A Documentary About the Rural Studio at Auburn University 2003


Samuel Mockbee and D.K. Ruth founded the Rural Studio at Auburn University in 1993 with the goal of improving the lives of the rural poor in Alabama. Each year the design/build studio constructs approximately five houses, often integrating experimental and sustainable design elements.
This was the website for the hour-long documentary that celebrates MacArthur Fellow Samuel Mockbee’s vision of architecture as a catalyst for social change. The film follows his student architects of Auburn University as they help to rebuild the social and physical landscape of a long neglected rural community “brick by recycled brick”.

Content is from the site's 2003 archived pages as well as from other sources.

The film chronicles the work of architect Samuel Mockbee and Auburn University's Rural Studio, as they re-imagine what architecture means in the strongest sense of the term, striving to meld professional achievement with social change.

To learn more about the undergraduate Rural Studio program at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University go to: http://www.ruralstudio.org/


Rural Studio: A Story of Solutions
The AIA presents a short documentary film on Rural Studio, Auburn University’s community-oriented, design-build program dedicated to improving the western Alabama region with good design. The Rural Studio film launches the 2016 Film Challenge, inviting filmmakers and architects to team up and tell stories of how architecture is solving a problem facing us today in communities, big or small, across the country. Together, we can tell these important stories that need to be told.


The Rural Studio is a production of BluePrint Productions


The Rural Studio Film - Jury Award Winner
Best Feature Length Documentary

Festival Internacional De Cinema Del Medi Ambient
Barcelona, Spain

Fine architecture is usually reserved for wealthy patrons or grand civic spaces. But in 1993, Auburn University Professor Samuel Mockbee set out to change that. He founded The Rural Studio, which guides students in the design and construction of homes and community spaces in economically depressed Hale County, Alabama. The Rural Studio Film captures this innovative program’s vision of architecture as a social art form capable of raising the human spirit. This contextual-based learning philosophy seeks to transcend race and class and in theprocess changes the lives both student and client.

Mr. Schultz's film has become one of the most important vehicles for disseminating the profoundly successful model developed by Professor Mockbee... thanks to Mr. Schultz's efforts, we now have a compelling vehicle by which to extend the benefits of the Rural Studio's achievements.
--Lawrence Rinder - Curator of Contemporary Art - the Whitney Museum

The film beautifully captures Sambo Mockbee's gifts both as an architect and as a teacher. As Mockbee and his students work with black and white families in Alabama, they present viewers with a powerful architectural vision. It is a vision that challenges architects to build exciting housing that is accessible to all our society. Congratulations on an exceptionally fine film.
--William Ferris - Public Policy Scholar - Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars


The DVD version of The Rural Studio is available on Amazon. I picked it up to give to a friend as they started one of those new alcohol recovery programs whose approach and attitude towards excessive drinking is different from the well known 12 step / abstinance approach of AA. Instead of treating alcoholism as a disease, assuming that certain people are innately prone to alcoholism, (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as a “chronic relapsing brain disease”), the more modern approach looks at alcoholism as a symptom of a larger psychological issue, and needs to be treated that way. So my friend joined the LifeBac program and had started a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. The med he was on is called Baclofen that requires titration (slow dose increase) until cravings are completely removed or controlled. It had been a rough week as his body adjusted to the medication. He wasn't too worried about the initial side effects, after all doctors in Europe prescribe baclofen as the primary treatment for alcohol abuse. We were all optimistic since clinical trials in Europe have shown 65% success allowing treatment-resistant alcoholics to return to low-risk drinking levels or abstinence when using the Ameisen method of titrated (not fixed) dosing. We spent a relaxing evening eating a takeout meal of sushi and watching The Rural Studio dvd. We rated The Rural Studio a five star documentary. UPDATE: six months later my friend no longer had uncontrollable cravings to drink. He could have a glass of wine with a meal and didn't need any more. I'm so impressed with his progress and rather in awe of baclofen.


Paul Dubaz
5.0 out of 5 stars / One inspiring documentary!
February 1, 2007
Format: DVD
After viewing Chuck Schultz's wonderful documentary, "The Rural Studio," I exclaimed two words: ROAD TRIP!!!!! I was immediately inspired to gather together some friends, pile into the car and visit what is called the Black Belt of Alabama (a central portion that runs from the Georgia state line to the Mississippi line where the Rural Studio is located) and see for myself the incredibly clever buildings and public spaces featured in this film of the same name.
The Rural Studio is a program that brings together architectural students from Auburn University with the residents of the Black Belt ( a rural and mostly poor area) to create, design and build structures and spaces for the community as well as for the needy. It provides students the opportunity to work face to face with clients as well as experience how their projects impact the local community. It began in the early 1990's and has produced dozens of projects ranging from private homes to places of worship. But to really experience how special this project you MUST see for yourself.
Chuck Schultz, director and producer, tells the story of the sometimes-controversial Rural Studio with sumptuous cinematography and seamless editing, using interviews with instructors, students and clients. A community farmer's market, a chapel, a children's center and private homes are just a few of the projects that have been lovingly hand build by the students that are featured in "The Rural Studio."
Although no contractors are used in these constructions, many interesting and unorthodox materials, including rammed earth, automobile windshields and used tires are utilized. Because these projects are all provided gratis for those in need, the only thing the Rural Studio does not supply is the land. The rest of the building materials are provided through donations; the labor is done completely by the students, and most projects must be completed within the time constraints of one semester.
The finished projects are a study in innovation, community service and good old-fashioned philanthropy.


5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring!
December 20, 2006
Format: DVD
If you're on holiday overload and looking for something to remind you of the real meaning of the season this film beautifully captures the spirit of a man and a unique program that inspires its students to give back to the communities they live in. As we follow the families whose lives have been changed we are reminded of the disparities that still exist in America (even though the film focuses on the years from 1999-2001 we are still dealing with the same issues - think Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans) BUT it also gives us hope that if, like the students in the film, we reach out to help others in whatever way we can, we CAN make a difference - the spirit of volunteerism lives and this film captures the joy of that experience!





The Rural Studio has been screened at over 65 venues around the world including the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, the Barbican Centre in London and Film Casino in Vienna, Austria.

2006 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, China
2002 The Whitney Museum of American Contemporary Art – 2002 Biennial

The Independent Television Service LInCS Program
The National Endowment for the Arts about that program.


Chuck Schultz - Producer/Director

Chuck is the Executive Producer of the documentary The Calling. In 2007, he collaborated with filmmaker and visual artist Esther Podemski to create 5 Days in July a two screen video installation that revisits the 1967 Newark Riots on its 40th Anniversary.

The traveling installation was exhibited at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and in a group show “1968 Then and Now” curated by MacArthur Fellow Deborah Willis at New York University Center for New Media. Schultz directed/co-produced the NPR radio special Five Days in July that merges drama and documentary written by award-winning playwright Tracey Scott-Wilson (“The Story” and “The Good Negro”). The program received Public Radio Exchange’s 2007 Zeitfunk Award for the third most listened to program by a debut artist.

In 2002 he completed the documentary The Rural Studio. The film celebrates the work of MacArthur Fellow Samuel Mockbee and Auburn University’s Rural Studio students as they re-imagine architecture’s place in contemporary America. A co-production of ITVS’ LINCS Program and Alabama Public Television, The Rural Studio has been screened at over 65 venues around the world including the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, the Barbican Centre in London and Film Casino in Vienna, Austria. It was a selection of the 2002 Montreal International Festival of Film on Art, The Environmental Film Festival and Memphis Indie Festival in 2003. The film was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2002 Biennial and China’s 2005-2006 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture.

In 1992, he produced the documentary A Day at a Time, a candid verité portrait of a family raising two children with cerebral palsy, which won a Crystal Heart Award at the 1993 Heartland Film Festival and Critic’s Choice Best Documentary at the 1992 Breckenridge Film Festival, and was broadcast nationally on NHK Japan, the Women’s Television Network and the Knowledge Channel of Canada. Chuck was an Associate Producer at McCann Erickson’s International Division on advertising and branding for SONY, RJ Reynolds and Coca-Cola.