AUBURN –The late legendary architect Samuel Mockbee and Auburn University's Rural Studio for aspiring architects are the subject of a documentary film by producer and director Sam Wainwright Douglas that PBS will air nationwide at 9 p.m., CDT, Monday, Aug. 23.
In 1993, Mockbee and Auburn architecture professor D.K. Ruth founded the Rural Studio design-build education program at Auburn University which Mockbee directed until his death in 2001.
Mockbee developed the Rural Studio into a teaching laboratory with a strategy to improve the living conditions in rural Alabama while imparting practical experience to architecture students.
Mockbee's leadership of the program and his pioneering drive to create innovative architecture in Alabama's economically stressed Black Belt earned worldwide acclaim for the Rural Studio and a national Genius Grant for himself from the MacArthur Foundation.
Dan Bennett, dean of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, said, "‘Citizen Architect' provides a thoughtful and insightful look at how Auburn students and faculty literally transform the lives of citizens who live and work in Alabama's remote Black Belt. The film poignantly demonstrates the role that architecture can play in lifting the spirits of some of the most economically disadvantaged citizens, and how the lives of the students are equally transformed."
Douglas describes his documentary as being guided by frank, passionate interviews with Mockbee. The film also shows how a group of students use their creativity, ingenuity and compassion to craft a home for their client, Jimmie Lee Matthews, known to locals as Music Man because of his zeal for old R&B and Soul records.
Douglas says the film reveals that the Rural Studio is about more than architecture and building. It provides students with an experience that forever inspires them to consider how they can use their skills to better their communities. Interviews with Mockbee's peers and scenes with those he's influenced infuse the film with a larger discussion of architecture's role in issues of poverty, class, race, education, social change and citizenship.