Rural Indexing Project Syllabus

Rural Indexing Project Syllabus

by Zach Huelsing and Jon Lehman


Rural communities are dispersed across the American landscape. The buildings and streetscapes in these places are a repository for visual trends — historical, architectural, and social — that relate to aspects of commercial, municipal, and private life. Rural Indexing Project (RIP) documents these trends as they contribute to the built environment. RIP originated in 2010, and continues to document locations to this day. Roughly 1,300 communities in 25 states have been documented thus far. The project has a wide variety of antecedents. RIP follows in the footsteps of documentarian artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ed Ruscha, and the New Topographics photographers of the 1970s.

Our Syllabus showcases materials from architects, theorists, and close observers of the built environment. The first unit is concerned with analytical approaches to observation. The second unit establishes theoretical underpinnings that make a case for the relevance of vernacular approaches to building. The third unit explores representation of buildings and lifeways across a diverse geography. We also highlight films that reveal our passion for place and unique perspectives. Finally, we suggest an itinerary that showcases examples of a typology across a specific geography.