Rural Studio celebrates three decades of living, working, and learning in our West Alabama community.

2023 Fall Semester Faculty, Staff, & Students

The 2023-2024 academic year marks the 30th Anniversary of the founding of Auburn University Rural Studio. As we celebrate the milestone, Rural Studio is focused on the interconnectedness, complexity, and challenges of healthful rural living. Everyone should have access to affordable homeownership. Everyone should have access to fresh food. Everyone should have access to clean water and reliable wastewater systems. How we choose and use our resources matters. How we plan for the future matters. These challenges aren’t isolated from one another: we must work on them as a whole, and together, to preserve the beauty inherent in rural living.

The Studio is rooted in building relationships and earning trust from our neighbors and friends in the community. Immersing ourselves in West Alabama has afforded our students the opportunity to apply their skills as designers, while also learning about nature, history, culture, economy, architecture, agriculture, and community in this unique educational landscape. Rural Studio would like to honor the place and its people, which have allowed us to thrive while maintaining passion and, we hope, rigor.

Our work in West Alabama over 30 years includes a range of impact:

  • Educated 1250+ students
  • Designed and built 220+ homes and community projects
  • Published 3 Rural Studio books with Princeton Architectural Press
  • Featured in 800+ publications, such as Architectural Record, Architect Magazine, Fast Company, Detail Magazine, Dwell, Metropolis, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal
  • Recognized with 39 national and international awards, from organizations such as the National Academy of Design; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian; the Thomas Jefferson Foundation; MacArthur Foundation; and the American Institute of Architects

This year, we’re introducing two student projects: a new home exploring a cross laminated (CLT) structural core and the second phase of the Rural Studio Fabrication Pavilion. In addition, the upcoming year will see the completion of the following student projects: Patriece’s Home, C.H.O.I.C.E. House, Rosie’s Home, 18×18 House, and the Rural Studio Bathhouse. We will continue tackling barriers to homeownership, access to fresh food and wastewater systems, and exploring how to use local resources—wood—in innovative ways. The Studio will also host a number of events throughout the year, including a special lecture series of national and international guests; Halloween Reviews; Soup Roast Reviews; Spring Farm Dinner; and Pig Roast & Alumni Lectures Weekend.

To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’re creating a new fundraising effort to provide perpetual, concrete support for our students designing and building in our West Alabama community. We can reach this goal with 30 named endowments, each with a pledge of $30,000 over the next five years. That’s just $6,000 a year to build a legacy of supporting students’ work at Rural Studio. Learn more here!

It’s an exciting time at Rural Studio. Stay tuned as we celebrate our 30th year!

Not familiar with Rural Studio?

Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program, rooted in Hale County and part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture of Auburn University. Our core mission is the education of our students, coupled with research on sustainable, healthful rural living through both housing and the vital systems we foster to ensure our communities thrive. We are committed to cultivating students who are both local architects and citizens of the world.

Rural Studio was founded in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee; it has been directed by Andrew Freear since 2001, with Rusty Smith as associate director since 2005. With three decades of experience, the Studio is one of the oldest and most well-respected design-build programs in the world. The impact we have had is grounded in establishing long-term roots in the Black Belt. Deep connections let us learn from our neighbors’ wealth of insight and can-do attitude.