Samuel Mockbee

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Samuel "Sambo" Mockbee
Born(1944-12-23)December 23, 1944
DiedDecember 30, 2001(2001-12-30) (aged 57)

Samuel "Sambo" Mockbee (December 23, 1944 – December 30, 2001) was an American architect and a co-founder of the Auburn University Rural Studio program in Hale County, Alabama.


Mockbee was born in Meridian, Mississippi. He served two years in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer at Fort Benning, Georgia. He enrolled at Auburn University and graduated from the School of Architecture in 1974. Mockbee interned in Columbus, Georgia before returning to Mississippi in 1977, where he formed a partnership with his classmate and friend, Thomas Goodman.

A growing sense of connection with rural places and a respect for the disadvantaged people who inhabit them, led Mockbee, along with D. K. Ruth, to found the Rural Studio program at Auburn University. The program became widely acclaimed for introducing students to the social responsibilities of architectural practice and for providing safe, well-constructed, and inspirational buildings to the communities of West Alabama. In many cases these buildings, designed and built by students, incorporated novel materials which otherwise, would be considered waste. The buildings often consisted of a combination of vernacular architecture with modernist forms.

In 1993, Mockbee was awarded a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts to work toward the publication of his book, The Nurturing of Culture in the Rural South An Architectonic Documentary.

In 1998, Mockbee was diagnosed with leukemia. After a strong recovery, he went on to receive awards and recognition for his work, including the MacArthur Foundation fellowship, informally known as the "Genius Grant". He died three years later when the disease came out of remission.

Mockbee was nominated posthumously in 2003 for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal. No Gold Medal was awarded that year, but the following year, the medal was awarded to Mockbee.[1]

Some of Mockbee's work was selected by Lawrence Rinder to be part of the Whitney Museum of Art 2002 Biennial.

David Moos curated an exhibition on Mockbee at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama, which was in its planning stages when Mockbee died. The exhibition was named, Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture. This retrospective was intended to be a celebration but, because of Mockbee's death, became a memorial and tribute.[2]


  1. ^ "Samuel ‘Sambo’ Mockbee Awarded 2004 AIA Gold Medal Posthumously', The American Institute of Architects, December 2003
  2. ^ Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture, Samuel Mockbee, David Moos (Editor), Gail Trechsel (Editor), 2003-11-01, Birmingham Museum of Art. ISBN 0-931394-52-X

3) Dean, Andrea Oppenheimer and Hursley, Timothy, "Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency", Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

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