South Dakota State University Architecture Department Head Brian Rex and some of the freshman class students explain a 3-D model they made of Huron’s core area. The model is on display in the Campus Center. PHOTO BY ROGER LARSEN/PLAINSMAN
HURON — First-year students in South Dakota State University’s architectural program are gradually getting acquainted with the city of Huron and how it came to exist.
For the rest of their six-year academic careers before graduation and licensure, they will interact with local officials and other residents as they develop ideas to improve Huron’s core area.
Seven students and associate professor and department head Brian Rex presented their initial 3-D model of the city at a meeting of the planning commission Wednesday night. Downtown business owners also attended.
The model is on display on the first floor of the Campus Center.
“The first thing I’ve got to do is to make sure they learn what they’ve got to learn,” Rex said. “I think this is a really important thing that we’re doing here — that we’re engaging them in the issues of South Dakota.”
The freshmen architecture students have partnered with Huron since the start of the school year. A year ago, the freshman class began its association with Mobridge.
SDSU’s architecture program is in its infancy, but the hope is that graduates will fill a need in the state as many veterans in the field begin retiring.
Students will add to the 3-D model as they progress in their course work at SDSU. In their third year, they will begin working with computers. By their fifth year, they will design a complete building.
In the meantime, the freshmen already have some ideas for downtown Huron. At the presentation, they took turns sharing them — from a farmer’s market to apartments in the upper floors of businesses to space for tutoring.
“What you’re going to find is they don’t know any more than you know about Huron,” Rex said.
But fresh eyes and a thirst for knowledge about the community and their chosen career choice will hopefully lead to positive changes.
In Mobridge, for example, students are helping community leaders figure out how to develop 34 newly opened acres adjacent to the Missouri River.
With some railroad infrastructure now gone, the city has a new front door.
“Mobridge didn’t have a way to get to the water front, because the railroad was between it and the water,” Rex said.
In the presentation in Huron, the students explained that they decided to focus on the area between Highway 14 on the north to Seventh Street on the south. They formed eight separate teams, with each team responsible for the layout of one quadrant as they developed and built their model.
They are researching the history of Huron and how it came to be.
“Why are things the way they are in terms of the situations they’re in,” Rex said. “And how that has evolved as the car has developed, as the train has receded, as truck traffic has moved into the community.”
Rex, who taught in Texas, Nebraska and Colorado before coming to SDSU, likes to talk about his favorite city, Savannah, Ga.
Founders there set up a plan for the town in 1728 and followed it until 1880.
He said it’s important to try to determine how the founders of any community viewed their fledgling town and how they saw it growing over time.
“You don’t need to replicate that, but you want to know where they were in their thinking,” he said.
The architecture students will bring plenty of energy and enthusiasm to town as they interact with residents, he said. They are hoping for a good dialogue as ideas for improvements are developed.
“They’re just sold on wanting to understand your city,” Rex said.
South Dakotans are more fortunate than people in communities in other states because their towns are still viable.
“West Texas towns are not any more,” he said. “There are no towns like Huron in west Texas.
“You’ve got an amazing building stock here,” Rex said. “They may have for sale signs on it, they may be boarded up right now, but for some reason, somehow in the course of the history of the city you haven’t torn it down like a lot of places have.”
He also said the city has been very prosperous over the years.
“When you look at Brookings and Mitchell, those were towns that grew into cities by accident,” he said. “This one, like Aberdeen, was meant to be a city all along.”
Rex said the architecture department is trying to hire someone who can focus on historic preservation. When that happens, that individual will be brought in on the Huron partnership as well.
“You’re very, very lucky to have the building stock that you have here,” Rex said. “I hope you all hang on to them.”For the complete article see the 03-15-2013 issue.
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