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Remembering Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee

Remembering Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee
Lynne Elizabeth - Sat Sep 03, 2011 @ 12:11PM
Comments: 28

The following excerpt is copied from an archived article in the Community Arts Reading Room, originally published by the Community Arts Network and now archived here.

Samuel Mockbee. Photo courtesy of Rural Studios, Auburn.This essay, essentially a eulogy, was written in 2006 by Bruce Lindsey about legendary architect Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee, co-founder of the Rural Studio at Auburn University, who died on December 30, 2001, of leukemia. Lindsey was then co-director of Rural Studio and head of Auburn's School of Architecture. Rural Studio is an experiential, community-based architecture program in rural Alabama, in which student teams plan, design and build community projects “to allow students to put their educational values to work as citizens of a community … within the community's own context, not from outside it.” The essay was commissioned by Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for "Craft and Community: Sustaining Place," a 2006 symposium on Haystack’s beautiful campus on Deer Isle, Maine. Lindsey’s essay, along with other presentations from the symposium, appears in Monograph #20 of Haystack's Monograph Series

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones. —John Cage

On January 8, 2002, in the kitchen of the Spencer house in Newbern, Alabama, the Rural Studio — Andrew Freear, Jay Sanders, Dick Hudgens, Ann Langford, Brenda Wilkerson, Melissa Denney, Johnny Parker and Dufess (Johnny’s dog) — 14 thesis students, eight outreach students and myself met for the first time since Sambo Mockbee's death a month earlier. Among many words of commiseration and remembrance, I offered the following:

Sambo was a husband, a father, a teacher and a citizen architect. He knew that buildings had the capacity to connect people to people, and people to places, so that they know where they are. Knowing where you are is important. It is easy to forget you are somewhere and not anywhere. Sambo knew that architecture was a way for non-pilots to elevate themselves so that they could see where they are, and hence know a little better who they are. They say that a good teacher will take you to another place — a great teacher will show you a new place, right where you stand. . . [read the full article here]

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