12.29.2011

A Citizen Architect and the Role of Design in a Land-Grant University

Photo Courtesy of The Rural Studio




















 “That is the reason you go to college, not to make more money, but to gain the knowledge to make this a better world.”
– Sambo Mockbee


Citizen Architect is a well regarded film that highlights some of the best work done by the Rural Studio at Auburn.  It has been around a while, but its merits and the debate it inspires still hold true as it passionately lays out the role of Design in a land grant university.  It re-examines an age-old dispute carried forward from the inception of modernism and subsequently post-modernism, post-structuralism and deconstruction.  The movie does let Peter Eisenman eloquently express his point of view, however it clearly favors "architecture for the people" as opposed to "architecture as artistic expression".   The last part of that sentence wholly and unjustly oversimplifies both points of view because as with many theological debates, the more one tries to draw distinctions, the closer each becomes to the other.


Through this film one can see how the merits discussed during the now famous and expletive laced 1982 Harvard debate between Peter Eisenman and Christopher Alexander carries into the Land Grant vs. Ivy League discussion.   Again, that is a general statement that oversimplifies not only the role of each type of university but their position on the function of architecture in society.  But what is apparent, is that, in a manner similar to what is espoused by Alexander, Mockbee and the Rural Studio endeavor to build a reality of functional and esthetic architecture for undeserved communities.  Perhaps Mockbee's greatest contribution is the recognition that the idea of architecture as high art exists along a spectrum with socially conscious architecture.  That Design is not what one believes, it is what one makes.

Regardless of your worldview, or what university you attend, or attended, or teach at, Citizen Architect  should be required viewing for anyone in the architecture/landscape/planning/engineering fields, and especially those who are looking to enter those fields.




Photo Courtesy of samaulamockbee.net




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