Being a Good Ancestor

By Posted in - Resources of Interest on May 6th, 2024

Being a good ancestor

The yearning for constant improvement raises the thought… what does it take to be a good ancestor? Helping your neighbour, drinking your coffee without a lid, growing your own parsnips… Every bit we can to improve the lives of others, the environment, and inevitably leaving behind a good memory – a legacy – in whatever form we feel connected to.

In this newsletter, we look at how an architecture programme in Alabama is doing good for the community and ensuring that good, people-oriented design is bred in the next generation of architects.

The Design Studio Educating Citizen Architects:

Rural Studio is an off-campus design and build programme in Hale County, Alabama, part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture of Auburn University.

Their mission is to educate their students about sustainable, healthy, rural living. What makes them unique is that students are to live amongst the community – they get to know their neighbours and design and build the environment around them in a totally hands-on approach.

They cultivate their students who are both architects and citizens of the world.

Rural Studio has developed an initiative called the 20K Homes Product Line, which has been running since 1993. It involves research into the communities in West Alabama, aiming to address a housing crisis caused by a deficit in affordable housing.

Not only that, but the homes should also reflect beautiful design – granting everyone equitable access to dignified, safe, energy efficient and healthy homes.

Each year, a “20K” home is designed and constructed by students and given to a local resident that needs it. That home is calculated to be affordable for a person on a social security fixed income post-occupancy.

Homes are designed with access, affordability, effective and efficient timber use, small scale farming, and access to resources, in mind.

Students at Rural Studio achieve this by integrating advanced design solutions that utilize local labour, conventional construction techniques and locally available building materials.

Homes such as those of the North Ward houses – a 20K project – are built from timber that explores the viability of using locally sourced – and often discarded – roundwood as a structural material. Roundwood is the name of small-diameter timber that has been selectively thinned from a forest, a practice that improves the growth of remaining trees.

Advanced design decisions are also implemented to utilize interior space more efficiently. The structure and how it connects to the earth is also considered, to achieve a visually interesting result while reducing the number of footings.

Rural Studio’s student projects aim to respect the people and the place, leaving Hale County better than they found it. Students often find the experience at the Studio life-changing. They learn that everyone deserves good design, how to plan a project and carry it through to completion, how to communicate and learn a client’s trust, how to be responsible for taking risks, and how to become part of a community.

“The Rural Studio is not merely a resume of wonderful projects,” […] “It is a living idea of service that has thankfully become the vocabulary of the next generation of architects.” – AIA Vice President Don Brown.

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