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RS Receives Whitney M. Young Jr. Award at National AIA

Thousands of architects and professionals gathered in Atlanta to attend the 2015 American Institute of Architects National Convention. This year's theme, Impact, examined how architects impact their communities, both global and local. It was also a notable year for Auburn University Rural Studio, who was involved in various activities throughout the convention.

Foremost among these, Rural Studio was honored with the 2015 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Since 1972, the award has been given to recognize firms and architects that have advanced social justice in their field through such areas as inclusiveness, affordable housing, and universal access. The award is named after American Civil Rights activist Whitney Moore Young Jr., who, during its 1968 National Convention, famously challenged the AIA’s lack of socially progressive advocacy. Previous recipients include Habitat for Humanity in 1988, National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 2007, and, most recently, Ivenue Love-Stantley, FAIA in 2014.  Rural Studio is the first academic program to receive this award.

Andrew Freear, director of Rural Studio, accepted the award from AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA in front of a packed exhibition hall, where just the previous morning President Bill Clinton had given the keynote address. In his acceptance speech, Freear stated that “Rural Studio is pure unadulterated joy in designing and making,” and he emphasized the close relationship that Rural Studio has built with its Hale County neighbors over the past 21 years. Good design is for everyone, and in Hale County “that desire comes from within. Rural Studio is just a vehicle for that desire.” Freear shared his joy and pride in knowing that 27 local businesses supported the annual Pig Roast celebration this apring, which is significant for such a small community. The speech was heartfelt and invigorating and undoubtedly inspired many of those who heard it.

In addition to the award, Freear also took part in a seminar, hosted by Frank Harmon, titled, “Regionalism in a Global Environment,” with Marlon Blackwell and Roberto de Leon, Jr.. Freear stressed the importance of learning from the local community to inform design. 

Following the seminar, Freear and Timothy Hursley signed copies of their book, Rural Studio at Twenty.

Over 150 alumni and friends of the CADC gathered at the college reception, which was sponsored by Regions Bank. While the college hosts receptions at most AIA conventions, having Atlanta as the host site, along with the opportunity to celebrate the Whitney Young Award, helped make this event one of the best attended ever. The gathered crowd included alumni from across the globe and from at least five decades of alumni classes. 

The evening featured the debut public screening of Rural Studio Love Stories, a short film directed by Timothy Hursley and Dave Anderson.The film was funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts—Art Works Program.