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I’ve been meaning to tell you about this great book my Mom brought me as a hostess gift about a year ago. It’s a monograph of the work of Samuel ‘Sambo’ Mockbee, appropriately titled Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency. I kept putting it off, because frankly, scanning stuff is a boring chore, plus, it’s really hard to pick just a few projects from this book. I doubt I can summarize it better than the book jacket:
For almost ten years, Samuel Mockbee, a recent MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, and his architecture students at Auburn University have been designing and building striking houses and community buildings for impoverished residents of Alabama’s Hale County. Using salvaged lumber and bricks, discarded tires, hay and waste cardboard bales, concrete rubble, colored bottles, and old license plates, they create inexpensive buildings in a style Mockbee describes as ‘contemporary modernism grounded in Southern culture.’”
This is the incredible Yancey Chapel, built around an existing rusted trough and constructed from 1000 dirt-filled used tires:
This property near The Yancey Chapel is called The Goat House, a former shed for animals that Rural Studio originally planned as part of an artists’ colony. The colony never, um, colonized, and the building is now a residence. You see the Chapel aesthetic influence on the structure:
Anyway, I was catching up on my pile of Metropolis magazines over the weekend – I tend to let them stack up because I like to read all of the articles, and I tend to save them for airplanes or vacations. Anyway, I almost fell over when I saw this house featured. It’s a few blocks from my house in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood of Atlanta, and I’ve admired it on walks many times. “The second burning of Atlanta” has been happening in my neighborhood in the form of teardowns – cute little bungalows and cottages that give the neighborhood its charm are decimated so that square-footage monsters can use up every inch of each lot. I’ve always admired this addition as an appropriate and really interesting to look at; in fact, I’ve always wanted to knock on the door and ask if I could check out the interior, but I’m just not that aggressive.
Well, to make a long story longer, Sambo and his Rural Studio designed this addition to a 550-square foot former dairy barn in exchange for two canoes. The job was finished by Lloyd Bray and Durham Crout of Atlanta. According to the article, they used copper cladding, pegged cypress and traditional Japanese joinery techniques. The meticulous work has paid off. The color has a warm glow, and I love the contrast between the materials they used and the wild garden is remarkable. By the way, this shot was taken level with the house, but it sits below the street level, so the height of the addition doesn’t give that overshadowing hideous, “I’m too tall for this neighborhood and I belong in Alpharetta” look that most of the teardowns in my neighborhood have.
Though Sambo is not with us anymore, his good works live on. For more information on Rural Studio, click here. Their website is really good. If you’d like to join in the Outreach Program, click here. To donate to Rural Studio, click here.You can catch the full Metropolis article in a much better format than squinting at my scan right here.â€¢ Top three images from the above-mentioned book, taken by Timothy Hursleyâ€¢ Bottom two images from Metropolis magazine, photos by Michael Griffeth