Auburn University Rural Studio Receives Prestigious 2022 National Design Award in Architecture / Interior Design

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s National Design Awards program honors innovation and impact and recognizes the power of design to change the world. Rural Studio is receiving the 2022 Architecture / Interior Design Award, one of only nine Awards this year, each in its own category. Rural Studio’s Award represents the first time a university-affiliated studio has won in the Architecture / Interior Design category.

Established in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the National Design Awards promote design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world and are accompanied by robust educational programs throughout the year and during National Design Week. Honorees are selected based on the level of excellence, innovation, and public impact of their body of work by an interdisciplinary jury of design leaders and educators, design experts, and enthusiasts. The Awards seek to increase national awareness of the impact of design and demonstrate to the public that design matters.

Rural Studio will receive the prestigious Award, crafted by the Corning Museum of Glass, at the National Design Awards event, hosted by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York on Sept. 21, 2022. Rural Studio Director and Professor Andrew Freear will be accepting the Award on behalf of Auburn University and the Studio: “We are delighted by this recognition because it acknowledges the quality of our design work, and we are humbled to be honored alongside the roll call of extraordinary architects and designers. I hope this Award sends the message that everyone, wherever they live, deserves the benefit of beautiful, dignified, equitable design.”

Rural Studio will also take part in Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Week, including participating in the Design Career Fair on October 19, 2022, at the High School of Art and Design in New York City.

Meet all of this year’s National Design Award recipients

Nader Tehrani, Design Visionary
WEDEW by David Hertz, Climate Action
Emily Adams Bode, Emerging Designer
Rural Studio, Architecture / Interior Design
Giorgia Lupi, Communication Design
Felecia Davis, Digital Design
Willy Chavarria, Fashion Design
Kounkuey Design Initiative, Landscape Architecture
CW&T, Product Design

Learn more about the National Design Award here.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 215,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world.

With almost three decades of experience, Rural Studio is one of the oldest and most well-respected design-build programs in the world. The Studio is located in Hale County, Alabama, and is part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University. The core mission is the education of architecture students who live on site and build structures and landscapes for residents and communities in this under-resourced, persistently impoverished rural area known as the Black Belt. The design-build projects are coupled with research on sustainable, healthful rural living through both housing and vital community systems of support and prosperity. To date, Rural Studio has built more than 200 projects and educated more than 1,200 students in the Black Belt.  

Cooper Hewitt Press Release

Project images by Timothy Hursley