Becoming the Town Architect

Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture of Auburn University. The program, established in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, gives architecture students a hands-on educational experience while assisting under-resourced communities of West Alabama’s Black Belt.

The Rural Studio philosophy suggests that everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good design. In its initial years, the Studio became known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing, and remaking. In 2001, after the passing of Samuel Mockbee, Andrew Freear succeeded him as director. To fulfill this ethic, the Studio has expanded the breadth and scope of its work to address community need. Projects have become multi-year, multi-phase efforts across five counties. The students work within the community to define solutions, fundraise, design and, ultimately, build remarkable projects.

The Studio continually questions what should be built, rather than what can be built. To date, Rural Studio has built more than 200 projects and educated more than 1,000 “Citizen Architects.”

“We encourage aspiring young architects to address the ethical responsibility for the social, political, and environmental consequences of what they design and build.” 

— Andrew Freear, Rural Studio Director
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