tool and its application as a building material.