Architecture with a social mission
The Internets are full of so many wonderful and interesting things. This week's edition is a new discovery for me: The Bitter Southerner. The site takes a unique approach to blogging (if you like to call it that): one really great story per week, on a Tuesday. It's well worth dropping in your email - the stories are good, the site is attractive, the photography often stunning.
This week's edition is a long, well-done piece on the The Rural Studio - Sam Mockbee's creation in Hale County, Alabama. The studio has garnered wide acclaim over the years (rightfully so) for their desire to spend student years actually work to improve the lives of others. While I don't love all of the built product, the effort and intent get an A+. In my opinion, one of the under-emphasized parts of the effort is to help people in a poor region begin to create an economy for themselves. From the piece:
Mockbee came in 1993 to help start the Rural Studio, a design-build program that is part of the Auburn University School of Architecture. He believed that the role of an architect includes a certain social obligation, and so he created the Studio as an experiment to get students out of the classroom and put them to work where he thought they could do some good – smack dab in the center of one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in the country.
Turns out Mockbee was on to something. Two decades on, the Rural Studio has been wildly successful, piling up awards and drawing attention from all over the globe. Now headquartered in the rambling, Queen Anne-style Morrisette House in Newbern (population 181) in southern Hale County, its 100-plus projects fan out all across Alabama’s Black Belt, reaching over into Perry County and down through parts of Marengo and Dallas counties. More than 800 students have taken part in the Studio over the years, designing and then constructing everything from private homes to a fire station to a skate park. Now divided into Third Year, Thesis and Outreach groups – the latter consisting of those from outside the university – they’ve resurrected churches, experimented with models of affordable yet livable housing and resuscitated parkland that had given over to a swamp.
Set aside ten minutes and enjoy the read.