$20K House

Rural Studio Restroom at Perry Landing

The Rural Studio is a design-build architecture studio run by Auburn University. It aims to teach students about the social responsibilities of the profession of architecture while also providing safe, well-constructed and inspirational homes and buildings for poor communities in rural west Alabama, part of the so-called "Black Belt".

The studio was founded in 1993 by architects Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth. It is led by UK-born architect Andrew Freear. Each year the program builds several projects - a house by the third-year students and two to three thesis projects by groups of 3-5 fifth-year students. The Rural Studio has built more than 80 houses and civic projects in Hale, Perry and Marengo counties. The Rural Studio is based in Newbern, a small town in Hale County. Many of its best-known projects are in the tiny community of Mason's Bend, on the banks of the Black Warrior River.

The studio has been criticized for the way its projects take advantage of the power relations inherent in gift-giving and for mistaking elitist architectural and middle-class values, rather than the process of political emancipation and self-determination, as a way to improve the lives of the poor.[1]

$20K House[]

The $20K House is an ongoing research project at the Rural Studio that seeks to address the pressing need for decent and affordable housing in Hale County, Alabama. Nearly 30% of individuals in Hale County live in poverty. Due to the lack of conventional cr for people with this level of income, and insufficient knowledge about alternative sources of funding, mobile homes offer the only chance for home ownership for many. Unlike a house, which is an asset for its owner, trailers deteriorate very quickly and depreciate over time. Mobile homes are also linked with higher cancer rates due to the use of formaldehyde in their construction.

The $20k House project intends to produce a model home that could be reproduced on a large scale, and thereby become a viable alternative to the mobile home in this area. The challenge is to build a house for $20,000, ten to twelve thousand of which will go towards materials and the remainder to contracted labor. Once a truly successful model has been designed, the aim is to sell the houses in conjunction with the "502 Direct Loan" provided by the Rural Housing Service. The project began in 2005, and there have been 16 iterations of the house so far.


By year. Some designers are listed.








Adrienne Brady, Natalie Butts, Paul Howard, Coley Mulcahy

Dereck Aplin, Sam Currie, Amy Bell, Angela Hughey, Turnley Smith

Steven Long, Amy Bullington

David Garner

Kellie Stokes, Laura Noguera, Phillip March Jones, Hana Loftus, Min Joo Kim














  1. ^ Del Real, Patricio (2009). ""Ye Shall Receive": The Rural Studio and the Gift of Architecture". Journal of Architectural Education (1984-). 62 (4): 123–126. ISSN 1046-4883.
  2. ^ "Global Award for Sustainable Architecture". Cité de l'architecture & du patrimoine. Retrieved 2020-06-04.

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Coordinates: 32°35′20″N 87°32′02″W / 32.58877°N 87.53378°W / 32.58877; -87.53378