citizen architect samuel mockbee

(Video link here.) Our friend Maureen Rolla sent us this email; it is so expressive, it became a post:

“I am writing to tell you about a person and documentary that you should know about – it is called “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio” – about an amazing architect, thinker, dreamer who ran a program called the Rural Studio at Auburn University in which architecture students designed and built homes, churches, and other structures for the residents of the very poor Hale County, Alabama.  It is perhaps the best statement about the transformative power of architecture on regular human beings lives that I’ve ever seen (as opposed to big name, star power architecture that pretty much only benefits the star architect…)  The students use some ordinary materials (hay bales, tires) in innovative ways to create some simple yet soaring projects. The film is available on Netflix (disk only, unfortunately). Unfortunately Mockbee died in 2001, only in his early 60s.”

We found a trailer for Citizen Architect (above) that makes us hungry to see the film. Check out this moving interview with Mockbee we found on YouTube……at about 3:38 he says:

There’s moments in life, very few moments, where you really get to use your soul to make a decision. Those are really…a few times, and the more often you get to use your soul to make decisions…I mean, that’s really wonderful. And those students get to use not only their intelligence, and their labor, and their heart, but there are moments when they really get to use their soul. How often in a day do you really use your soul? How often? 

We would liked to have met that man.

Here are some of the homes and voices of Mason’s Bend, where Mockbee’s students worked.  (Video link here):

Big thanks, Maureen!

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architecture of the poor

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