Mention the name Sam Mockbee in room full of architects and designers, and hear the buzz. In 1993, the late architect and MacArthur genius-grant recipient launched his singular Rural Studio at Auburn University in Alabama. The world of design thinking hasn’t been the same since.
In the design/build education program Mockbee founded, students generate unusual architecture, using strikingly ordinary and often salvaged materials, for poor communities in rural Alabama — changing people’s attitudes toward design, and their lives, forever.
Tonight the Walker Art Center screens a documentary about Mockbee’s work, “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio,” which focuses on the students’ design of a home for Jimmie Lee Matthews, known to the locals as Music Man because of his passion for R&B and Soul records.
The 60-minute film reveals how the architect and educator guided students in deploying their skills, creativity and their humanity to create homes, while revealing that the Rural Studio also addresses architecture’s role in mitigating poverty, nurturing citizenship and influencing social change.
Mockbee’s program, as the film clearly shows, gives students life experience in using their talents to improve whole communities. In addition to candid interviews with Mockbee, the film includes commentary from such architectural luminaries as Peter Eisenman, Michael Rotondi and Cameron Sinclair.
You can view a trailer at the film’s website.
The film was directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas, Mockbee’s son-in-law. For a Q+A with Douglas, go here.
The evening concludes with a panel discussion after the screening, featuring Maureen Colburn (cofounder of the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of Architecture for Humanity and architect with LHB in Minneapolis); Paul Neseth (cofounder of Locus Architecture in Minneapolis); and James Wheeler (intern architect at Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, Mississippi).
“Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio,” 7 p.m. today. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6 p.m.