Movin' On

This blog and associated work has moved permanently to Object Guerilla dot com. Please change your bookmarks and come visit often! This page will remain up as an archive.


Hale County Revisited

After last week's discussion of some of the challenges facing Hale County, Alabama, I thought I'd follow up with some of the progress underway in Greensboro and the surrounding towns. I had the chance to revisit my former home for the first time in almost two years last week. The lady and I stayed at Spencer House with some old Rural Studio friends, and got a tour of the latest projects.

Like many small rural towns, a lot has changed and yet everything has stayed the same. Our first stop was Mac's House, the 20K I built with Penny Hagberth, Clem Blakemore, and Danny Wicke in 2010. The house was holding up well -- the siding was in great shape, the woodwork weathered but shipshape, the underside chicken netting unmolested by creatures great and small. I hadn't seen it without the various trailers removed from the yard and the grass grown back, and it was quite handsome all grown into the landscape. I was curious to see how some of the interior details were holding up, but that'll have to wait for another visit. Unfortunately, Mac wasn't around, so we took some photos, left a note, and headed north to Greensboro.
Mac's House.


Hale County and the Poverty-Industrial Complex

In the spring of 2009, I was accepted into the Rural Studio's Outreach Studio, a one-year, post-graduate program for young architects. Two teammates and I spent a year designing and building a house on a budget of $20,000, the ninth in a series of 20K Houses. This research project is ongoing, year-to-year, with different student teams, all trying to address the under-served problem of rural affordable housing. The default paradigm for that population is a trailer home -- a rapidly depreciating, off-gassing, near-impossible-to-insure albatross slung around the necks of already economically stressed people. We finished our house in June, 2010, for MacArthur Coach, a retired construction worker living on Social Security.

After my stint at the Rural Studio, I stayed in Greensboro, Alabama, the county seat of Hale County, for another year. I worked at a small non-profit called YouthBuild, a job-training and GED program for young adults. The students were paid a small stipend (~$80 a week) to attend 20 hours of GED classes and 12 hours of vocational instruction in carpentry. Most of them had left high school for various reasons, or were court-ordered to attend our program. They ranged in age from 16 to 24, and that $80 represented a significant part of their household income. 

Downtown Greensboro in 1941, via The Library of Congress.