Weekend: Sunday, as I write this: You know the drill. Barnes and Noble cafe @ Jack London Square, Embarcadero and Broadway. Ankita’s thumbing through InStyle. I’m hunched over Orange Moon, plugged into a wall socket and people watching with one eye. An early dinner at a nearby restaurant in a little bit, a walk home after that and some suitably domestic puttering around after that.
Yesterday: Got up and went to Berkeley, scored a donut at a Shattuck Avenue cafe, met Stephen at the Ashby flea market, said whaddup to King and Jane passing through, got rained on, went up to downtown BRKLY, split up (Ankita to Ross for a new purse — duh! — and me to Wells Fargo Bank to continue the masochistic losing streak of supplication and suffering I’ve been going through with them) and reunited, down to read ‘zines at B&N (ah, Essence rocks the double-sided Sade covers), up to Au Coquelet for a “tiger burger” and Guinness (Ankita w/salad and veggie chili; Stephen — who met us there — with Newcastle Ale and noshables), a flip through his architecture magazine to check out Sam Mockbee, western Alabama’s latest MacArthur award winner …
They participate because they are hungry to build. Architect/educator Sam Mockbee says, “Students are dying to do this all over the country.” No single program has garnered more kudos for its savvy blend of design excellence, social purpose, and experience than his Rural Studio in Hale County, Alabama. Far from either coast, as deep into old Dixie’s poverty belt as you can slide, Sam and acting Auburn University architecture dean D.K. Ruth have drawn students South, to cook and clean and live together at what Sambo calls “a redneck Taliesin,” reading great literature, drawing, and building for the people of the county. Along the way, he and the students have produced masterful, simple works of architecture from humble materials, including Yancey Chapel, a small, transcendent building constructed of abandoned tires and heart pine lumber, and a straw-bale house with an adjacent smokehouse cobbled together from jackhammered concrete and discarded bottles. While others engage in hyped contemporary work, the students at the Rural Studio often perform humble architectural acts, like insulating the windows of a leaky house with a translucent layer of thick plastic sheeting for a 98-year-old man. Minimal fuss, maximum improvement to make a warm, dry room. If hands-on architecture is a cause, then the Rural Studio is a spiritual home. How unfashionable and utterly right!
… and Marlon Blackwell’s cool-ass tower dwelling outside of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and a greeting to Delia and Sean before they head for the literal hills to check out her dogs, comfortably ensconced with a good bud of hers, and then a BART ride home, with (of all things) “Mary Poppins” on the local WB affiliate and a medium pizza (half-cheese, half-pepperoni) ordered from the shop up the block and delivered by a nice dude, and finally, the 10 o’clock news, some surfing and off to bed and more progress through “Skinny Legs and All” before Ankita turns out the lights and starts the nightly stealing of the covers, which only leaves me the recourse of snoring loudly (’cause that’s just how I retaliate — shrug).