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, AL is home to some of the most destitute and impoverished communities in the United States of America. It is also home to Samuel Mockbee and 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, teacher, community organizer and caregiver to poverty-stricken Hale County residents.

Filmmaker Sam Wainwright Douglas directed Citizen Architect, a 60-minute film for PBS that explores Mockbee’s effort to infect architecture’s future practitioners with the knowledge and passion to improve their community’s quality of life. Chronicling 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, destitute client, Jimmie Lee Matthews. Known within the community as Music Man because of his obsessive 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 architectural heavyweights and artists who share praise and criticism of the Rural Studio, including Peter Eisenman, Michael Rotondi, Cameron Sinclair, Hank Louis and Steve Badanes of Jersey Devil.

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, who have founded similar design/build programs, 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—ultimately arguing that the latter is essential to the former.

3 min 57 sec


Posted On
February 09, 2010
Sam Wainwright Douglas

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March 12, 2010
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