Andrew Freear, from Yorkshire, England, is the Wiatt Professor and director of Auburn University’s Rural Studio. Freear lives in a small rural community in Hale County, West Alabama, where for nearly two decades he has directed a program that questions the conventional education and role of architects. His architecture students have designed and built community buildings, homes, and landscape projects for under-resourced local towns and nonprofit organizations.
Freear’s role has been liaison and advocate between local authorities, community partners, and students in projects such as 40 acre Lions Park, a Headquarters for Scout Troop 13, and a Boys and Girls Club in Greensboro, where a design eye brought into focus the health, welfare, and education of at-risk youth in the community. Similarly, Newbern Volunteer Fire Department, Newbern Town Hall and Newbern Library were much needed capital-improvement projects achieved to support local public institutions in the Studio’s hometown. Rural Studio Farm has the very practical goal of producing food for forty students and illustrates the fact that rural, historically agriculture-based regions are becoming food deserts. The resultant severe health problems and the suburbanization of rural towns are a contemporary form of poverty that designers need to acknowledge. Since 2005, Freear’s students have built over twenty prototypes of the 20K rural house: a regionally based, site-built economic engine and alternative to the factory-built trailer.
Freear welcomes the Loeb Fellowship to advance his commitment towards the resilience of rural communities and to examine the growing gulf between these communities and their urban counterparts. He will seek to push forward the 20K rural house initiative’s goal of affordable, equity-building, locally sourced, sustainable housing.