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Samuel Mockbee: The Latest Architecture and News

The 6 Architects Who Have Won MacArthur "Genius" Grants

12:20 - 22 September, 2016
The 6 Architects Who Have Won MacArthur "Genius" Grants, Blur Building. Exposition Pavilion: Swiss Expo, Yverdon-Les-Bains, 2002. Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Image © Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Blur Building. Exposition Pavilion: Swiss Expo, Yverdon-Les-Bains, 2002. Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Image © Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Today, the MacArthur Foundation announced the 23 recipients of their 2016 MacArthur Fellowship Grants, which are awarded annually “to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.” Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 for the recipients to use for individual pursuits, paid out in equal quarterly installments over a five year period. Fellows are selected based on 3 criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

This year’s fellows include artists, playwrights, geobiologists, poets, jewelrymakers, novelists and historians, but, for the fifth straight year, no architects. In the program’s 36 year history, just 6 recipients have come from architecture-related fields.

Classic Architecture with a Social Agenda (1960-Today)

01:00 - 23 May, 2014
Classic Architecture with a Social Agenda (1960-Today), Rural Studio: Hale County Animal Shelter. Image © Timothy Hursley
Rural Studio: Hale County Animal Shelter. Image © Timothy Hursley

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s designers focus all of their efforts on developing products and services for the richest 10% of the world’s customers.”  - Paul Polak, Design for the 90% [1]         

Rural Studio: Hale County Animal Shelter. Image © Timothy Hursley © Matteo Brancali © Adam Hopfner, Yale School of Architecture via webster.edu + 25

The vast majority of contemporary architectural practice today is service industry based, where a fee-paying client commissions a firm for a defined scope of services. Master of self-effacing cynicism Philip Johnson wryly accepted this structure, calling architects “high-class whores.” The recent surge of interest in designing for traditionally underserved communities, from groups such as Architecture for Humanity, MASS Design, Project H and Public Architecture challenges the traditional firm model. The Prizker Prize jury’s recognition of Shigeru Ban’s humanitarian designs highlights that high design and a socially conscious practice are not mutually exclusive.

Believing that architecture can alleviate societal ills and improve the quality of life for all people is not a new concept. Two eras, the 1920s and 1960s-70s, brought a social agenda to the forefront of the discourse. Hindsight reveals flaws of each. Modernism’s utopian visions for public housing and urban renewal are blamed for the detrimental impact of Post-WWII urban housing projects; participatory design in the 1960s and 70s is criticized for ceding expertise in the name of consensus, ending with projects that were no better than the status quo. Despite this, there are lessons to be learned from those who emphasized the social and humanitarian role of architecture.

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

00:00 - 13 May, 2014
Twenty Years Later, What Rural Studio Continues to Teach Us About Good Design, Lions Park Scout Hut. Image © Rennie Jones
Lions Park Scout Hut. Image © Rennie Jones

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?

AIA 2013: Citizen Architect

00:00 - 22 June, 2013
Cameron Sinclair at the 2013 AIA National Convention in Denver © ArchDaily
Cameron Sinclair at the 2013 AIA National Convention in Denver © ArchDaily

“When you build a beautiful building, people love it. And the most sustainable building in the world is the one that’s loved.” - Cameron Sinclair, Co-founder of Architecture for Humanity

Cameron Sinclair is a man who sustains his passion for helping improve the world, one project at a time, by tapping into the skilled enthusiasm of like-minded architects from all over the globe. Since co-founding of his non-profit organization with Kate Stohr in 1999, Sinclair and his interdisciplinary teams of citizen architects have provided shelter for more than two million people worldwide.

Under his leadership, Architecture for Humanity’s infectious mantra has inspired thousands to join its cause every year, allowing the organization to expand at an unbelievable rate and become the exemplar of public interest design. Considering this, it is no surprise that Sinclair was selected to be the keynote speaker on day two of the 2013 AIA National Convention.

As his speech continued the momentum of yesterday’s inaugural presentation, in which TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie shared his success story of “doing well by doing good,” Sinclair urged architects to hold close the true value of their profession.

Learn what Cameron Sinclair believes to be the true value of architects after the break.