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AIA Honors Rural Studio with 2015 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced Rural Studio as winner of the 2015 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, recognizing the Newbern, Alabama–based design/build program for its student-led projects that have catered to one of the South’s poorest and most underserved regions.

“Rural Studio’s projects prove that an authentic conversation with the residents, no matter how unconventional the client, can yield ambitious architecture,” stated the AIA in their official press release.

World Photo Day: Tim Hursley by Andrew Freear of Rural Studio

In honor of World Photo Day (August 19th) ArchDaily wanted to thank the photographers who bring to life the projects that we publish every day. So we asked 15 architects to weigh in on the work of some of our most-appreciated architecture photographers. Here, Andrew Freear of Rural Studio writes on behalf of Tim Hursley.

A Moving Question: The Beauty of a Broken Silo. Image © Tim Hursley Mamilla Hotel / Safdie Architects. Image © Tim Hursley Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame / Trahan Architects. Image © Tim Hursley Newbern Town Hall / Auburn University Rural Studio. Image © Tim Hursley

Twenty Years Later, What Rural Studio Continues to Teach Us About Good Design

Hale County, Alabama is a place full of architects, and often high profile ones. The likes of Todd Williams and Billie Tsien have ventured there, as have Peter Gluck and Xavier Vendrell, all to converge upon Auburn University’s Rural Studio. Despite the influx of designers, it is a place where an ensemble of all black will mark you as an outsider. I learned this during my year as an Outreach student there, and was reminded recently when I ventured south for the Studio’s 20th Anniversary celebration. While the most recent graduates took the stage, I watched the ceremony from the bed of a pick-up truck, indulging in corn-coated, deep-fried catfish, and reflected on what the organization represents to the architecture world.

Since its founding in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, the Studio has built more than 150 projects and educated over 600 students. Those first years evoke images of stacked tires coated with concrete and car windshields pinned up like shingles over a modest chapel. In the past two decades, leadership has passed from Mockbee and Ruth to the current director, Andrew Freear, and the palette has evolved to feature more conventional materials, but the Studio remains faithful to its founding principal: all people deserve good design. Now that it is officially a twenty-something, what can Rural Studio teach us about good design?

Rural Studio Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Eight 20K Houses

"Joanne's House" by Rural Studio. Image Courtesy of Auburn University Rural Studio
"Joanne's House" by Rural Studio. Image Courtesy of Auburn University Rural Studio

Auburn University's Rural Studio, an undergraduate program that focuses on designing well-built, low-cost housing for the poor across three counties of Alabama, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this 2013-14 academic year. Since 1993, Rural Studio has been recycling, reusing, remaking and using local materials while maintaining the belief that both rich and poor deserve good design. In honor of 20 successful years of helping Alabama's rural poor, Rural Studio will, for the first time, design eight 20K Houses in one year- and they need your help.

Loft House / Ryan Stephenson, Joey Fante, Kait Caldwell, Aimee O'Carroll

“Learn by doing” sounds like something very obvious when it comes to education in most fields, and specially in architecture schools.

I have taught at schools that embrace it in different ways, either by doing a collective small project during the semester, or building a complete project over the development of the final graduate project. This last method was inspired by the work of the good ol’ Rural Studio.

For those of you that don´t know what Rural Studio is, Wikipedia describes it as:

The Rural Studio is a design-build architecture studio run by Auburn University which aims to teach students about the social responsibilities of the profession of architecture while also providing safe, well-constructed and inspirational homes and buildings for poor communities in rural west Alabama, part of the so-called “Black Belt“.

The studio was founded in 1993 by architects Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth. Each year the program builds five or so projects – a house by the second-year students, three thesis projects by groups of 3-5 fifth year students and one or more outreach studio projects. The Rural Studio has built more than 80 houses and civic projects in Hale, Perry and Marengo counties.

And so, it´s not only building for educational purposes, but also to engage future architects with their community, establishing a true link between the needs of the society and the profession. The importance of Rural Studio has been recognized at Into the Open: Positioning Practice, the official US exhibition at the past Venice Biennale.

Future architect Joey Fante shared with us his project for 20K (team: Ryan Stephenson, Joey Fante, Kait Caldwell, Aimee O’Carroll), the Loft House, part of the 2007/2008 thesis class at Rural Studio. The idea is to design a build a house for  $10,000 in materials and $10,000 in proposed labor cost.

Project description after the break: