“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.
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:
The 20K project is a continuing project, now in its 6th year. It is a project based on trying to design|build|create alternative forms of housing on a very tight budget. The project was originally conceived on the 502 loan program from the United States Agriculture Program. The loan program was set into action through the works of HERO (Hale Empowerment Revitalization Organization) setting up persons with appropriate loans that they could be approved for, with loans starting at $20,000 for new housing. The concept of the 20K is to design and build a house for $10,000 in materials and $10,000 in proposed labor cost.
At the Rural Studio, the students are the designers and the contractors, acting out all manors of the project. For the 2007/2008 thesis class from Auburn University, the project for all was the $20K. Joining the thesis class for that year was the outreach class, students not from Auburn University, but from all across the globe.
As four teams of four were created- so were four new 20K houses: the pattern book house . the loft house . the roundwood house . the bridge house. Each team took their own unique approach to design and construction on such a tight budget. Within a calendar year four new clients all had new houses- houses they owned with the help of HERO.
- Joey Fante