All Hale, a new film written by Anita Banerji, follows the story of college student Alice Walker who finds herself in a small town in Hale County, Alabama building a home for a family that is going through personal and financial hardship. The movie is filmed on location, with a variety of unique Hale County architecture serving as the backdrop for a story that rekindles a love for “home-grown architecture”. At a time when so much emphasis is focused on “starchitects” and the “Bilbao effect”, the story of this movie has a social agenda that highlights the backlash to this phenomena: the rising trend of design/build architecture.
Join us after the break for more on the underlying social inspiration of this film and a sneak peek at the trailer.
Over the past few decades architecture has gained fair ground in the mainstream media with works by Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid; buildings that have drawn public attention both to the architects responsible and to the profession in general. But in recent years architects, and especially university programs, have begun focusing more on local design-build projects that require hands-on collaboration between designers, builders and communities.
All Hale takes its cue from this growing trend and delivers a story about the social aspirations of architecture, providing a plot that addresses what architecture means in its rudimentary definition of shelter in an impoverished rural setting among racial and class tensions. The Hale County Animal Shelter, which provides the backdrop for some emotionally charged scenes, is actually an example of the type of design-build initiatives that the movie portrays.
Auburn University professors Dennis K. Ruth and the late Samuel Mockbee initiated the Rural Studio in 1993 in a two-fold effort. The first was to bring quality homes to rural Alabama. The second was to introduce university students to the inner workings of architecture, encompassing all aspects of the design process from working with the communities to building a structure. The first project was completed in 1994 and since then the studio has produced unique and refined works ranging from homes to public facilities to community centers.
The real life example is the inspiration for the movie, but also illustrates a regenerated awareness of architecture in the realm of social justice. In recent years, natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti have sparked similar efforts to work hands-on with communities and rejuvenate a kind of architecture that speaks directly to the local needs of the population. It is important to note that local design-build architecture is intensifying while the trend of “starchitecture” may be “burning out”.