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.
The screening is co-presented by the William H. Bronson and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Lecture Series at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s the sixth screening in our monthly Image, Building, Object: Exploring Architecture and Design on Film series. Bringing an eclectic selection of documentaries, features, and vignettes to Black Cinema House, the series demystifies the process of how our objects, furniture, and buildings come into existence and simultaneously reveals how designers and architects have used film as a medium for expression and experimentation.
Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio
Followed by post-film discussion with Rural Studio alumnus Daniel Splaingard!
Black Cinema House
6901 S. Dorchester Ave.
Seating is limited, so we ask that attendees RSVP in advance. Please note that we cannot guarantee seats for attendees who do not RSVP.