Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program of Auburn University, Alabama. It aims to democratise architecture, both for student’s learning and benefiting local residents of one of the poorest counties in Alabama.
The program, established in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee, gives architecture students a more hands-on educational experience whilst assisting an underserved population in West Alabama’s Black Belt region. In its initial years, the Studio became known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing and remaking. More recently it has expanded the scope and complexity of its projects, focusing largely on community-oriented work.
For a year students live on the site, in accommodations build out of reclaimed material, and are involved with the local communities they are going to build houses for, as well as developing the county’s image.
The Rural Studio philosophy suggests that everyone, both rich or poor, deserves the benefit of good design. To furfill this aim, the Studio has evolved towards more community-oriented projects. Projects have become multi-year, multi-phase efforts traveling across three counties. The students work within the community is to define solutions, fundraise, design and, ultimately, build remarkable projects. The Studio continually questions what should be built, rather than what can be built, both for the performance and operation of the projects.
To date, Rural Studio has built more than 150 projects and educated more than 600 “Citizen Architects.” The concept aims for the students to get out of their comfort zone, confronting them to the differences between their design on paper and the challenges of building with a shoe-string budget, implying imagination and dialog with the local residents.
Following is a selection of projects, using reclaimed material. Explore more Rural Studio projects here
CITIZEN ARCHITECT: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (2010) – PBS documentary premiered at the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival. www.citizenarchitectfilm.com
Film by Timothy Hursley & Dave Anderson, 2015
Unless otherwise stated, all images are taken from the Rural Studio Website here
If you’ve already participated in one or some of these educational programmes or if you know of any other programmes that use a different method with a similar purpose, or even better, if you invented one of these programmes and want to share your opinion on it please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comment section.