On July 1, the Walker Art Center will be screening Citizen Architect, a film about Auburn University’s Rural Studio and its creator, the late Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee. It’s a glimpse into a program that has brought architecture to a group of people who typically aren’t served by our profession – the poorest of the poor in rural Alabama. For architects, or those about to enter the profession, Sambo’s vision and ambition can be an inspiration to us all. It certainly has been for us at Locus, both in our teaching experiences as well as in our business.
The course we led in Biloxi, MS three years ago closely resembles the work of the Rural Studio. It had all the ingredients of the messy, “get-your-hands-dirty” kind of architecture that combines a highly creative learning environment with meaningful results. Working in the shadows of multi-billion dollar casinos, our students designed and built a pavilion for folks with little means, many of whom had lost nearly everything in Katrina.
Our work at Locus has also been somewhat non-typical for many architects. Recently, when we looked back over our firm’s history, we realized over 80% of our clients spent less than $4,000 in fees with us. While this doesn’t represent the poorest of the poor in our country, it does suggest a wider range of clients than what the public perceives as the norm for those purchasing architectural design services. We take pride in the work we have done for clients of all shapes and sizes and we continue to look for ways to bring the benefits of architectural design – inspiring spaces and outstanding functionality, among others – to as many people as possible.
Paul Neseth, Locus principal and co-founder, will be a panelist at the post-screening discussion, where he will talk about the Rural Studio’s impact on Locus, as well as the newly formed RAW – Real Architecture Workshop.