Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio

2010      (1 x 53 min.)     Color 16:9     English

Sam Wainwright Douglas

Produced by:
Sam Wainwritght Douglas
Sarah Ann Mockbee
Jack Sanders

Director of Photography:
Dutch Rall

Executive Producer:
Jeff Fraley

US Television Premiere – POV August 23, 2010

Official Selection of SXSW 2010

In 1993 the late architect and MacArthur Foundation Genius Samuel Mockbee started the Rural Studio, a design/build education program award recipient, in which students create striking architecture for impoverished communities in rural Alabama. Guided by frank, passionate interviews with Mockbee, Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio shows how a group of students use their creativity, ingenuity and compassion to craft a home for their charismatic client, Jimmie Lee Matthews, known to locals as Music Man because of his zeal for old R&B and Soul records. The film reveals that the Rural Studio is about more than architecture and building. Mockbee’s program provides students with an experience that forever inspires them to consider how they can use their skills to better their communities. The students design homes and neighborhood buildings that reflect the needs and wants of their underserved clients—many of whom don’t have indoor plumbing or a proper roof over their heads. Their designs, relying on mostly donated and locally salvaged materials, keep costs low and the environmental impact negligible. The result is graceful, clever and often stunning structures that provide shelter for the body and soul while fostering a healthy dialogue between disparate groups of people whose assumptions about race, class and economic disparity are upended by the experience. Interviews with Mockbee’s peers and scenes with those he’s influenced infuse the film with a larger discussion of architecture’s role in issues of poverty, class, race, education, social change and citizenship.