Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Rural Studio

Having dinner with one of my HABS summer colleagues last night, I tossed off the name Samuel Mockbee as a contemporary architect about whom I knew nothing. The only reason I knew his name was there was a paper on one of his houses at the Society of Architectural Historians conference in Vancouver.

My colleague enthused mightily about the late Mockbee, an architect from the Deep South who started up an organization affiliated with the Auburn University school of architecture, called the Rural Studio. The Rural Studio was (and is) an ongoing project that takes students for a semester out to rural Alabama and has them live in a poor community as prelude to designing a house for an impoverished family. The house is then constructed from found and recycled materials.

Damn, that sounds like a great project. The Rural Studio is now on the blogroll and I hope you'll take a look at some of the houses they've built. Used rubber tires and strawbale construction -- maybe it's only because it's rural Mississippi that they can get away with it, but I would LOVE to see some actual innovation in urban architecture like that (even if it's only on the suburban end of the spectrum).

Did I mention FLLW's work with Cooperative Homesteads, outside of Detroit, featured "rammed earth" construction? Yep, the whole structure of the house was basically sand, clay, and water rammed into set forms. After it was set, it was to be plastered and painted, and the floor covered with linoleum.


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