Rural Studio's architecture with a mission

Rural Studio is based in the architectural faculty of Auburn University in Alabama, USA which champions socially-driven accessible architecture for all and which practices what it preaches by designing and building community schemes in deprived areas

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Video Transcript

In contrast to the rest of the other architects that are in the exhibit, we are not a practice of architecture. We’re a programme of a school of architecture at Auburn University and we take the students away from the university campus to West Alabama and that programme allows students to design and build public projects from charity homes, community centres, fire stations to parks.

Architects shouldn’t just be the playthings of the rich, architects I suggest can have the bigger vision for society that the environment that we live in is so important in shaping who we are and the way we think. We believe that architects can play a bigger role in the way the world is. Over the last three years we’ve been looking at a material. It’s the thinnings out of a managed forest and what we’re looking at trying to do is to imagine building with this material. 

We’d hoped that you would find it short and then pitched side so you weren’t quite sure what was the other side but it was also about making a tall narrow space against that wall.

We are deliberately trying to make a piece that celebrates one material, that it does delight just because it is this notion of taking one material and rigorously exploring that one material, figuring out how to connect it, how to make a habitable space with it.  

It’s a very simple almost primitive form. It’s a mono pitch shed and we’re trying to do that mono pitch shed really well, not tricked out, not with fancy gizmos. There’s a statement in there somehow.

The building is essentially an extruded building. It’s quite simple right? You draw this one time and then you multiply it by forty-nine and that’s the building. The brief was sort of a laboratory shed. It’s the simplest form. We went through a lot of stages of designs and processes and we went with a traditional shed. We just amplified the pitch of the roof to able to make it a little bit more dramatic.

The building is a really lo-tech approach to building and it takes the really traditional approach of wood construction used for centuries, as well as treatment techniques. For this to exist in nature, the exterior would need to be charred in order to keep from rotting and keep bugs from eating it, whereas the interior, which is protected is something that can be much more precious and then you get a much different experience when you enter the building.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how the project changes over the course of the exhibit because the material will shrink roughly 15cm over the course of the exhibit and the project is designed specifically so that you can accommodate that.

Each individual bent which is 15cm by 15cm is then drilled and compressed by this threaded rod. That threaded rod runs the length of the structure and that combines the entire structure together. So as the structure shrinks, as the wood begins to dry out, then the structure can be tightened down and compressed further.

Through the research of the studio, we hope that we can come up with an alternative way of low cost and local housing.

I’m building this light fixture, it’s a vine, I think it’s going to be really nice. It basically starts from the root, from the bottom and then as the light grows, it branches off and then the lights become the blossoms. We think it’s going to be really lovely with something that’s pretty utilitarian and simple. Just sort of in the same vein of the project we hope.


The V&A staged a contemporary architecture exhibition which opened on 15th June 2010, exploring the power of small spaces. From a shortlist of nineteen, seven international architects were selected to design structures which explore notions of refuge and retreat. These buildings which examine themes such as play, work, performance and study will be built at full-scale in various spaces within the V&A. 

The V&A has commissioned seven short films which look at  the architects and their projects. These combine filmed interviews with the architects about their design philosophy and their retreat concept for the V&A with self-shot video footage.




Rural Studio has been working on a project that aims to turn coppiced thinnings from tree plantations into a practical and inexpensive building material by exploiting the natural springiness and strength of green wood. The V&A project sets out to demonstrate the potential of thinnings by turning them into a simple but elegant building.

'Architects shouldn't just be the playthings of the rich,' says Andrew Freear, Associate Professor of Architecture at Auburn University, Alabama. 'They have a bigger role to play in society.' Freear supervises Rural Studio, a student programme with built projects ranging from parks to fire stations.