Friday, August 6, 2010

Something From Nothing

As a designer, we are bombarded by paper companies selling their wares in hopes that we’ll design a project and have it printed on their paper. I’m sure the general public would be surprised that there are so many different kinds of paper but like everything in a free market, you’ve got a massive selection to choose from.

In 2002, Clampitt Paper out of Dallas delivered an unusual piece to my doorstep. And to be honest, I’ve never kept a paper sample for myself in my entire life. I’ve seen thousands of samples over the years but this particular sample was special. Not because of the paper, sorry Mr. Clampitt, but because of the information and images that were printed on it. So special that I managed to keep it now for eight years and I don’t ever intend on tossing it.

The piece, or booklet, showcased the “Rural Studio” located in Hale County, Alabama which is an architectural studio started by Samuel Mockbee. This studio provides Auburn University students of architecture hands on experience in dealing with clients. Well, sort of.

These so called clients are the poor who primarily live within the Black Belt. A name given to the dark soil it sits upon stretching from central Alabama to northern Mississippi.

The concept of the studio is to design architecture by letting a building evolve out of the culture and place you are designing within. Which is exactly what this group has done over the years by designing beautiful structures made from rural materials. Using mostly salvaged or donated materials, homes or structures can be created from railroad ties, old bricks, donated lumber, hay bales, baled corrugated cardboard, rubber tires worn thin, car windshields, license plates and road signs. The list goes on and on but the end result is always stunning. Endless structures that are both amazing looking and extremely functional.

All of these structures are built for people that are in need in an area that houses a forty percent population of poverty. So the students from Auburn are learning a bit more than just how to design and build. They are all learning what it means to make a difference in the lives of people that are in great need. A need that all students will tell you that by meeting has made huge differences in their own lives as well as the lives of others.

Samuel Mockbee, a true modern day Saint, has since passed away but the studio lives on under the direction of Dennis K. Ruth along with new young recruits from Auburn University. It is programs such as these that truly make the world a better place to live in. Literally. They serve as an example of how we should all try to live our lives by giving to others through the talents that we have been bestowed.

Peace Out! Now go pick up a hammer…or something.

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