This story reminded me of the "trash houses" that Dan Phillips builds near Huntsville, Texas. Houston has a tradition of preserving "art houses" built by individual artists, generally for their own use, in a social climate without zoning laws, but Mr. Phillips builds them for low-income people, using unskilled labor and donated materials. His ingenuity is such that the houses are individual and quite beautiful. I first saw one of his slide shows of the various houses during a Bioneers satellite conference at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
This Rural Studio sounds like one of the best examples of a current higher education buzzword, "service learning." It's something that many colleges around the country are talking about. Successful implementation is much less common. Academics often tend to be more interested in solving immediate problems than in building long-term relationships, and my experience is that this focus hamstrings many well-intentioned interventions. "Been there, done that, wrote the paper, what's the next problem?" Is this a personality trait? A function of the continual turnover in student populations?
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