Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Inspiring architect, educator, MacArthur fellow, and good ol' boy Sambo Mockbee died of leukemia last Sunday. His was the second guest lecture I attended while a student at Tulane School of Architecture. The first one went over my head, but Mockbee hit me straight between the eyes. His architecture is humorous, direct, and soulful. His educational mission was passionate. He founded the Rural Studio at Auburn in 1993. He and his students have spent the years since then living among the people of Hale County, Alabama and doing architecture as a real and physical process. They experiment with cheap materials and create wonderful environments for living which are donated to the community. In Mason's Bend, an isolated little cluster of shacks and trailers, they have constructed three remarkable houses custom-tailored to their deeply impoverished owners' needs. Students in the Rural Studio gain a working understanding not only of building, but also of service and community.
From Sam Mockbee I began to appreciate that architecture is neither an art nor a science, nor something in between, but a service and a discipline inseparable from its cultural context and from the issue of public welfare.
For more background, check out the link above as well as this interview and these two articles.