Architecture Program


Date of this Version

May 2007

Document Type



M.Arch Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, May 2007


Design is a term that is used often in our culture. It is often thought of as a thing; an image or duplication of something seen elsewhere. There is often a heavy influence from popular culture and advertising telling us what is “designed”; what is fashionable. I am arguing that design is not an object, rather it is an ideal; a process. It is defined as “to have a goal…intent.” I intend to show the benefits of design by showing the economic, ecological and social impacts that “good” architecture can have. The extra time and expense of design not only has aesthetic benefits, but can also improve building performance and lessen its environmental impact.

The implication of this is that design is to have a vision, something that has been gradually degraded in small communities. The slow growth rate in these towns have created a sort of pessimism about the future of the community. Failing businesses set a precedent and few think it is possible to overcome. Often blame is found with the limited number of customers or the “tight-fistedness” of locals. This is something that is likely to not change drastically, the number of patrons or their conservative spending patterns. However, the type of growth is often overlooked.

Architecture has the ability to effect people in profound ways. The build environment is engaged almost constantly throughout the day. Using architecture and planning, it is possible to have buildings interact with the community, making it more likely to see use. The strategic planning, design and execution of a project can bring people to the site and cause a social interaction that is not only financially beneficial, but strengthens the networks within the community. The creation of a core for this can begin to counteract the pessimism and act as a catalyst for growth, city wide.

Hot Springs, South Dakota is a small town that is located in the south-western part of the state. It has a population of approximately five thousand people. It is known as the southern gateway to the Black Hills, and relies heavily on the tourism of the area for revenue. The history of the town is a point of community pride and the sandstone downtown district brings another level of interest to the town.

The town’s main economic base is the V.A. Hospital, which supplies jobs, as well as retired veterans to the area. There is also the Veterans Home, which is a retirement home for veterans, which also supplies jobs. The public school system is the next largest employer. These two government funded job sources have kept the town going, though it is very difficult for other ventures. Restaurants change hand almost yearly and Ace Hardware and Pamida have managed to make any type of small merchant store difficult to operate. Overshadowing all of this is Tourism. Mount Rushmore, Sturgis and the beauty of the Hills bring thousands of tourists to the area. Many of the stores in the town are seasonal and only open during the heavy tourist traffic. Many of these are owned by investor’s from outside the community and so the benefits to the town are reduced. However, this is an important part of the economy.

The town has been struggling to find an image for itself. As national chains come into the community, the focus has shifted to financial plausibility. These venues rarely look at the community as a whole and typically compete with existing businesses. The Hot Springs of the past is barely perceptible anymore, except in the historic sandstone structures that stand as a constant reminder.

Hot Springs has lost its vision. The task at hand is to try to find it again.

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