In 1993, two Auburn University architecture professors, Dennis K. Ruth and the late Samuel Mockbee, established the Auburn University Rural Studio within the university’s School of Architecture. The Rural Studio, conceived as a method to improve the living conditions in rural Alabama and to include hands-on experience in an architectural pedagogy, began designing and building homes that same fall. Professors Mockbee and Ruth sought funding to begin the studio and, through the years, it has received additional funding which has helped it become what it is today: a vision of a process to make housing and community projects in one of the poorest regions of the nation.
The students who attend the Rural Studio expand their design knowledge through actually building what they have designed. Utilizing the concept of “context-based learning,” the Rural Studio asks the students to leave the university environment and take up residency in Hale County, Alabama. In doing so, the student joins a poverty-stricken region and “shares the sweat” with a housing client who lives far below the poverty level. The goal of this exercise is to refine the student’s social conscience and to learn first-hand the necessary social, cultural and technological concepts of designing and building. This exercise requires the collaboration of the practicing architect.
Note: The image is of the book Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency, by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean and Timothy Hursley (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002, ISBN-13: 978-1568982922).