Monday, February 24, 2014

Samuel Mockbee: Leadership and Rural Studio

By Alan T. Kirkwood

            Samuel Mockbee was a Mississippi native and an American architect who has been credited as the founder of what is known as Rural Studio, which is a program at Auburn University designed to teach students about how to build aesthetically nice looking homes through the use of recycled materials such as cardboard. He studied at Auburn University in Alabama, and interned in Columbus, Georgia, and instead of venturing out to find work for wealthy clients, he chose to stay where he was in the impoverished area and give back to the local community. In order for his program to be as successful as it is, there had to have been a development of a sense of trust between architect and client, between he and the community. He was able to develop this through commitment to the people of his community and not deciding to let go of them for wealthy clients.
The leadership characteristics exhibited by him and the students of Rural Studio were the practice of stewardship and having a sense of commitment to serve the needs of others, having commitment to the growth of people and helping build a community among those who work together. He did all of this by Building a Bridge of Trust which works around the idea of established Credibility Equaling Public Trust. He knew that his responsibility started at home, that there was a need in his local community with his neighbors which he needed to tend to instead of going out looking for money in larger projects elsewhere.  He understood his leadership role in his community and stepped up to the responsibility and commitment it required. Through this, he was able to gain the community (his client’s) trust.

Samuel Mockbee later was diagnosed with leukemia and later passed due to complications with it. During his career, Mockbee was nominated fo the American Institute of Architects (AIA) gold medal which he received the following year of 2004. His work was also selected to be displayed in Whitney Museum of Art’s 2002 Biennial. He has his own exhibit at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama. It was named, Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture.  Rural Studio’s initiative was successful through their strong bond with the community. This studio is in its second decade still a strong program. The studio is still growing and evolving even after Mockbee’s death but still holding on to his original principles.

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