Auburn University’s Rural Studio, which brings purposeful, sustainable design to its home of Hale County, Ala., one of the nation’s poorest, has been awarded the 2015 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Since 1972, the award has recognized architects and firms for their contribution to advancing social justice in the field of architecture.

The design/build practice was founded in 1993 by late architecture professors Samuel Mockbee, FAIA, and D.K. Ruth with the mission of giving students a venue for hands-on experience while improving the infrastructure of underserved, rural west-central Alabama. On its website, the studio counts 27 student members for the fall of 2014, and it has built more than 150 projects in its tenure. Recent work includes a new town hall for Newbern, Ala.; the renovation of a storefront into a public library, also in Newbern; and a home for a new Boys & Girls Club in Greensboro in 2012 (above). The studio has also built 16 one- and two-bedroom shotgun-style houses through its 20K House Product Line (below) for individuals on a fixed income of Social Security payments. 

Houses in the 20K House Product Line feature a large, screened-in porch that is passively ventilated.
Timothy Hursley Houses in the 20K House Product Line feature a large, screened-in porch that is passively ventilated.

The studio joins last year’s recipient, Ivenue Love-Stanley, FAIA, principal at Stanley Love-Stanley in Atlanta. A pioneering African-American woman in the field of architecture, Love-Stanley was honored for her work advocating for the architectural relevance and preservation of Atlanta’s historically African-American neighborhoods. The first African-American woman to graduate from Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture, she was also the first to become licensed in the Southeast. Previous winners include Harvey B. Gantt, FAIA, in 2013, and Mortimer Marshall Jr., in 2012.

The award is given in honor of the late Whitney Moore Young Jr., a prominent American civil rights leader who challenged the architecture profession to take responsibility for social justice issues.

This year’s jury comprised Donald King, FAIA, DKA Architecture, Seattle; Hiroshi Jacobs, Assoc. AIA, Studios Architecture, Washington, D.C.; Michael Pyatok, FAIA, Pyatok Architects, Oakland, Calif.; David Trevino, AIA, the City of Dallas; and Karen E. Williams, AIA, Pivot Architecture, Eugene, Ore. 

This is a breaking news story, and will continue to be updated. 

Read the AIA's full release on the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award.

Follow ARCHITECT's coverage of the AIA Honor Awards.