written by:
September 2, 2009
Originally published in Made in the USA

This modern log cabin from architecture students at Auburn University was designed to be completed for $20,000—an admirable solution for the down-at-heel looking to put down roots.

<p>In the United States, design-build programs are gaining ground not only as the way to run an architecture practice but as a method by which to teach the trade as well. <a href="http://www.auburn.edu">Auburn University</a> is a frontrunner of this schoo

In the United States, design-build programs are gaining ground not only as the way to run an architecture practice but as a method by which to teach the trade as well. Auburn University is a frontrunner of this school of thought. In 1993, the university launched the Auburn University Rural Studio, housed in the School of Architecture. The goal of the design-build program is to pass on professional design wisdom to the next generation of architects while developing strategies and making real efforts to improve the conditions of those living in rural Alabama. Through its $20K House project, launched in 2004, Rural Studio has tasked students with designing and building prototype homes that could be replicated by local builders for $20,000. Why $20K? The project grew from the idea of building housing for low-income individuals who qualify for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 502 Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan, which the $20K House project directors were originally told was available starting at $20,000 though later learned it has no minimum. "What baffled us," says Rural Studio director Andrew Freear, "was that this money was available for people to build themselves a home but when push came to shove, there wasn’t an approved model for that minimum figure; the least expensive approved design required an $85,000 loan—-and that seemed pretty steep to us. The goal of the project is to clarify what one could achieve for $20,000." Photo by Ty Cole

1 / 8
<p>In 2008, students Drew Coshow, Robert Douge, Abigail Grubb, and Steven Ward designed the <a href="http://www.cadc.auburn.edu/soa/rural-studio/projects_20Kphase4.htm">Pattern Book House</a>. The name was inspired by pattern books that were popular in th

In 2008, students Drew Coshow, Robert Douge, Abigail Grubb, and Steven Ward designed the Pattern Book House. The name was inspired by pattern books that were popular in the 1800s and outlined how to build design details, from columns to cornices. With such a book in hand, any construction worker equipped with basic building skills could construct facades straight out of ancient Rome or Greece, which were the styles most often offered in these publications. Similarly, the eventual goal of the $20K House program is that a small team of builders with printouts of one of the $20K House plans will be able to build a home in a few days without any additional assistance or instruction. Photo by Ty Cole

2 / 8
<p>The first step to making plans for a $20K House available to builders is finding a design that work. Like the three $20K House projects built before theirs, the student team behind the Pattern Book House worked together to present a prototype of what s

The first step to making plans for a $20K House available to builders is finding a design that work. Like the three $20K House projects built before theirs, the student team behind the Pattern Book House worked together to present a prototype of what such a home could look like. "There had been some community backlash to some of the previous prototypes," Grubb says. "We wanted to design something that the community would accept." To that end, they used a rain screen on the exterior walls to mimic siding on the area's traditional homes and chose cedar, as opposed to corrugated metal like other teams had done, so the locals could “compare it to a honey shed," Grubb adds. Photo by Ty Cole

3 / 8
<p>The students also attempted to appease residents by making their home "of the area." They based the design on vernacular shotgun houses and bought the cedar siding as off-cuts from a local lumberyard, which totaled $120.<br />
<br />
Photo by

The students also attempted to appease residents by making their home "of the area." They based the design on vernacular shotgun houses and bought the cedar siding as off-cuts from a local lumberyard, which totaled $120. Photo by Ty Cole

4 / 8
<p>Grubb and her classmates designed a double-roof system for improved ventilation. The exaggerated overhang protects the home and its residents from the elements.<br />
<br />
Photo by <a href="http://www.tycole.com">Ty Cole</a></p>

Grubb and her classmates designed a double-roof system for improved ventilation. The exaggerated overhang protects the home and its residents from the elements. Photo by Ty Cole

5 / 8
<p>The Pattern Book House is a modest 292 square feet in size. "We were going for quality over quantity," Grubb says. "We were able to make it feel bigger than it is with the vaulted ceiling and the up-lighting."<br />
<br />
Photo by

The Pattern Book House is a modest 292 square feet in size. "We were going for quality over quantity," Grubb says. "We were able to make it feel bigger than it is with the vaulted ceiling and the up-lighting." Photo by Ty Cole

6 / 8
After the house was completed, Rural Studio sold it to a local resident who qualified for the 502 loan, though the cost to her was only that of the land. The 22-year-old nursing school graduate now calls the Pattern Book House "home."<br /><br />Photo by
After the house was completed, Rural Studio sold it to a local resident who qualified for the 502 loan, though the cost to her was only that of the land. The 22-year-old nursing school graduate now calls the Pattern Book House "home."Photo by Ty Cole
7 / 8
<p>Rural Studio’s hope is that within the next couple years, it’ll be able to begin testing some of the $20K House prototypes with local builders. "We’ll have a contractor take the model, build it, and tell us what was smart, how we

Rural Studio’s hope is that within the next couple years, it’ll be able to begin testing some of the $20K House prototypes with local builders. "We’ll have a contractor take the model, build it, and tell us what was smart, how we could make it less expensive, and so on while at the same time employing people to build the homes, bringing money to the economy, and giving others affordable housing options," Freear says. And to make it easier, the students who were behind the Pattern Book House-—Coshow, Douge, Grubb, and Ward—-are hoping to soon complete a pattern book to accompany the design. Photo by Ty Cole

8 / 8
<p>In the United States, design-build programs are gaining ground not only as the way to run an architecture practice but as a method by which to teach the trade as well. <a href="http://www.auburn.edu">Auburn University</a> is a frontrunner of this schoo

In the United States, design-build programs are gaining ground not only as the way to run an architecture practice but as a method by which to teach the trade as well. Auburn University is a frontrunner of this school of thought. In 1993, the university launched the Auburn University Rural Studio, housed in the School of Architecture. The goal of the design-build program is to pass on professional design wisdom to the next generation of architects while developing strategies and making real efforts to improve the conditions of those living in rural Alabama. Through its $20K House project, launched in 2004, Rural Studio has tasked students with designing and building prototype homes that could be replicated by local builders for $20,000. Why $20K? The project grew from the idea of building housing for low-income individuals who qualify for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 502 Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan, which the $20K House project directors were originally told was available starting at $20,000 though later learned it has no minimum. "What baffled us," says Rural Studio director Andrew Freear, "was that this money was available for people to build themselves a home but when push came to shove, there wasn’t an approved model for that minimum figure; the least expensive approved design required an $85,000 loan—-and that seemed pretty steep to us. The goal of the project is to clarify what one could achieve for $20,000." Photo by Ty Cole

In the 19th century, architectural pattern books brought design (albeit primarily neoclassical and Greek Revival) to the masses. Equipped with a basic skill level and these instruction manuals that came complete with plans and renderings, builders from New York to New Orleans could create facades of Ionic columns and decorative cornices.

Auburn University Rural Studio’s $20K House project is the architectural pattern book’s modern-day counterpart. The project challenges students to design and build homes for $20,000 or less. The goal is that builders will eventually replicate these prototypes for hopeful homeowners who live below the poverty line and thus qualify for a federal rural development loan.

In 2008, students Drew Coshow, Robert Douge, Abigail Grubb, and Steven Ward designed the Pattern Book House. Nestled in a wooded area of Greensboro, Alabama, the house is a log cabin for the 21st century that harks back to the how-to books of yore both in name and with its own building manual, currently in the works.
 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016