Documentary about the legacy of the late Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio who design and build innovative structures for the less fortunate in impoverished Alabama.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
An architecture documentary with a difference, Sam Wainwright Douglas’ film is about the needs that architectural design can fulfil by injecting some imagination and vitality into low-cost housing. Although the buildings designed and built by the late Samuel Mockbee and his students, from Auburn University’s undergraduate programme Rural Studio, are made with meagre means, they are still amazing to behold. The Rural Studio charges its students with creating innovative structures for the impoverished community of Hale County, Alabama, often using reclaimed or salvaged materials: old tires become the walls of a church, discarded windshields become the roof of a community centre. The film follows Mockbee’s students as they build a new home for their charismatic, destitute client Jimmie Lee Matthews, known to everyone as Music Man, while interviews with Mockbee and other notable architects such as Peter Eisenman, Michael Rotondi and Cameron Sinclair elucidate architecture’s social responsibility or lack thereof. — MM