Indian Springs students visit AU Rural Studio

By MINDY KEYES BLACK / For the Reporter

INDIAN SPRINGS – A group of seven Indian Springs School students traveled to Hale County recently to explore ways that Auburn University’s Rural Studio is educating “Citizen Architects” by giving undergraduate students opportunities to work with underserved communities to create affordable homes and civic buildings from recycled and salvaged materials.

For junior Delaney Porter, the Rural Studio can inspire students to push boundaries and view problems as possibilities.

“The experience expanded my definition of architecture because, yes, apparently old mint oil barrels from a toothpaste factory can be repurposed to build a playground, and cardboard can become the durable walls of a house,” Porter said.

Junior Sam St. John said the field trip, which was led by Arts Department Chairman Clay Colvin, was an “eye-opening experience.”

“Rural Studio made me think about architecture more as a tool for innovation that helps people and the environment as opposed to innovation for the sake of competition,” St. John said. “It made me consider what new or different tools and materials could be used for both art and architecture and how they can be found.”

The Rural Studio brings together art, physics and real-life, Colvin said.

“I was excited to take a group from Indian Springs because it’s a design-build program that’s really student-driven,” Colvin said. “We were looking at engineering projects where students are having to figure out how to use materials in ways that are safe while also maximizing their resources. There’s a good spirit of experimentation and responsible risk-taking.”

Since the program was launched in 1993, the Rural Studio has built more than 170 homes, civic centers and other community-oriented projects across three counties in Alabama’s underserved Black Belt region.

More than 800 Citizen Architects have lived and worked there, learned technical skills and worked with communities to find solutions.

Indian Springs students were most impressed by the emphasis on the concept that everyone deserves the benefit of good design.

“I love the idea that the architect students in the Studio get the opportunity to put their design into practice, and the products will benefit the Newbern community,” senior Connie Yang said.

“It was really an amazing trip,” junior Vicky Xu said. “The Cardboard Pod, the Greenhouse, the Fire Station, the Library, the 20K House—they are not only building houses but also helping the town. It is inspiring and refreshing.”

“The incredible building projects by the Rural Studio not only demonstrate impressive architectural ingenuity and artistic creativity, but also convey an inspiring ideal that art can be used practically to benefit the community and make the world a better place,” sophomore Tenniel Miao said.