2018 Design in the Hills – Custer

“New Ruralism”

Our 2018 Design in the Hills event took us to the southern hills of Custer. Our theme that year centered around the concept of New Ruralism. New Ruralism can be described as an evolving rural planning approach rooted in respect for cultural heritage and empowerment of residents to actively participate in shaping their own environment. The approach focuses on making rural areas thriving, sustainable places to live and work. Custer possesses a great wealth of cultural resources which our event focused on.

After an hour drive from Rapid City through the Black Hills, our day began with a tour of the former STAR Academy, which was in 2018 named the SLICe Campus. SLICe stands for “Sustainable Light Industrial Complex and energy.” Incremental renovations of the existing buildings and infrastructure was occurring while Design in the Hills was in town. Paul Neseth of RAW Architecture in Minneapolis, MN, gave a presentation on his studio’s design/build projects with students and professionals abroad.

Our next site visit was also with Paul at one of his remote design/build projects. The RAW Campsite and Abode were a series of small pavilions in the forest, specifically located to activate the landscape. The pavilions create places for dwelling, reflection, and learning, while using local materials and methods found in the Black Hills. After a delicious lunch from a local food truck, it was time to set off back towards Custer.

The afternoon’s presentations included a tour of the phased renovations of the Custer Community Center, a presentation from the Mount Rushmore Society on their current masterplan and design efforts, a great tour of the new Custer Hospital’s Healing Garden, and concluded with the annual evening mixer at Mount Rushmore Brewing Company.

Friday’s events in Rapid City included our always enjoyable coffee and donuts with the sponsors, a presentation from Matt Friedel on the Burning Beetle Festival, and the perennial favorite Design Charrette. Our design charrette in 2018 centered around a community rehabilitation of Custer’s feldspar refinery.

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