Duck Duck Book

34 – proceed and be bold
06.25.2006, 12:01 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

Proceed and be bold : Rural Studio after Samuel Mockbee / text by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, photographs by Timothy Hursley.
New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.
[MCL call number: 728.1 D281p 2005; one copy, no holds]

Buildings and spaces that are shaped to meet the specific needs of the people who use them, without being ostentatious or status-charged, have a special appeal for me.  The room that is designed with an odd wiggle in it to accommodate a previously unused space above the stairs, the two-hole outhouse with an adult-sized hole up high and a child-sized hole a little lower, the garden of raised beds fit just so to the slope of the yard — these are all beautiful in the way that something ready-made for thousands of faceless consumers can never be.  (Please don't think, however, that I shun mass-produced items, even houses — they just have a different kind of beauty.)

The students and teachers at the Rural Studio in Hale County, Alabama build houses, community centers, and public spaces, and they aim to design them to meet the uses of the real people who will live in and use them.  They try to do it creatively, and cheaply, meeting the budgets necessitated by poor clients and public funding.  The Rural Studio is unusual, apparently, in that its students do a lot of actual building as a part of their learning process.  Proceed and Be Bold details 17 student building projects completed between 2001 (when founder Samuel Mockbee died) and 2002.  Each project is described with a brief essay about the people who use it, the architects, and the building process, and with beautiful photographs illustrating project challenges and innovations. 

The end of the book is taken up with Dean's interviews with students, a Rural Studio teacher, and a client, a brief piece about the building process of one of the projects, a memorial essay about Mockbee, and detailed credits for each of the profiled projects. 

Proceed and Be Bold provides an interesting introduction to an unusual school.  The text is satisfyingly informational, and well written, but it was really Hursley's exceptional photographs that drew me in.

Dean and Hursley produced an earlier book in the same format, about the Rural Studio before Mockbee's death.  It too, is an illuminating read.

Rural Studio : Samuel Mockbee and an architecture of decency / text by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean ; photographs by Timothy Hursley ; and essays by Lawrence Chua and Cervin Robinson. 
New York : Princeton Architectural Press, c2002.
[MCL call number: 720.711 D281r 2002; two copies, no holds]


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