Mission: Rural Studio

I know we are all heated about the comments made in the Wall Street Journal Article, “Watch Out for that Pillow,” but I think today’s post will show more than ever the importance of interior designers and architects, and how they can both come together and affect people in more ways than one.

Emily Thornton of James Madison University, writes about her spring break experience in Alabama as part of Rural Studio. If you have questions about how they raised money, what they gained from the experience or anything else, please comment below as I am sure the JMU students will be checking in. Read Emily’s thoughts below:

“Thirteen James Madison students arrived in Greensboro, Alabama during the first week of March eagerly awaiting the beginning of an exciting and meaningful service trip at Rural Studio. In a self-planned Spring Break endeavor, members of the JMU International Interior Design Association helped out with current projects at Rural Studio, a humanitarian program through Auburn University’s architecture program. Founded in 1993 by Samuel Mockbee, Rural Studio strives to promote humanitarian efforts and social responsibility through design. Second and fifth year students design and construct homes and other community facilities for deserving citizens of Hale County, Alabama, one of the most impoverished counties in America.


Planning began in late September by JMU IIDA president Allison Smith, and members distributed over 200 letters to firms and manufacturers in the design industry both locally and nationally which resulted in over $1000 in donations toward the cost of the trip. During the week in Alabama, the interior design majors worked with the fifth year thesis students on two projects for local communities, working on Lions Park in Newbern, Alabama as well as the Akron Boys and Girls Club. For Lions Park, the students combined landscape architecture and design by digging irrigation benches, welding an 8’ foot gate, constructing a cedar stage for an outdoor pavilion, as well as separating and hauling asphalt using Bobcat tractors. At the Boys and Girls Club, the students painted exterior facades, adhered metal roof flashing, as well as measured and cut lumber for a prefabricated lamella dome basketball court. Invaluable knowledge and experience about the transition from the design to construction process as well as a greater awareness of materials, joints, and structural elements were gained by the rigorous work throughout the week.


Another highlight of the trip included a tour of Rural Studio’s completed projects which brought the buildings from classroom lectures to the actual context of the impoverished areas. The residents of Mason’s Bend, an area laden with Rural Studio homes, welcomed the JMU students, even eagerly offering a tour of the Butterfly House, a project with two elegant, sloping roofs which act as a rainwater collection system. Citizens of Greensboro were incredibly warm and welcoming, especially at the local church where the interior design girls stayed throughout the week.


Overall, the Rural Studio experience proved to be a memorable and fulfilling week of hard work and bonding with fellow students with the common goal of creating better conditions and spaces for members of the local community. The IIDA members hope to make the Rural Studio experience an annual tradition and partake in aiding with future humanitarian architecture efforts to combine service and design for well-deserving citizens.”


What are you doing in your Campus Centers, student clubs and universities? Please comment below. Do you want to feature your projects on the blog, as well? Contact me here for more information.


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