Rural Studio

“If architecture is going to nudge, cajole, and inspire a community to challenge the status quo into making responsible changes, it will take the subversive leadership of academics and practitioners who keep reminding students of the profession’s responsibilities.”          Samuel Mockbee

In 1993, two Auburn University architecture professors, Dennis K. Ruth and the late Samuel Mockbee, established the Auburn University Rural Studio in western Alabama within the university’s School of Architecture. The Rural Studio, conceived as a strategy to improve the living conditions in rural Alabama while imparting practical experience to architecture students, completed its first project in 1994. In 2000, Andrew Freear was hired as thesis professor, and upon Mockbee’s death, succeeded him as director while continuing to teach thesis. Under his guidance the focus has shifted from the design and construction of small homes to larger community projects.

I was introduced to the Rural Studio by my friend and colleague Evan Grimm.  This piece of his education was very inspiring to me because it took design and turned it into reality – quickly.  This was not only exciting for the students, but the structures they create were helping people in a tangible way.

When I worked with Evan he had a talent for design and construction that was very advanced.  He understood how things were built and how to communicate new ideas through drawings, photo simulations, models, and writing.  It was clear to me that this program was successful in training students for design, construction, and life.

I encourage you to explore further the numerous images and information through their website, the book Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency, and  “The Rural Studio Film” to learn what this academic idea has grown into… the projects are beautiful in so many ways.  They are intriguing, artistic, sustainable, uplifting, interesting, functional, innovative and socially responsible. “I tell my students, it’s got to be warm, dry, and noble.”  Samuel Mockbee


  1. Walker – thanks for posting this! Very inspiring stuff. I, too, was introduced to the Rural Studio at the same time by Evan and was blown away by its uniqueness but also its ability to creatively deal with very real issues in their surrounding landscape.

  2. I still have a dream of someday creating one of these out here in the mountain desert, away from building codes, like in Montezuma county.

  3. I was given a copy of this as a gift years ago… I love the idea of ‘bigger is not always better’. It’s easy to turn a couple thousand square foot space into a center of design but to do it on such a small scale.. that’s entirely more creative, in my opinion.

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