Rural Studio Tour: beneath the roses

Lou on Subrosa.

Lou on Subrosa.

After seeing our first and favorite Rural Studio project during our Halloween visit to Hale County (Hale-oween!), Liane and I head next to the Rural Studio Office at Morrisette House so that we can check-in and get a map of the projects. There are so many (!)… and seeing as how it’s already past noon, Gayle Etheridge, the Rural Studio Office Manager, kindly helps us prioritize.

We’re quite anxious to experience Subrosa in person ever since seeing Timothy Hursley‘s brilliant (but tiny) photos on the Rural Studio site, so we go there first.

Located behind Chantilly House and the Bodark Amphitheater in Newbern, the elegiac Subrosa Pantheon was originally conceived by Rural Studio founder Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee as “a memorial to recently bereaved friends.”

A year after Sambo’s untimely death in 2002, his daughter Carol Mockbee arrived at the Rural Studio as an Outreach student. Despite having no previous building or architectural experience, Carol boldly undertook the design (adapted from her father’s notebooks) and creation of this noble concrete and steel structure.

Subrosa is a memorial. “A place to remember Sambo Mockbee and… a place to tell secrets as the Romans did, ‘sub rosa,’ underneath the roses.”

Kiva-like structure.

Kiva-like structure.

asor buS.

asor buS.

Over the tunnel.

Over the tunnel.

Tunnel entrance.

Tunnel entrance.

Inside the tunnel.

Inside the tunnel.

Inside Sub Rosa Pantheon.

Inside.

Sky opening.

Sky opening.

Bench and turtle pond.

Bench and turtle pond.

Turtle pond.

Turtle pond.

Beneath the roses.

Beneath the roses.

Sky opening.

Sky opening.

Samuel Mockbee.

Samuel Mockbee.

Mockbee mobile shadow.

Mockbee mobile shadow.

Bench and "secret-telling" apparatus.

Bench and "secret-telling" apparatus.

Subrosa.

Subrosa.

Super sub rosa.

Super sub rosa.

Momento mori.

Momento mori.

1133 | Rural Studio
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2 Responses to “Rural Studio Tour: beneath the roses”


  1. 1 Melissa Denney November 14, 2008 at 8:53 am

    This is one of the best descriptions and certainly the best photographs of Subrosa that I’ve seen. I love this place – sans the spiders. It is a peaceful and contemplative place.

    A few more facts that I know:

    The stars line up in the circles above the structure during the Summer Solstice.

    When the Romans told secrets subrosa, betrayal meant death by the hand of the other.

    When talking to staff (my frame of reference) Sambo would always say, “this is subrosa” if he was discussing something that was not for public knowledge. We still use this term today in discussions or staff meetings and it is understood to keep it to ourselves. To my knowledge, no one has been killed for gossiping, even though I know of leaks! ;-)

    Thank you for such a beautiful post – and your other posts about Rural Studio.

    My warmest regards,

    Melissa Foster Denney
    Development Officer – Rural Studio

  2. 2 1133sc November 14, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Thanks Melissa… for the very kind words… and the new info. Liane and I will have to make a Summer Solstice trip.


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