Literary Dose #12

"The causes of the malaise in the architectural profession may be traced back to education. Four weeks into first year and students are exposed to the barbarity of the review/crit/jury. Power, hormones, fear, vanity, genius, and individuality form a rich mix that sets the ethos for what is to come. Architectural education is still guided by the Victorian values of the (male) individual genius architect silently supplying aesthetic delights for rich patrons. The Rural Studio explicitly challenges these paradigms. It champions collaboration, communication, and process over product. It exposes students to a range of issues that they are sheltered from in normative architectural education -- group working, social responsibility, lateral thinking, building skills, new ways of building procurement, sustainability, contingent creativity. But at the same time one should not get too misty-eyed and see it as a completely non-authoritarian structure. Mockbee and his successors are far from shrinking violets; one needs this overarching vision (and it is vision, not mindless control) to avoid the work descending to a level of worthy mediocrity, as so easily could have happened."
- Jeremy Till and Sarah Wigglesworth, originally published in Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture, edited by David Moos and Gail Treschel (2003) and reprinted in Architectural Regionalism: Collected Writings on Place, Identity, Modernity, and Tradition, edited by Vincent B. Canizaro (2007).


  1. I wish so much that I had known that the Rural Studio was coming into being - Auburn University is fairly local to my hometown, and I would have been in the first class. I admire that effort, and Mockbee's legacy, so very much, and hope one day I'll be able to take time away from my own practice to go work and learn from them.

  2. it is beautifully put and the rural studio has the projects to back such a claim.

  3. there is not a single mission (vision) statement of any american firm (or american curriculum) that does not purport the same thing. as for power, hormones, fear, vanity and the like... these are fundamental human traits we desparately flaunt as justification for our evloutionary position. The victorian age did not corner the market on natural human experience. Arrogance is an equal-opportunity character flaw not a side effect of testosterone. What will happen when the rural studio disbands or thier work no longer captures our attention... what could possibly be the cause with such a foolproof precept? The paradigm to challenge is propaganda. This paragraph is trivializing to the scope of thier effort and an insult my appreciation thereof.

  4. It all just sounds like a bunch of hay to me...and I can't find my pitchfork.

  5. agree with sentiments above.

    mockbee was indeed an interesting kind of teacher.

    but collaboration and cetera as pedagogy are as old as the bauhaus (at least) and the idea construction and collaboration are not taught elsewhere is patently absurd. the built projects we did in my uni were not for the rural poor, they were largely done for ourselves. which is in some ways a shame and in others better cuz at least we only subjected ourselves to architectural experimentation.

    there is a desire here to mythologise an admittedly remarkable man that i find rather touching, but also disingenuous. it makes it hard to take what follows very seriously, whatever it might be...

  6. Hello

    I would like to inform you about our living model of Yona Friedmans "Spatial City" in 3D Internet-World "Second Life".
    Yona Friedman agreed to show "Spatial City" on virtual island "DEsign Island".

    Yona Friedman, famous architect and visionary (born 1923) is called "father" of urban planners and idol of architects like Rem Kolhaas or MVRDV.
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    "Spatial City" is the great visionary, conceptual, experimental architecture of Yona Friedman.
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    "Second Life" is very good for 3D building and building of social communities. So a living city will be developped and there will be some "life" and discussion.
    We will document the whole process as the most important part of this experiment.
    A virtual gallery shows Yona Friedmans ideas since 1957 to give the avatars the theoretical background of Yonas Ideas to build mobile cities by the inhabitants on structures.

    We would appreciate it, if you could report on this project. Feel free to ask us for more information.
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  7. FYI: The quote is a footnote to the following sentence: "Pedagogically, [the Rural Studio] challenges many of the accepted norms of educational behavior."


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