In 2010 locals referred to Eureka Kansas as a “dying town”, not with anger or sadness, but with an eerie resolve.
It could be argued that Eureka was on a downward path for over a hundred years. In 2011, we met the Small Town Studio at Kansas State University, a group of graduate architects and their professor Todd Gabbard from the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design. They came for a visit and accepted the challenge of an in-depth study of our community. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge, unbridled enthusiasm, and unstoppable energy.
It was a unique opportunity for our community to see the intersection of architecture, community, and business. We started a conversation about possibilities and the process of architecture. That conversation continues three years later. The small town has always had a place and relevance in the culture of our nation. Now in this increasingly connected world, the small town is seeing a rebirth of interest and opportunity. The conversation has evolved from theory and process to real-world projects. It is now about the work and the finished product. The students are realizing that the process of architecture is becoming very personal.
It is hard to see the future, to determine the effects of this conversation. It is abundantly clear that the small town has a future and we have been reminded that we can dream.
The students that have come to Eureka over the years have gone on to new challenges throughout the country and are making their mark. I feel confident to say that they will remember their time in Eureka. We will remember them.
Afterword: Small Town Stewardship: Found Context, Built Solutions Small Town Studio | 2014-2015
Of the twelve students in Todd Gabbard’s 2012-2013 Small Town Studio, eight elected to join together to solve major problems for the city of Eureka, Kansas. An initial meeting with Eureka business owners, Larry Coleman and Matthew Wilson, revealed the breadth of problems the city faced, and gave the student designers a huge variety of potential projects.
However, these eight students needed an identity through which they could engage the community and update them on the design proposals. They also needed to give the community itself an identity, because doing so can be an important step towards changing a neighborhood’s image by “knitting the neighborhood back into the community” (Kirk, 2009, Community Transformation section, para. 4).
Having determined this, the students kicked off the Eureka revitalization efforts by creating a brand for both. The group of students became known as the Eureka Studio, which quickly became a widely-recognized name in Eureka. The logos were designed to be both easily recognizable and also to embody a sense of progress and change. Further, the City of Eureka logo includes Memorial Hall, a widely-recognized Eureka landmark and gathering place, and often considered one of the city’s fi nest buildings.
Engaging the community through a branded image is a start, but the newlyformed Eureka Studio was also given the opportunity to open a remote offi ce on Eureka’s Main Street. The space was designed to foster meeting and presentation needs for both the Eureka Studio and local Eureka organizations like the Eureka Foundation. It serves as
an offi ce space, presentation space, and outreach lab through which the Kansas State University students can connect with and update the community on design progress.
It is understood that the Eureka Studio will not accomplish everything necessary to give Eureka the power to reinvent itself in one academic year. The Eureka Studio identity and the Eureka Studio space on Main Street will help facilitate the transition of work from the founding members to the subsequent students in upcoming academic years.
Once the branding and community presence were established, the Eureka Studio set out to capture as much original data on the city as possible. This included the generation of a comprehensive digital city map, including over 2,700 structures and every street, alleyway, and sidewalk. On top of the base map, the studio developed several layers of city data,
Small Town Studio
Todd Gabbard, Josh Goldstein, Katherine Connelly, Winston Wolf, Vera Smirnova, Scott Davis, David Bartlett, Austin Walter, Justin Hodge, Bryce Cummings, Wesley Gross, Ramin Mahmoudian, John McLaughlin, Jamie Michel, Marissa Miller, Allison Parr Lee, Christy Phelps, Anthony Winkelman, Kelsey Angle, Kelsey Lind, Kelsey Helland, Kyle Cooper, Stephen Leask, Renee Bresson, Holly Bergan, Doninic Musso, Brian Temple, Brian Hampel, Laura Brown, Sofia Triantafullopoulos, Rudy Prins, Katie Guengerich, Zach Rostetter,Y ibo Cui, Kate Gladson, Zacob Karst, Gabriela Hernandez, Lance Brannock, Alyce Torrez, Amy Roether, Erin Pilcher, Celia White
We are a group of graduate architecture students from Kansas State University focused on bringing innovative design strategies to rural Kansas communities by assessing their needs and providing meaningful, socially conscious solutions.
In the process we have uncovered numerous extraordinary opportunities.