In Memory

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Issue 3: Education for Community Building

Samuel Mockbee

1944-2001

The architectural profession lost one of its most socially responsible members when Samuel Mockbee, age 57, died on December 30, 2001 of complications of leukemia. An inspiring educator, a gifted practitioner, and a passionate artist, Sam Mockbee showed us that humble architecture deserves the same care in its design and fabrication, as does a big-budget public project.

A native of Mississippi, Mockbee taught and practiced in the rural south. he had a long-standing interest in socially conscious architecture. Mockbee wanted to be more than a "house pet for the rich."

In 1993 he approached the architecture program at his alma mater, Auburn university, with a proposal for a design/build program. With a grant from the Alabama Power Company, Mockbee and Professor D. K. Ruth established the Rural Studio. The Studio allows students the opportunity to design and build homes for poor African-American families in Hale County, Alabama. The first house, built using straw bales, was for an elderly couple and their three grandchildren. Since then twelve more projects have been built, including a community center. the Studio provides a hands-on educational experience where students are intimately involved at every stage. Sustainable architecture is both a principle and a necessity, since the projects have very modest budgets. Last year Sam Mockbee was awarded a Macarthur fellowship. With it, he intended to extend the Rural Studio's program.

Mockbee was a gentel bear of a man who practiced architecture from his heart and the world is a brighter place because of his compassion.

Visit www.arch.auburn.edu/ruralstudio for more information about the Rural Studio program or to make contributions to a memorial fund.

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