Rural Studio’s Freear elected as National Academician

Published: September 30, 2021
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Andrew Freear, director of the Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction’s Rural Studio, has been selected as one of eight new National Academicians by the National Academy of Design in recognition of his contributions to arts and architecture.

Freear, the J. Streeter Wiatt Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, lives full-time in Newbern, Alabama, where he administers the Rural Studio program and supervises graduate and fifth-year undergraduate design and build projects. Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program rooted in Hale County and part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.

Its core mission is the education of students, coupled with research on sustainable, healthful rural living through both housing and the vital systems it fosters to ensure its communities thrive. It is committed to cultivating students who are both local architects and citizens of the world.

To date, Rural Studio has built more than 200 projects and educated more than 1,200 students in the Alabama Black Belt. Around four dozen students are invited to attend each year to participate in this context-based, service-learning curriculum, where students live and work alongside our neighbors, finding solutions together. Our design-build program challenges students to consider not what can be built, but rather what should be built.

“On behalf of Auburn University and Rural Studio, I am very proud to receive this honor, particularly given the roll call of academicians and the history of the National Academy of Design,” Freear said. “This truly acknowledges and legitimizes the quality of the design work that Rural Studio has undertaken in our rural community over the last 30 years.”

As the oldest artist-run organization in the United States, the National Academy of Design, or NAD, advocates for the value of arts and architecture. Since their founding in 1825, nearly 2,400 members have been elected.

Freear joins more than 400 living members of the prestigious group, including architects Marlon Blackwell, Elizabeth Diller, Billie Tsien, Tod Williams, David Adjaye and Renzo Piano, as well as artists Richard Serra, Robert Irwin, Yoko Ono and Claes Oldenburg. He is the only architect elected this year and will join seven visual artists at an October induction ceremony in New York.

“Joining a group of Academicians who are at the center of the National Academy’s mission and work, the 2021 class of National Academicians is reflective of the cultural transformations underway in the United States, showing us how art and architecture continue to evolve, in both form and impact on the world around us,” said Gregory Wessner, executive director of the National Academy of Design.

Freear is a teacher, builder, advocate and liaison between local authorities, community partners and students, and he also serves on the board of the Newbern Library. His work has been published extensively, and he regularly lectures around the world.

The Yorkshire, England, native has designed and built exhibits at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, the Whitney Biennial and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the Milan Triennale and the Venice Biennale. Freear’s honors include the 2006 Ralph Erskine Award, the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture and the Architecture Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2008, he was a Laureate in the second edition of the Global Awards for Sustainable Architecture.

Freear was a 2018 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University and most recently received the President’s Medal from the Architectural League of New York, the League’s highest honor.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.