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History of Department of Architecture

SDSU and Architecture

The candidate professional program is delivered by the Department of Architecture (DoArch) in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences of South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. South Dakota is one of the last five states in the USA to not have an accredited architecture program. This is the first new university architecture program to begin instruction on the Upper Great Plains in a century. 

South Dakota State University is the state's public land grant institution. It is the largest university in the state. SDSU is set in Brookings, a quintessential college town. The university attracts most of its students from in the state, southwestern Minnesota, western Iowa, and northeastern Nebraska. Brookings is a charming and supportive community with a strong original town plan and good connections with the university. The college town is midway along the state's eastern border with Minnesota and one hour north of the state's largest city, Sioux Falls. Brookings and the university were started simultaneously and have grown in a very supportive and symbiotic relationship of 24,000 citizens and 12,725 students.

SDSU was founded in 1881 as Dakota Agricultural College. Early on it advertised itself as a "practical" and agricultural education to the children of the rapid prairie settlement and fueled the founding of a new state. From 1893 to 1941, its student newspaper was called the Industrial Collegian. The ubiquitous Briggs and Stratton light air-cooled gasoline engine was developed in labs at SDSU. For SDSU there was a very muted mid-20th century boom and only in the last 15 years has it grown from a small land grant school to a Research I university. Because this growth has come very recently, the institution has retained some aspects of a vocational and polytechnic heritage that are very beneficial to a haptic and practice-based architectural education. SDSU balances the land grant mission of training well-rounded minds and its charge to train the technologists and professionals of this agrarian and mineral extraction state. With well-regarded professional programs in nursing, pharmacy, dairy science, plant sciences, bio-chemistry, industrial management, graphic design, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering, SDSU still reflects its industrious roots in a continued tradition of student-focused, hands-on teaching coupled with a strong foundation in the humanities and sciences.  

Setting the nascent Department of Architecture (DoArch) among the 17 departments of the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, which is the largest and most diverse college on campus, isolates the program for development separate from established civil engineering, landscape architecture, interior design, visual arts, and construction management. Discussion of coupling programs into a larger design community, a Faculty of Design, have already begun but the formative first years are being spent in the open but demanding academic landscape of the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences.  This structure gives the program space to develop an independent identity for architecture on the SDSU campus. It also means that the architecture program will adhere to the most thorough set of liberal arts academic graduation requirements on the campus. Being set into the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences holds DoArch curriculum to a strong liberal arts educational standard but gives DoArch space to explore and grow the program professionally. 

SD and Architecture 

There are currently 108 registered architects residing in South Dakota. Their practices are concentrated in Sioux Falls and along the I-29 corridor on the Eastern edge of the state (adjacent to Minnesota and Iowa) and around Rapid City and the Black Hills in the western most quarter of the state (adjacent to Wyoming and Montana) but there are one or more professional firms practicing in most of the small cities with a population of 20,000 or more spread across the state. The architects of South Dakota are, by and large, general practitioners and no firm in the state usually employs more than ten registered architects in an office at a time. Architecture in South Dakota is a public profession and the state's architects hold key municipal and institutional roles in their respective cities. Their professional practices work as cultural anchors in their communities. The architects of South Dakota are versatile small to medium-sized architectural and A/E professionals based in micropolitan industrial / agrarian communities. 


Architecture as a technical discipline has been peripherally taught and a professional program has been discussed over many years at SDSU. Subjects in architectural engineering were taught in the College of Agriculture up through the 1960s but only as parts of courses on farm structures and never as a stand-alone minor or major. 

In 2007, SDSU's current President, David Chicoine, came to Brookings to lead SDSU. President Chicoine, an economist by training and professorship, made the addition of architectural education an early initiative of his university presidency. He came to SDSU from the University Illinois at Champaign-Urbana where he was a senior university administrator and saw up close the role of a strong architecture program in the academy.  

Early on President Chicoine's desire to start an architecture program at SDSU was met by the equally strong interests of Mr. Jerome J. "Jerry" Lohr, a philanthropic engineering alumnus. Mr. Lohr has had a long and successful career in engineering, education, construction, real estate development, and as a vinter in Central California. Mr. Lohr is a strong supporter of the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo College of Architecture and Environmental Design and its balance of Construction Management, Architecture, Planning, Landscape Architecture, and Architectural Engineering through a collaborative "Learning by Doing" model of education familiar to SDSU. Parallel to Mr. Lohr and the university's efforts came four enthusiastic and forward thinking professional practices in Sioux Falls with diverse backgrounds and an equal enthusiasm for starting a professional program here in South Dakota: 

Architecture Incorporated - a well-diversified design firm of architects and interior designers founded in 1976 with offices in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, SD. 

Koch + Hazard Architects - a professional service firm founded in 1961 and set in Sioux Falls, SD with 25 architects, planners, and interior designers and a strong tradition of research in practice. 

Perspective - a studio based professional practice of architects and interior designers started in 2007 with a strong support of the arts and an office in Sioux Falls, SD. 

TSP - an A/E/C organization with offices located in MN, IA, SD, NE, and WY founded by Harold Spitznagel in 1930 offering architecture, engineering, interior design, and construction services. 

In May 2009, through the coordination of the South Dakota State University Foundation and Mr. Steve Erpenbach, these four professional firms came together with Mr. Lohr in their interest to form the Architecture Founder's Group. This Founder's Group has provided an unprecedented financial surety to see that the program gets off the ground and up to full speed with very generous gifts that amount to a primary start up fund. Their professional input and advisory role is a vital rudder for the program. 

The College of Arts & Sciences' administration, under the leadership of former Dean Jerry Jorgensen, has borne the vast load of working with initial program consultants; pressing this proposal through the state Board of Regents; finding the first faculty member; recruiting and advising the first crop of architecture students; and supporting the program in its first year while it finds its sea legs in the academy. 

During 2009 Dean Jorgensen and the college administration commissioned Prof. Sharon Matthews, a former NAAB Executive Director, to consult and produce an initial projection of whether and how a program at SDSU could achieve accreditation, asked Dean Roger Schluntz of the University of New Mexico to review and comment on Prof. Matthew's proposals, began aggressively consulting with the Founder's Group about the future of the program, and struck a committee from both the SDSU academic community and the SD professional community to hire the department's first professor and new administrative Head. DoArch's interdisciplinary model for 3.5 years of professional education in a six year academic program comes out of Prof. Matthew's plan. Professor Schluntz pointed out a few areas where the program will have to be particularly careful as DoArch progresses and he heartily endorsed Prof. Matthew's plans. The university hired Prof. Brian Rex, the Associate Dean for Academics at Texas Tech's College of Architecture, as their first tenured associate professor and department head effective June 2010. 

DoArch is directly charged to repopulate the graying professional population of the state and region by both the university and the professional community. SDSU expects DoArch to be a catalytic and energetic addition to the campus community, to meet its academic standards, to reach out to surrounding communities to provide service and advocacy where possible, to manage the department's affairs professionally, and to teach to the highest standard and the betterment of its students. Beyond these things, the Founder's Group and SD professionals charge us with keeping these students here in South Dakota. The Founders have always pressed that the development of the program be framed f rst and foremost by sustainable thinking and practices, collaborative thinking, and an understanding of the communities and practices of SD through direct engagement. 

The way SDSU trains the future architects of South Dakota reflects this beginning. Building on a strong culture of design practice for the public good, enhancing professional education in the academy, and a need to replenish the professional ranks in the state; professional and university leadership coalesced in their interests to form and support the new Department of Architecture and instruction began in Fall 2010.