Has Social Design's Most Prominent Experiment Succeeded?

Auburn University's Rural Studio program and other designers from across the U.S. have descended on Hale County, Alabama for two decades in an effort to improve the quality of life for the rural area's residents. What have they achieved?

Rob Walker ventures to Hale County to assess the impact that two decades of social design experiments have had on a place where "[j]obs are scarce; per-capita income is low; the poverty rate is high; [and] affordable housing is a problem." Walker examines the work of Auburn University's Rural Studio, a "design blitz" program called "Project M" and other revitalization efforts, and speaks with local residents to see first-hand how the high-profile efforts that've been featured in countless articles, books, exhibits, and a documentary have fared. 

"It's safe to say that Hale County has done a lot for design," says Walker. "But what has design done for Hale County?"

"On an individual level, for sure, design and architecture have changed lives in this place--definitively, and for the better," he continues. "Pull back, and it gets harder to gauge the impact."



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