Small School : Small Practices : Remote Places

Blog of the South Dakota State University Department of Architecture



Dec '11 - Dec '11

  • First Post

    By brex
    Dec 2, '11 1:32 AM EST

    We're new at this.  As the program is finishing up its third semester of instruction we are leaving our explorer phase.  Now that we've hit 100 students and 5 faculty, we're shifting into pioneers.  Next year there'll be the trace of settlers.  Truly, though, this school is in a design wilderness.  The next nearest architecture school is 3 hours away.

    We're charged with building a library, studios, offices--everything but shops.  Those doors were swung wide open by a wonderful throwback palace for a once thriving industrial arts program, now held onto by IA's academic offspring "Construction and Industrial Management".  In this shop we can, as the course at MIT claims, make almost anything.  Upon arrival we discovered IA natives with skills in both Blacksmithing and CNC 5-Axis Milling.  We've begun an excellent relationship with this academic unit and they've helped us find critical traction in our expectation of a performance based curriculum rooted in the flowering moment of "Digital Artisanry".  We are committed to teaching our students both to "MAKE things" and to "MAKE things that MAKE things".  Our  growing sense of a new artisanry in architecture is founded in our amazing shop and the contemporary understanding of architecture as the allographic art embedded and wallowing in notational drawing and modeling.

    The program start-up is funded by four professional firms in Sioux Falls, SD (Architecture Incorporated, Koch+Hazard Architects, Perspective, and TSP Architects) and via the generous donations of a SoDak farm boy who wanted to major in architecture here but instead became a very successful rocket scientist, homebuilder, and wine-maker.  The program draws no tax dollars and will operate solely on student fees, even though we're still one of the least expensive schools of architecture in the U.S.A.

    We've been inundated with requests from people in South Dakota communities like Baltic, Brookings, DeSmet, Watertown, and Mobridge (our work in Mobridge is featured on the Nationally Syndicated CBS News website today).  With the birth of this program there is now one less state in the USA without an arch ed program, leaving Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, and Wyoming without programs.  The programs that surround ours are U.Nebraska, U.Minnesota, Iowa State U., Montana State U., and North Dakota State U.  They are all federal land-grant universities (Morrill Act of 1859) and started teaching architecture over 100 years ago.

    Over half the students in our first class are from towns with a population of 5,000 or less.  The largest city in the state is 220,000, second 124,000, third 25,000 with a total of 810,000 citizens on the 17th largest land are in the U.S.A..  There's 10 square miles for each person in SD, making us the 4th most spread out state; 1/10th as densely populated as Texas.

    Because of this vastness of the landscape, the distance between populations, and the severity of the winters in it; we've found a strong developing culture of factory based construction emerging just as the program does.  Systems Building is really finding roots here and this industry is already working to build strong ties to the program for faculty research and design speculation as well as on-site student learning.

    The biggest professional office in SoDak has ten licensed architects.  In an ever increasingly corporatized nation of design professionals this is a refreshing situation to be in.  We're charged, by nature, to strive to train generalists, people who can convey a very simple and clear sense of how to make, people who can work across large ranges of work, people who are ready to work on their own.

    We are a Small School training professionals for Small Practices in Small Places.

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About this Blog

A blog page for a two year old Department of Architecture at South Dakota State University currently w/ 100 students, 5 faculty, & 1 staff. We are a small school training professionals for small practices in remote places.

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  • brex

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