We arrived in Greensboro on Tuesday afternoon and headed straight up to Antioch Baptist Church (see image below) to see if there was any information on services during the week. We were hoping to gather sound of the church’s congregation, perhaps speaking to members who had seen the previous incarnation. Cruising down the 1.5 lane highway at a healthy speed, we eyed this tiny sign pointing down a gravel road (driveway) “Antioch Baptist Church.” The grass between the tire tracks was quite tall, giving me the impression that this church might not get used at all. As we walked up to the structure we knew immediately that this was a Rural Studio project, it was like no other church in the area (except for the other RS chapels).
Alongside the church is an elevated graveyard with headstones dating back to the early 1800’s. The juxtaposition of these old tombs looking upon the modern chapel below was striking, as was the fact that the only windows along the long walls of the church were the narrow strip which looked directly out at the graves.
As we walked along the grounds, which were surrounded by thick forests of pines, you could hear an old hound dog howling in the distance interspersed with long stretches of eerie silence. This combination seemed to say, Welcome to rural Alabama!
We left Antioch to head back to Greensboro and again, at highway speed this dog seemed to come out of nowhere. At least, it seemed like a dog, minus one ear. This German Shepherd was standing next to the side of the road waiting for us to pass, standing alert with its one good ear. Sorry, it was just too strange for us to want to get out and snap a photo.
While staying at the Muckle House in Greensboro, I’ve been able to talk to a pair of thoughtful young architects from Chicago who came down to work with Rural Studio on their own accord. They are committed to designing for community with “green” materials and practices. As we discussed the benefits and downside of LEED certification, I couldn’t help but think of this effort in my soon-to-be neighborhood of Bryn Mawr near downtown Minneapolis. The owners and architect blog about their aspirations for LEED platinum certification and how their budget prioritizes what green technology is of more value to them.
David Buege, the interim director of Rural Studio while Andrew Freear is on sabbatical, questions the long-term effectiveness of green building and sustainability in general. He wonders whether LEED certification isn’t just another highly profitable add-on service that some architects exploit. Long-term, land-use planning, he says, should be at the forefront of his profession. Without that, most other efforts will fail to make an impact on generations outside of our grandchildren.
People in the field he admires? Frank and Deborah Popper of Rutgers University. They have proposed a radical plan of creating a Buffalo Commons stretching from Canada through the Dakotas right on down to Texas. This commons area would reclaim millions of acres of land and restore the prairies to their natural condition before colonial efforts seized North America. Anne Matthews chronicles their ideas in Where the Buffalo Roam: Restoring America’s Great Plains.