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Architects at Your Service: Rural Studio Turns 20

It came into being, according to one of the founders, because architects had become “lapdogs of the rich” who needed to learn how to serve poor and neglected people.

For two decades now, the celebrated design/build program Rural Studio has created some of the most remarkable architecture around — using salvaged lumber, concrete rubble, colored bottles and old license plates — to transform buildings in impoverished but proud Hale County.

A new book profiles that story. “Rural Studio at Twenty” (Princeton Architectural Press, May 27, $40) chronicles the evolution of the architectural program, cofounded by visionary Samuel Mockbee, who made the lapdog observation, and his friend and colleague D. K. Ruth. Andrew Freear now directs Rural Studio.

The book considers how the Auburn University program has thrived through challenges and triumphs, missteps and lessons learned. It also looks to the future, as the studio takes on some of its most ambitious projects yet — from the Rural Studio Farm, a model for sustainable living, to the 20K House program, aimed at creating an affordable ($20,000) home for everyone.

The volume is anchored by a collection of essays from advisors, consultants, community partners, clients and alumni, whose support has been critical to the studio’s continued success. 

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