Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program of Auburn University. The program, established in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, gives architecture students a more hands-on educational experience while assisting an underserved population in West Alabama's Black Belt region. In its initial years, the Studio became known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing and remaking. In 2001, after the passing of Samuel Mockbee, Andrew Freear succeeded him as director. Since that time, Rural Studio has expanded the scope and complexity of its projects, focusing largely on community-oriented work.
The Rural Studio philosophy suggests that everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good design. To fulfill this ethic, the Studio has evolved towards more community-oriented projects. Projects have become multi-year, multi-phase efforts traveling across three counties. The students work within the community to define solutions, fundraise, design and, ultimately, build remarkable projects. The Studio continually questions what should be built, rather than what can be built, both for the performance and operation of the projects. To date, Rural Studio has built more than 170 projects and educated more than 800 "Citizen Architects."