Rural Studio 2011 – Joanne’s House

January 23, 2012 — 15 Comments

Joanne's House: The 10th version of the Rural Studio $20k House

Rural Studio is a design-build architecture program founded in 1993 by Auburn University professors Samuel ‘Sambo’ Mockbee and D.K.Ruth. Their goal for the program was to teach architecture students about the social responsibilities of the architectural profession through the design and construction of decent, affordable, and beautiful buildings. Evolving out of the Rural Studio was the $20k House project, with a goal of moving beyond the construction of single family residences towards more ambitious and long-term community projects.

This book is the result of the design and construction of the 10th $20k House – Joanne’s House. The team that made up this project was Jacob Beebe, Erika Henriksson, Eric Schmid, and San Yubero.


Welcome to the Rural Studio 20k House

I have long been aware of the $20k House project and had a chance to get to know 2011 participant Eric Schmid before he join this project. I have also been lucky to have Eric write on this site before – the first time was an introduction to the $20k House Project (here) and then an update on the house (here) that included a “best of” set of links to the $20k House blog site – which is full of insight and enthusiasm.


Rural Studio Joannes House Site

I received this book in the mail as a wonderful gift from Eric, and I have since searched for where I could send you to buy one – it is a fantastic book and I believe it’s the first book of its sort from the $20k House studio and if this is something that all subsequent projects aspire to create – a road map of decisions and processes, the bar is set incredibly high.


Rural Studio Joannes House clients

The book is broken down into 4 sections:





Each section is essentially made up of small individual essays – none longer than 4 pages, with the majority a brief and concise 2 pages – each topic and point diagrammed with fantastically construction info-graphics.


Rural Studio Joannes House context

Rural Studio Joanne's House profit

Rural Studio Joanne's House section

Rural Studio Joanne's House history

I can’t tell you much I loved reading this book. It was insightful in a way that is only achieved by people doing something for the first time and articulated by passionate and dedicated young people. They shared their passion and the lessons learned from their experience building this house. They share their intentions, how they spent the money, how they developed their solutions, and the reasoning behind the priorities they set. It is an honest look at how the house was built and how this house will impact the community where it resides.

There should be a donation form in the back of this book. I know that the book was self-published but I don’t know if there are any plans at this point to make it available for purchase. That’s really too bad because I would have every architect I know buy a copy of the book because this group of people – and the things they are doing – are good for the profession of architecture and for the image of architects.

Many thanks to Eric Schmid and the rest of the 2011 20k House team for sharing their lives with me (us) in this book. I highly recommend watching what this studio is doing by visiting their blog site at


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  • Dear Bob, I’m a team member of this years 20K House, version 11.
    Thank you so much for posting about the great work the last years Outreach team did.I can tell you that every outreach team, that’s been working on a 20K House produce a book about it at the end of the project. The books have usually been made for the students, the future 20K teams and the Rural Studio. This way the next team can learn from their experience and further develop the 20K House.Unfortunately I don’t think the books were meant to be published, but I will certainly pass on the request for it. And I must add that the book about Joanne’s House and the previous 20K Houses has been invaluable to our version.For the 11th version of the 20K House the Outreach team and the Rural Studio has taken on the challenge of making a wheelchair accessible house. You can read about the progress of the house on the same blog as the last years team used.

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  • Brenda Lynn

    Bob, I was living in Auburn up until a little under 3 years ago and I remember how exciting this project was for Auburn University and the Auburn Family, which includes the city of Auburn community. It is still exciting to all of us.  I love Auburn University for so many reasons and this is just one of them! War Damn Rural Studio! 

    • True. At AUBURN we do more than just FOOTBALL.
      I was born in Auburn and returned to study Architecture. I regret missing the Sambo era and not being able to participate in the Rural Studio. Born at the wrong time, perhaps?

      Thanks, Bob. (We might make you an honorary “War Eagle”)

      • I’ll take it!

        I don’t know for sure, but I think you could apply to the 20k project at any age.

  • Stu

    This should be required reading for every first-year architecture student; and it wouldn’t hurt for some developers to read it too! I agree with the other comments – this book needs to be published!

    • Anonymous

      It should be required reading for professors and school admin also.  Knowing how things go together is no substitute for mud, sweat and a decent thumb whack.  And design without budget restrictions is for starchitects.  For everybody else, programs like the Rural Studio, Studio 804 (Univ. of Kansas) and Tulane University should be the norm for any architectural program.

  • Anonymous

    Bob –
    If you ever come across a link to purchase this book, PLEASE forward it along.
    I’ve been a fan of the Rural Studio since it beginning (I wish programs like it were available when I was in school), and would love to have as much information on all the work they do – and hopefully the money would continue on to fund the important work they do.
    Regards, Rick

    • sure thing –

      I would imagine that the Rural Studio has something planned that works with all the projects they’ve done and undoubtedly, they are protective of the brand they have created.

  • I don’t know why after so many years and pro-bono projects I am still amazed at how appreciative those clients are, not just of the service they received but of me as a partner and the profession as a whole. 

    • there is no question that is is very rewarding work.


  • Cristian

    if you ever find out if they plan on making this book available to the public, please post the details on your blog….looks like an amazing read!!

    • If that happens, I will be sure to post it! A lot of the information in the book is covered in some form on the site

      You might not get all the awesome infographics but it’s still there

      • Kathy @livethefinelife

        Until the book becomes available, there is a great documentary from PBS titled, The Rural School. It was made before Sambo died, and chronicals the construction of several different structures in the area through interviews with him, faculty and staff, other architects, and most importantly, the residents. I am fortunate to have a professor who is a graduate of the program, and she offers a personal view of it’s impact on the area. We watched the film in class last week, and I was very impressed with the innovative ways the students used found materials, and with the hands on method of teaching construction and design Auburn uses. Although I’ve known about the school for quite a while, this look at the difference it is making in the lives of students and the community made me appreciate it in a new way. I’m off to class this morning, to build a model based on The Rural School projects we saw in the film. I highly recommend a viewing!

        • klara

          can you scan some of this book I would love to read it!!