Inspiring a Citizen Architect

During college, we all spend many hours researching, studying, and investigating many projects, firms, and architects. As the studios go on and the projects progress, we eventually start to develop our own style and preference of architecture and architects. As aspiring architects, who and what we look at greatly influences us as we continue on into the professional world. Some students naturally gravitate towards the “Starchitects”, as we call them. These are the architects known around the world for their extreme and bold designs that are easily recognizable. But there is another group of us that looked at a different kind of architecture and architect – the “citizen architect”.

So who did we classify as a “citizen architect”? And why? During my second year of studios, one of our professors introduced us to the Rural Studio program at Auburn University and the professor that started it, Samuel Mockbee*. He created this studio to offer students a hands-on, design-build opportunity with the goal of helping and assisting as many people as possible in their community through design solutions. Their philosophy as a studio proposes “that everyone, both rich or poor, deserves the benefit of good design.” Samuel Mockbee inspired his students to think differently about their role as architects in their community, and he also inspired other architecture programs to evaluate their role in their communities. Since the start of Rural Studio, many universities have created their own community outreach programs. My university saw the need for a program like this and now offers students a few ways to reach out to the their community and be trained as “citizen architects”. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to be part of a twelve person studio that partnered with Habitat for Humanity to design and build a small home for a much deserving family in our community. The twelve of us in that studio gained so much from those twenty-four weeks – how to work with a client, how to develop a construction schedule, how to coordinate ourselves, consultants, and trades, and the big one, how to actually build a home from ground up. But the greatest thing we gained was on that last day – the experience of hugging that sweet family and handing them the keys to their new home. That experience alone taught me that we, as architects, should use our talents and skills not just for those that can afford it, but for everyone. Our abilities should be used to help our communities develop and grow. Through that program and others, I learned that even the smallest of architectural projects, like building a family a handicap ramp so that their grandmother can get into their home, can make the largest impact.

Habitech 2013  Habitech 2013   Habitech 2013

The Rural Studio program, under the leadership of Samuel Mockbee and now Andrew Freear, has built more than 150 projects in its community and taught over 600 students the true meaning of being a “citizen architect”. Thanks to that program, and the many other programs that have since been started, we can learn to be “citizen architects” early in our careers, so that we can go out into our communities and continue to use architecture for the greater good.

*For more information on the Rural Studio, go to Rural Studio

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is Citizen Architect…To read other posts about this topic see the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect … Seems Redundant

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
small town citizen architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero – Citizen Architect

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
We are the Champions – Citizen Architects

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina’s Recovery Efforts

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Senior Citizen, Architect

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect’ is not an Oxymoron

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Protecting the Client – 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Courtney Casburn Brett – Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
“Citizen Architect” + Four Other Practice Models Changing Architecture

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect

3 Comments on “Inspiring a Citizen Architect

  1. Great first entry in to the series Samantha! I’m sure you had a great experience building that home – it’s something that I think more architects look at and think “I wish I had done something like that when I was in school.”

    That includes me.

    1. Thank you – and yes, it was an incredible experience! There’s nothing that teaches you more about how a building goes together than actually having to do it yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *