Auburn’s Rural Studio

Select details from Rural Studio projectsOne of the great school programs we’ve seen over the years, the Rural Studio at Auburn is a program that educates the students in design, building, construction, and most importantly the ethical repercussions of decisions.  The studio designs and builds structures for a poor local community of Hale County, Alabama.

Rural Studio, part of the Auburn University SoA, is probably one of the most widely known and public design/build studio classes in the US. Started in 1993 by professors Samuel Mockbee and D.K. Ruth, the studio’s aim is to educate students in practical building construction, design and experience of the whole process, taking a design and making it a concrete reality. Along with teaching students, the studio also serves the larger community by providing a well-constructed, safe, and unique built environment to one of the poorest areas of the country. The overall experience of the studio imbuing a sense of responsibility to the community, much more humble and real than the high-minded dreamy suppositions of many studio projects.

The studio as a whole is made up of 3 separate programs; a second year studio of about 20 students, a thesis studio of about 12 students, split into 3 groups, and an outreach program of non-Auburn graduates. All participants move to Hale county, Alabama, and live within the community they will be designing for; the 2nd year students for a semester, and the thesis and outreach programs for the whole year. Each program has a specific purpose. The 2nd year students design a home for a family, the thesis and outreach students a community project, planned, designed and built by themselves.


Lucy’s House

Carpet House via downtownBLUE

Carpet House via downtownBLUE

One of the more well-known projects, students used carpet samples for a portion of the facade.

Skylights in the red volume bring natural light down into the home.

Butterfly House

Butterfly House via downtownBLUE

This 2 story home was built for a family for only 25K.

Interior via Encyclopedia of Alabama

The angled roof allows sunlight in to light the open interior space.


Hale County Animal Shelter

Animal Shelter via Timothy Hursley

An animal shelter, consisting of a wooden structural skin.

Animal Shelter via momeld

The skin shades and protects the interior volume of offices and kennels.

Glass Chapel

Chapel via Forrest Fulton

A chapel that uses old windshields as a facade

Chapel via downtownBLUE

Here’s a few links to check out to learn more:
The Rural Studio website
A great essay by Samuel Mockbee- An Architecture of Decency
The rural studio film

Leave a Reply