Andrew Freear, Rural Studio: Stories from the hinterland

Andrew Freear, director of Auburn University's Rural Studio, discusses the studio's work.

April 15, 2020
7:00 p.m.

Rural Studio | Boys and Girls Club, Greensboro, Alabama, 2014. Credit: Timothy Hursley.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Andrew Freear is the director of Rural Studio, an off-campus design-build program from Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture in Newbern, Alabama. Established in 1993, the program is based on the belief that everyone deserves the benefit of good design.     

As director, Freear serves as teacher, builder, advocate, and liaison between local authorities, community partners, and students. Rural Studio’s students have designed and built more than 200 community buildings, homes, and parks in their under-resourced community. 

Recent and ongoing projects include:

  • 20K Initiative, an ongoing project that aims to provide quality affordable houses for rural homeowners. Rural Studio has built over 20 houses since 2005.   
  • Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project, an ongoing initiative that investigates a more responsible building system able to reduce environmental impact and energy usage.
  • Newbern Library, a project initiated by community leaders involving the renovation and expansion of the former Bank Building.

Freear received a BArch from the University of Westminster, London, and a diploma from the Architectural Association, London.

Freear has designed and built exhibits about Rural Studio at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Milan Triennale and the Venice Biennale. He has co-authored Rural Studio at Twenty: Designing and Building in Hale County Alabama

His honors include the Ralph Erskine Award, the Global Awards for Sustainable Architecture, and the Architecture Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Most recently, Freear was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.

The lecture will be followed by a conversation with Billie Tsien, co-founding principal architect of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.


This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The event is co-sponsored by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.



Temporary landscape and the urban meadow

Julie Farris details two temporary landscape installations on vacant lots that she created in Red Hook, Brooklyn, one of which became a permanent garden and community space.

Interview: DIGSAU

An interview with Jules Dingle, Jeff Goldstein, Mark Sanderson, and James Unkefer of DIGSAU.