Building in the Midwest: Where Do We Go From Here?

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The lion’s share of green building advancements takes place along the West Coast, the nation’s economic centers pioneer the greatest number of new building techniques, and areas that are already economically thriving have the most funding to direct toward urban development. But what is going on in the vast stretch of America that lies between the coasts? The Midwest does its own planning and pioneering, and develops its own green strategies, but many of its rural communities are dealing with issues that are far different from those being profiled in more visible regions.

Building in the Midwest: Where Do We Go From Here?

How can design professionals and city planners work in the face of economic decline? How can they address and reverse those trends? And how can they identify, let alone capitalize upon, the forces that have given their area its character?

On April 24, 2010, the Hill City Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and Heart of the Hills Economic Development Corporation will host a symposium in Hill City, S.D., entitled,  “Inside Out: Transforming the Built Environment.” The symposium will draw participants from a five-state area of the Midwest, aiming to answer the question, “What has already influenced the architecture in this part of the country, and what will we build next?” Using a typical Black Hills town as a representative study, planners, architects, builders, academics, and the public will examine the assets they already have and put forth concrete design ideas for the future. Ideas to make their towns more economically viable, more connected to their heritage, and more livable.

Keynote speakers include Sarah Nettleton, Minnesota architect and author of The Simple Home: The Luxury of Enough, and South Dakota architect and anthropologist Dr. Craig Howe, currently the director of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS).

Look for upcoming symposium coverage on Buildipedia to answer such questions as:

  • How did some of America’s small towns become what they are today?
  • How can we begin to build with a sense of how we want to “be” in a place?
  • What underlying cultural rules dictate how we think about and organize space, and how can we begin to recognize our collective cultural reference points?

What are your thoughts on the questions above? Leave a comment below.

Kristin Dispenza

Kristin graduated from The Ohio State University in 1988 with a B.S. in architecture and a minor in English literature. Afterward, she moved to Seattle, Washington, and began to work as a freelance design journalist, having regular assignments with Seattle’s Daily Journal of Commerce.

After returning to Ohio in 1995, her freelance activities expanded to include writing for trade publications and websites, as well as other forms of electronic media. In 2011, Kristin became the managing editor for

Kristin has been a features writer for since January 2010. Some of her articles include:

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