“That is the reason you go to college, not to make more money, but to gain the knowledge to make this a better world.” – Sambo Mockee
The fantastic documentary, Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the spirit of the Rural Studio, tells the inspiring story of architect and teacher Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee and the thought provoking work of the Rural Studio, a design/build program offered through Auburn University’s School of Architecture, which Mockbee co-founded. The Rural Studio focuses all of its projects on the citizens of Hale County Alabama, one of the poorest areas of the country and that is what makes it so utterly unique and what really makes this film so fascinating. Using recycled, found, or donated materials, the Rural Studio and it’s architects in training get a very real world, hands-on experience in creating what Mockbee referred to as an “architecture of decency”. Gifting beautiful, functional, and efficient structures to people whose day to day lives are spent in pretty shocking conditions, but whose dignity and worth as human beings is clearly respected by the students and the faculty of the Rural Studio. The program and Mockbee have become an inspiration for similar design/build experiences at other universities, and this film certainly does inspire, but it is the uniquely compassionate and socially responsible vision of Mockbee, who passed away from leukemia in 2001, that really shines and will, hopefully, reverberate far into the future.