Rural Studio — Group

Auburn University, Auburn, AL 

Photo of Rural Studio representatives with their Spirit of Sustainability Award. Pictured from left to right are: Jacquelyn Overbey Hart, Colleen Bourdeau, Dara Hosey, David Hinson, Melissa Foster Denney, Marcia Moulton, Carlie Bullock-Jones, Brandon Jones, Rusty Smith, and Lee Dow

Rural Studio representatives with their Spirit of Sustainability Award. Pictured from left to right are: Jacquelyn Overbey Hart, Colleen Bourdeau, Dara Hosey, David Hinson, Melissa Foster Denney, Marcia Moulton, Carlie Bullock-Jones, Brandon Jones, Rusty Smith, and Lee Dow

Auburn University’s Rural Studio is a national model of accomplishment that addresses every aspect of a sustainable world: nature, the economy, societal conditions, and individual wellbeing. Interweaving research, experiential student learning, community engagement, and on the ground impact in underserved communities in west Alabama, Rural Studio is making a real difference academically and in communities.

Rural Studio is a design-build program that represents a unique partnership between the university’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction and the communities of Hale County in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt. Founded in 1993, the Studio’s work is grounded in its core philosophy that all people, regardless of economic status, should benefit from thoughtful and responsible design.

Embracing its community for over twenty years, Rural Studio is involved in local architecture, landscape, politics, arts, crafts, music, food and the rhythms of everyday life. As an academic initiatives, the Studio has empowered and encouraged students to do the same, putting their educational values to work as citizens in a community.

In this total immersion program, students live, eat, design and build in the community they serve. They come to appreciate local culture, build meaningful relationships, and experience the impact of architecture firsthand. Students are taught to safeguard, preserve and enhance connections between the natural landscape, the built environment, and one another.

Rural Studio does many types of projects, including designing and building homes. One project is an ongoing challenge called the 20K House, where students design a mass-marketable house that can be built for less than $20,000. Other projects focus on civic spaces, public health, nutrition, and education. Rural Studio has built well-designed sustainable places for disadvantaged youth where they can gather and spend time. Public parks and sports facilities have been constructed where none were before. A much-needed fire station, city hall, Boy Scout hut, boys and girls club, and a library have also been designed and built.

Rural Studio produces ideas and methodologies that can be useful in the communities of the Black Belt of Alabama, and in locations around the world. Since 1993, Rural Studio has completed over 150 projects, educated over 600 “citizen architects,” and won numerous awards for its innovative practices and designs.

Perhaps most importantly, the Studio has had life-changing impacts on students, faculty, families and communities, while nurturing pride, dignity, hope, and empowerment for hundreds of citizens in west Alabama.