A collaborative design studio at South Dakata State University explored the use of precast concrete as part of its use of collaborative design workflows as a method of exploring hands-on making processes. The work in this studio is funded in large part through a PCI Foundation grant and with assistance from Gage Brothers in Sioux Falls, SD. Students designed the fabrication methods through which to explore the material properties of precast concrete. This exploration focused on “designing the construction” of a public space at a vacant lot, called the “Kansas Mall,” at 246 Dakota Avenue South in Huron, SD.
The studio is lead by Assistant Professor Federico Garcia Lammers and Associate Professor and Department Head Brian T. Rex. This is the fifth in a line of five sequential pre-professional architectural design studios that constitute the backbone of the curriculum in architectural studies. In this course the focus is understanding and operating in design practice through the processes of material engagement and fabrication, a precursor to making buildings. The best way to learn architecture is never “practicing practice” but learning specific techniques and concepts through focused instruction. The course is rooted in teaching principles of guided inquiry and questioning through intensive hands-on making.
The Kansas Mall project will be located in downtown Huron, South Dakota. The Mall is a vacant urban infill site linking Dakota Avenue and a public parking lot heavily used by movie theater patrons and downtown workers, visitors and shoppers. The site is roughly 4000 square feet, stretching 165 feet from Dakota Avenue to the parking lot located on Kansas Avenue. The focus of the design project is to create a series of public spaces that connect the ends of the site and provide ways of engaging with the existing elements of the historic buildings surrounding the site. The materiality of the project will combine the lowness of the prairie landscape with two precast concrete walls, a long wall and a tall wall. These precast walls will be inscribed with a 1916 Sanborn Map of the city of Huron and operate as a spatial and historical reference physically unfolded on the site.