Students leave the comfort of the university to live, study and work in the classroom of the community. Working with the Hale County Department of Human Resources, the students identify which residents they are capable of helping. Before work begins, they meet and get to know the future inhabitants of their buildings. Samuel says, " It's important that they live out here and they become part of this community. They meet real people with real needs."
The Butterfly House, so named because of its unique roof that acts like a drain, was designed specifically for an elderly couple. Working on the Rural Studio projects has a profound impact on the way students view poverty and race relations. One student who built a house for an elderly couple says, "We really had to develop a relationship with them. You can imagine... 13 white kids showing up on your front door saying, 'I'm going to give you a house for free and we don't want anything.' For me personally [the couple has] become my adoptive grandparents."
Fifth year students working on their theses build community projects, such as a community pavilion, and a Boys and Girls Club. One student says, "We all feel like we are connected to this community. We'll have Sunday dinner at somebody's house. The people here are great."
"What we are trying to create is the citizen architect," says Samuel. "Part of being an architect is to improve civic life. And that's what we try to do, for the citizens of Alabama and the Deep South."