Make your own free website on

samuel mockbee and the rural studio


Architectural Record online:

AR Feb. 2002 editorial

AR Interview with Sam Mockbee

DJB Commentary

Architect Samuel "Sambo" Mockbee (1934-2000) was the founder of Auburn University's Rural Studio, where part of the architectural students' training involves living on site in Hale County, Alabama, while designing and constructing relatively low-cost structures (many consisting of donated and recycled materials) to serve the needs of the county's impoverished residents.

When the late Samuel Mockbee chose a rural county in Alabama for his in situ classroom experiments into providing innovative shelter for the area's poverty-stricken inhabitants, it was telling that he chose a district that had no building code infrastructure.

It is doubtful that the typical hidebound, rigid bureaucratic building and zoning departments that characterize many of our cities and counties would have allowed any of the Rural Studio's structures to be built, especially those utilizing a "green" architecture of recycled and discarded materials - even though these buildings were constructed under the supervision of professionals trained in the building arts.

The underlying principles of building and zoning regulations are not at fault - public safety and health along with an orderly allocation of land resources that best protect one's property while providing for the benefit of all.

It's when our building methodologies become ensnared by self-serving and bloated bureaucratic intransigence to all but their favorite special interests and the building status quo: trades, suppliers, officials, inspectors, insurance providers, lenders, real estate and development consortiums, politicians and regulatory bean-counters who feel threatened by anything that falls outside of their profitable uniform box...a box they have created for themselves under the umbrella of legally sanctioned bureaucratic control.

This young generation of architects is facing a formidable dilemma: Those in control of how and where and if the architect's designs come to fruition represent a deeply entrenched and entangled web of influence and collusion resistant to change and demanding obeisance for inclusion into the system.

How can the profession overcome the bean-counters' penchant for mindless conformity to outdated and self-serving regulations, and the bureaucrat's league with special interests to provide the inspiration and innovation that is desperately needed in finding equitable solutions to the housing and environmental crises upon us?

- Daniel John Bornt, 3/27/02

E-mail your comments

"The Bierwirth Family Tree" website at
©2002 by Daniel J. Bornt, e-mail to: