Gallery: Hale County Animal Shelter by (New) Rural Studio


It is probably no surprise that we are big fans of Rural Studio and their community-based regionalist architecture. Samuel ‘Sambo” Mockbee was a real visionary, and outside of being an esteemed professor of architecture at Auburn University and one of the founders of their world-renowned Rural Studio programs, he was just the kind of guy that you would have wanted as a reliable neighbor or soulful teacher. With that in mind, we wanted to pay tribute to one of (new) Rural Studio projects, as the spirit of Mockbee still lives on in the work of Auburn’s architecture students, even after the passing of their beloved mentor and teacher in 2001. The Hale County Animal Shelter, or “Dog Pound” as it is known locally, embodies the best of Rural Studio‘s can-do attitude and down home, sustainable appeal.

Hale County Animal Shelter is located in Greensboro, Hale County, Alabama, the epicenter of Rural Studio‘s work and outreach focus. The Project Team consisted of four architecture students: Jeff Bazzell, Julieta Collart, Lana Farkas, and Connely Farr who completed the shelter as part of their 2005-2006 Thesis Project. All were responsible for the design scheme, the acquisition of the required building materials and cash donations (upwards of $100,000 total) to make the project a reality. Even more amazing and inspiring is the fact that the student team members who lent their cooperative efforts to the construction of the shelter had no previous construction experience!

A hypnotic repeating diamond structure called a lamella acts as both roof and wall motif for the shelter. The identical 2 x 8 joists were precut and curved by a jig, and a simple pin connection was used to hold the pieces in place. Overall material costs were reduced drastically by creating a standard, pre-fab “repeat process” over and again. The entire structure hovers over the ground on custom-designed steel legs (crafted from two pieces of welded steel) anchored to concrete strip footings. The concrete floor on which the animal kennels rest is a clean concrete slab that stays warm in the winter months thanks to an incorporated radiant heating system. The open-ended design also allows for a steady flow of air, ventilation, and natural light. Three Plexiglas-banded openings in the aluminum shell also allow light into the interior rooms.

Hale County Animal Shelter is a perfect example of how design need not be exclusively for richer or poorer or human or animal alike. We feel strongly that the barn-raising experience is as valuable and sustainable as the latest innovative green design methods, and even though this project was aided by 3D design tools, its core is very grassroots, locally-savvy, and totally hands-on.

From Rural Studio’s website:

Mockbee once said that “Everybody wants the same thing, rich or poor… not only a warm, dry room, but a shelter for the soul”. The Rural Studio epitomizes that aspiration. Working from this ideal, students enrolled in the Rural Studio are exposed to the concept of “context based learning” where they actually live in and become a part of the community in which they are working. It is through this process that they learn the critical skills of planning, design, and building in a socially responsible manner. More importantly, Mockbee’s social ethic is imbued in the students by instilling professionalism, volunteerism, individual responsibility, and a commitment to community service.

+ Rural Studio
+ NY Times article, “Built to Last, Lasting” (May 12, 2007)
+ Samuel Mockbee in Architectural Record
+ Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency on


or your inhabitat account below


  1. ashley call January 21, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    i checked out another rural studio ‘dog pound’ post and some great response comments by the head of Architecture for Humanity Cameron Sinclair and also by Connely Farr, who is one of the designers/builders of the dog pound over at the website last week. You guys should check it out. Some good points were raised

  2. joshua doolittle January 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    We could build a similar, more sustainable and affordable structure using my new banded bamboo strip beam system. Arc forms work well due to increased structural integrity from having a flexible member in tension, like a dome tent pole.

    Can anyone help “connect the dots”with Rural Studio? We’d love to join forces with them. I’ve tried, didn’t get any responses. There’s bamboo in the region, but my vision seems to be to outside the box for most people, until they examine our prototype parts. Thats the “Ah-Hah!” moment.

    We’ll transform being “bamboozled” into a good thing, an invasive pest into a CO2 sequestering organic steel.

    If banded swamp reed tea houses have been standing in S. Iraq for the past 3-5,000 years then we ought to be able to build pre-fab sky scrapers out of banded bamboo strips. I see them in my mind, inspired by bees nest and Legos.

    Please visit our site and updated drawings of our Perma Yurt design, which is merely a logical beginning:

    We seek help, of all kinds, so we can develop and share this deceptively simple sustainable arch vision with the world. Seeking investment partners to become a hybrid For/Non Profit housing operation. Imagine “What If? Patagonia were to team up with Habitat for Humanity? Thats where we are headed.

    Slow and steady wins the race…The next step is a full scale prototype, optimally at the Bamboo Tech facility in Saigon, Vietnam. This is the egg that will give birth to an entirely new species of sustainable architecture.

    Please feel free to contact me off our site for more information. I am currently back in upstate NY to address hip and shoulder injuries, but have prototype parts with me.

    Your time and consideration is greatly appreciated!

    Whirled Peas,

    Joshua Doolittle

  3. Richie January 19, 2008 at 9:20 am

    It’s great that something was built. And the use of materials is definitely a creative stretch of existing norms. So it’s a very nice effort in that respect. I do wish that some of the humanizing concepts of Christopher Alexanders “The Timeless Way of Building” could have been factored into the design process of this dwelling place for animals, however. I wonder how joyous their experience will be at this location… as it seems mostly dark and exposed to the elements at the same time ? For many dogs, this will be their last stop in life, after lives that were devoid of much Joy and care. So wouldn’t it be great to create something that gave them something more than this ? I don’t know exactly what… but something more comforting, fun, and that had options for privacy and group experience, etc. ?

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home