During early conversations with our client, we felt it was important to stop talking about ideas and to actually stand in front of some examples already realized in proven. In order to describe our intentions to the client, we found it useful to provide tangible examples — what we call a collection of “best practices.” Willie Logan, Christian, Germane, and I headed out to the Rural Studio located in Greensboro, Alabama, to study the work produced by students and faculty at Auburn University. As an alumna of the Rural Studio, I knew the tour would provoke lively discussions amongst our team in our rented SUV as we covered many miles of the so-called "Black Belt" of the South (named due to the color of the soil).
At its best, the Rural Studio is an architectural experiment that foregrounds the social and economic complexities of our world. These experiments are disciplinary and highly imaginative strategies about cross-programming and how to build in poverty stricken communities. The buildings constructed at the Rural Studio are not bare minimum spaces for the underserved of rural west Alabama, instead they are bold and deeply rooted in the “real” allowing all citizens the opportunity to have an “architect.”
We spent two days touring projects: Boys and Girls Club of Akron, HERO, Newbern Volunteer Fire Department, Hale County Dog Pound, Safe House Museum, and Perry Lakes Park. During our long drives, we found ourselves critiquing projects that didn’t seem to work and admiring those that capitalized on resources. For us, Made in Opa-locka needs much development to be a success. We welcome the challenge!
-- Jennifer Bonner