News Brief

Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency

by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, with photographs by Timothy Hursley. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, NY, 2002. Paperback, 186 pages, $30

Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee cofounded the Rural Studio at the Auburn University School of Architecture in 1993 with convictions that still turn heads. He chose to set up shop in unlikely Hale County, Alabama largely because he believed that architecture needed a good shake—that it had a moral obligation to work in the service of the poor and that it should, in his words, “challenge the status quo into making responsible environmental and social changes.”

With these goals and Sambo’s behest in mind—“It’s got to be warm, dry, and noble”—he and his students have created homes, churches, and various community spaces in Alabama and Mississippi. Rural Studio students have a reputation for inventing uses for found, salvaged, and donated materials. They have tested and built walls of used tires; rammed earth; and baled hay, cardboard, and carpet scraps. Automobile windshields form a curtainwall for an open-air community center. License-plate shingles cover the wall of a home. Plastic wastebaskets serve as lampshades in a Boys and Girls Club. Glass bottles embedded in a concrete-rubble wall throw light into a smokehouse roofed with road signs.

Rural Studio documents 13 complete projects through elegant narrative and nearly 150 stunning photographs. Introductions to the studio and its mastermind; interviews with students, a client, and a teacher; a history of photographing Hale County; and a bibliography of the school complete Rural Studio. As a documentation of the hands-on Rural Studio, this book also serves as a touching eulogy to Sambo, the school’s heart and soul, who succumbed to leukemia in December 2001.

Published January 1, 2003

(2003, January 1). Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency. Retrieved from

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