Great Spaces, Great Places

There was a recent Tweet from the man with a reputation as America’s Dad, Tom Hanks, in which Hanks made a brief mention of wanting to move to or at least visit Sioux Falls and Rapid City after reading “Our Towns” by James and Deborah Fallows. Pandemonium ensued. A big, lovable celebrity coming to our state? I even jumped on the bandwagon by DMing him on Twitter (that’s “Direct Messaging” for you non-millennials) offering to buy him a coffee if he visited, because OBVIOUSLY no one else thought to make any offer like that. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader had a nice editorial a few days later by Stu Whitney in which Whitney reflected on this phenomenon, ultimately posing a larger, more philosophical question. “What is wrong with us?”

Brilliant point.

Whitney was posing it on the premise that Sioux Falls and Rapid City are more than worthy of an A-list celebrity’s attention over his morning coffee. And despite what the cold shoulder received during national elections would tell us, the whole state does matter. South Dakota: “you is smart, you is kind, you is important.”*This notion holds true in various aspects of our communities: economy, education and even politics. And it also holds true for the built environment of our great state.

South Dakota has a proud and sometimes peculiar architectural history. While the state has been shaped and is known more for its “natural” features, in the last half century this has started to change. As communities have grown, some areas are known more for world class events centers, learning facilities and sporting venues rather than a waterfall, lake shore, or even mountain range. Whether you term it “progress” or a “blatant retrogression of society as we know it” (hopefully the former and not the latter), the built environment is starting to form a new “blueprint” of South Dakota (see what I did there?).

Of course, this progress needs to be done responsibly. Our state has vast natural resources of which we should be protective. Sprawl is a major issue in our more urban/suburban communities. Parking? Don’t get me started on that issue. And, of course, there is the sticky issue of “aesthetics” with all the pomp and circumstance it deservedly (or undeservedly) entails.

As development races forward in our state, a group of like-minded individuals who have similar training and expertise in fields relating to such matters have decided to band together and engage the public on architectural issues across South Dakota. Okay, truth be told, we already were banded together under the banner of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) South Dakota, but now we’ve decided to come out of the shadows and engage head-on some of the built-environment issues facing our state (and world in general) today.

Personally, I truly believe our state has “great spaces and great places” to do the living, working, and playing of life. USA today recently featured 25 “must-see” buildings in South Dakota. I DO wish, though, I could say that all the building projects in our state are great and worthy of joining such a list. News flash: They aren’t. We’ve all driven by a building (or two or three) and thought “well, that’s … different,” and not in a “good-different” way. We hope that this blog will help generate a discussion about the right “differences” and continue to influence and develop throughout our state’s “Great Spaces, Great Places.”

Put more eloquently:

The mission of this blog is to increase the visibility, profile and involvement of architects in South Dakota through statewide design and development discussions. This blog will be a public conversation with city planners, developers, property owners, designers, citizens, public office holders and others. Through these conversations, we want to participate with the public and community leaders in the creation of vibrant, prosperous, beautiful and effective places to live, work and play in South Dakota. The blog should showcase, directly or indirectly, that the architect community is a valuable resource in determining the future of our state.

* “America’s Dad” for Tom Hanks crowned by Saturday Night Live in October 2016
2The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 2009

Feature photo by Dirk Lammers

5 Replies to “Great Spaces, Great Places”

    1. Probably a good topic for a separate, dedicated post, but when I write about aesthetics, I’m referring to “taste” as it has been generally accepted. My training in architecture and other artistic pursuits has led me to believe that there are right and wrong answers when it comes aesthetics, in that aesthetics should be concerned with a search for beauty, which I often correlate to a search for truth (this applies to all thing related to the arts; visual, theatrical, musical, and architectural). This State (or rather, a good portion of those who make building project decisions) often defers to “taste” being a subjective, opinion-based principle. I disagree. Thus why any discussion about it I regard as a “sticky” one, as in not easily done or accomplished, and not necessarily fun (e.g. trying to clean sticky maple syrup out of my 2-year-old’s hair this morn – not easy or fun). I enjoy the conversation though. I wouldn’t have mentioned the word otherwise. Thanks for being the first comment on the blog!

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