Sambo Mockbee

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio is a documentary film on the late architect Samuel Mockbee and the radical educational design/build program known as the Rural Studio.

Hale County, Alabama is home to some of the most impoverished communities in the United States of America. It is also home to Auburn University’s Rural Studio, one of the most prolific and inspirational design-build outreach programs ever established. Citizen Architect is a documentary film chronicling the late Samuel Mockbee, artist, architect, educator and founder of the Rural Studio.

Citizen Architect explores Mockbee’s effort to provide students with an experience that forever inspires them to consider how they can use their skills to better their communities. Revealing the philosophy and heart behind the Rural Studio, the documentary is guided by passionate, frank and never-before-seen interviews with Mockbee himself.

The film follows, Jay Sanders, a young, first-time instructor at the Rural Studio as he leads a group of students in the process of crafting a home for their charismatic client, Jimmie Lee Matthews. Known within the community as Music Man because of his passion for soul music, Jimmie Lee maintains a healthy zeal for life, blasting R&B from his vast collection of used stereos and boasting that he “ain’t never met a stranger!” Over the course of the project a powerful bond forms between Sanders, the students and Music Man.

Citizen Architect supplements Mockbee's words and the students' experiences with perspective from other architects and designers who share praise and criticism of the Rural Studio, including Peter Eisenman, Michael Rotondi, Cameron Sinclair, Steve Badanes and Hank Louis. Their dialogue infuses the film with a larger discussion of architecture’s role in issues of poverty, class, race, education, social change and citizenship.

The film follows up with Music Man, Sanders, his students and other Rural Studio graduates to see how the program has affected their lives. Through scenes with architects such as Hank Louis of Design/Build Bluff in Utah and Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity, Citizen Architect captures the ripple effect that the Rural Studio continues to have throughout the profession. Above all else, this film offers a dialogue about what it means to be both a successful professional and a responsible member of society.


Steve Badanes

Steve Badanes is a Professor in the University of Washington's Department of Architecture and one of the founding members of the Jersey Devil design/build firm. Launched in 1972, Jersey Devil continues to create unique and sustainable homes, public art and public spaces around the world. |

Cameron Sinclair

Cameron Sinclair is the co-founder of Architecture For Humanity, a non-profit organization providing architectural solutions to humanitarian crises. Architecture For Humanity now includes 40,000 members and 72 chapters in 14 countries. |

Michael Rotondi

Michael Rotondi founded the Morphosis architecture firm in 1972 with Thom Mayne and was the Director of SCI Arc from 1987 to 1997. Rotondi is the current principal of RoTo Architecture, an award-winning firm founded in 1991 that creates unconventional structures and dissolves the boundaries between design, science, technology and the fine arts. |

Jimmie Lee Matthews A.K.A Music Man

Living in extreme poverty, Jimmie Lee was chosen to be a recipient of a home from the Rural Studio’s 2002/2003 sophomore class. Known within the community of Greensboro, Alabama as Music Man because of his obsessive passion for soul music, he has always managed to maintain a healthy zeal for life, blasting R&B from his vast, jerry-rigged collection of used stereos and boasting that he “ain’t never met a stranger!”

Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman is an architect and founder of Eisenman Architects. Eisenman's large-scale projects deconstruct accepted architectural theories using fragmented forms and shapes. Peter Eisenman also teaches theory seminars and advanced design studios at Yale University. |

Coleman Coker

Coleman Coker launched buildingstudio in 1999, after a thirteen-year partnership with Samuel Mockbee. Coker's work explores the idea of presence and how the small things people make fit into the larger interconnected whole. Coker is the visiting Favrot Chair at the Tulane University School of Architecture and the E. Fay Jones Chair at the University of Arkansas and the Ruth Carter Stevenson Visiting Professor at The University of Texas at Austin. |

Jackie Mockbee

Jackie Mockbee provided love and support to Samuel Mockbee throughout their marriage and his projects. Jackie and Samuel had four children: Margaret, Sarah Ann, Carol, and Julius. Jackie compiled an audio diary throughout the first year after Samuel Mockbee passed and was featured on WNYC's topic show "The Next Big Thing."

Carol Mockbee

Carol Mockbee is the third daughter of Jackie and Samuel Mockbee. Carol enrolled in Auburn University's Rural Studio in 2003 and single-handledly completed Samuel Mockbee's Subrosa project design in Newbern, AL.

D.K. Ruth

Dennis K. Ruth founded the Rural Studio with Samuel Mockbee in 1993 and devoted his life to teaching in the same context-based environment as Mockbee himself. Ruth was the Head of the Department as well as the Interim Dean of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction of Auburn University. Unfortunately, D.K. Ruth passed away in his home August 26, 2009.

Lori Ryker

Lori Ryker is the founder and director of The Remote Studio, a design/build group within the Artemis Institute non-profit organization and affiliated with Montana University. Ryker's work emphasizes sustainability and an environmental awareness connected to the surrounding natural landscape. |

Andrew Freear

Andrew Freear is the current co-director of the Rural Studio. Freear studied at the Polytechnic of Central London and the Architectural Association in London, and taught design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Freear joined the Rural Studio in 1998 as a teacher and was appointed co-director in 2002.

Hank Louis

Hank Louis is a professor at the University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning and founded DesignBuildBLUFF in 2000. DesignBuildBluff is modeled after Samuel Mockbee's Rural Studio program. The program explores sustainable designs, uses recycled building materials and teaches students to collaborate with members of the community to make positive changes. |

Peanut Robinson

Peanut Robinson is a resident of Newbern, Alabama, the community that is home to the Rural Studio's headquarters. He offers a local perspective on the Rural Studio and his personal feelings about architecture in general. Peanut holds a degree in education from the Tuskegee Institute and is always happy to strike up a conversation.

Stephen Ross (University Of Texas)

Stephen L. Ross has taught at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin for over 20 years. Among the five classes he teaches is one involving students in "artful design build" projects where they partner with nonprofits that address the needs of under-served communities and individual families. In addition to teaching, he is also a founder and director of Design Build Alliance (DBA), a develop, design, build nonprofit which involves students in the entire process of realizing low-income housing.