May 1994: Bryant Haybale House complete
Forty-four 2nd-year, 3rd-year, and 4th-year architecture students complete Rural Studio’s first project, the Bryant Haybale house in Mason’s Bend.
May 1995: Yancy Tire Chapel complete
The chapel’s completion propels Rural Studio to the front page and sets the stage for two more chapels, the Glass Chapel and Antioch Baptist Church.
1996: Rural Studio moves into Morrisette House
William Morrisette gives Rural Studio an 1890s farmhouse and its five acres of land in downtown Newbern, AL. In 1996, Rural Studio moves into the farmhouse as a permanent home.
August 2000: Andrew Freear starts teaching at Rural Studio
Andrew Freear, educated at the Polytechnic of Central London and the Architectural Association in London, joins Rural Studio. He brings with him insight from both practicing and teaching in London and Chicago into the farmhouse as a permanent home.
2000: Sambo awarded “Genius Grant”
Sambo Mockbee is awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a.k.a. “Genius Grant,” for his pairing of social consciousness and unconventional design.
2000: Perry Lakes Park Pavilion project begins
The Pavilion project gets underway in a clearing at Perry Lakes Park, along the Cahaba River, defining a gathering place for visitors to the park’s attractions, including its cypress and tupelo swamps and oxbow lakes. The project begins Rural Studio’s larger-scale community park work.
December 2001: Focus pivots, Sambo passes away, and leadership changes
Rural Studio community projects flourish. Sambo Mockbee, vibrant despite a 1998 diagnosis of leukemia, passes away from complications of the disease. D.K. Ruth briefly directs Rural Studio, followed by Andrew Freear as Director.
2003: Newbern requests a Firehouse
The town asks Rural Studio to design and build a Firehouse for its newly formed Newbern Volunteer Fire Department. The Firehouse will house a grant-funded pumper truck, keeping the vehicle warm and dry. This project begins Newbern downtown work.
2004: Sambo posthumously awarded AIA Gold Medal
Sambo Mockbee is posthumously honored with the prestigious American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, awarded to one esteemed architect a year for “a body of distinguished architectural work.”
August 2004: 20K Project research begins
Rural Studio begins the 20K Project, initiating a body of research aimed at identifying scalable solutions to stubborn rural housing problems.
2005: Lions Park begins
The initiation of the Lions Park project sets off 10 years of phased building at the location and establishes new relationships within the city and county. As a result, a series of new projects become possible, such as the Farmers’ Market and the Greensboro Boys & Girls Club, and Rural Studio works with officials on larger-scale planning.
2006: Rusty Smith becomes Associate Director
Rusty Smith, with experience from international architectural firms and having received national teaching awards, informally becomes Associate Director of Rural Studio in 2006, with his new role becoming University official in 2007.
August 2009: D.K. Ruth passes away
Illness had moved D.K. Ruth back to Auburn University’s main campus in 2002. In 2009, D.K. passes away, leaving a legacy of not only work but also deep respect and a fundamental decency in his approach to architecture.
Fall 2009: Curriculum timeline shifts
Early undergraduate involvement moves from 2nd year to 3rd year, allowing students to better focus on material assembly. Students joining the 3rd year program now have the benefit of applying coursework in materials and methods, environmental controls, and structures.
2010: Rural Studio Farm begins
Rural Studio founds the small-scale Farm with sustainability as one of its operating principles.
June–August 2010: Victoria & Albert Exhibit in London
Rural Studio’s full-scale Woodshed installation is featured in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces, a project asking international architects “to design structures which explored notions of refuge and ‘retreat’.”
October 2010–January 2011: MoMA Exhibit in New York
20K Dave’s House is featured in Small Scale Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement, an exhibit highlighting architecture with transformative effects.
2013 – 2014: 20th Anniversary
Rural Studio commemorates its 20th anniversary, by designing and building 13 projects and featuring 71 guest lectures.
May 2014: Rural Studio At Twenty published
Rural Studio’s 3rd book, Rural Studio at Twenty, celebrates the origins and evolution of Rural Studio from its beginnings in 1993 to its 20th anniversary.
May – November 2016: Exhibit in Venice
Rural Studio’s exhibit The Theater of the useFULL at Biennale Architettura 2016’s Reporting From The Front is the only invited installation from the United States at the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.
May 2019: Master’s program begins
Expanding beyond the two undergraduate studio opportunities to learn at Rural Studio in Auburn’s 5-year professional degree program, Rural Studio creates a master’s program with a strong research component that complements its essential design-build foundation.
2019: Front Porch Initiative launches
The Front Porch Initiative transforms the 20K concept, scaling up with partners and collaborators to bring dignified, economical, and easy to maintain rural houses to rural communities beyond Hale County.