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Auburn’s Rural Studio celebrating 30 years in Hale

Auburn University Rural Studio is celebrating its 30th anniversary, marking three decades of commitment to rural living, community building, and innovative architectural education. The Studio’s focus on the interconnectedness of healthful rural living emphasizes the importance of affordable homeownership, access to fresh food, clean water, and reliable wastewater systems.

Founded in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, and directed by Andrew Freear since 2001, with Rusty Smith as associate director since 2005, Rural Studio has become one of the oldest and most well-respected design-build programs in the world. Rooted in Hale County, the Studio is part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture of Auburn University.

The Studio’s work in West Alabama over the past 30 years includes a wide range of impact:

  • Educating over 1200 students.
  • Designing and building more than 220 homes and community projects.
  • Publishing three Rural Studio books with Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Being featured in over 800 publications, including Architectural Record, Fast Company, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Receiving 39 national and international awards from organizations such as the National Academy of Design, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian, and the American Institute of Architects.

This year, the Studio is introducing two student projects: a new home exploring a cross-laminated (CLT) structural core, and the second phase of the Rural Studio Fabrication Pavilion. Additionally, the upcoming year will see the completion of several student projects, including Patriece’s Home, C.H.O.I.C.E. House, Rosie’s Home, 18×18 House, and the Rural Studio Bathhouse.

The Studio will continue to tackle barriers to homeownership, access to fresh food, and wastewater systems, exploring innovative ways to use local resources like wood. A number of events are planned throughout the year, including a special lecture series, Halloween Reviews, Soup Roast Reviews, Spring Farm Dinner, and Pig Roast & Alumni Lectures Weekend.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary, Rural Studio is launching a new fundraising effort to provide perpetual support for students designing and building in the West Alabama community. The goal is to reach 30 named endowments, each with a pledge of $30,000 over the next five years, amounting to $6,000 a year to build a legacy of supporting students’ work at Rural Studio.

Rural Studio’s core mission is the education of students, coupled with research on sustainable, healthful rural living. The impact of the Studio is grounded in establishing long-term roots in the Black Belt, fostering deep connections that allow learning from neighbors’ insights and can-do attitude.

The 30th anniversary of Rural Studio not only celebrates the past achievements but also sets the stage for future endeavors in promoting the beauty inherent in rural living and preserving the community’s unique educational landscape.