Constructing a regional building culture in Greater Yellowstone : potentials and limitations




Swearingen, Marshall John

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What are the potentials and limitations of constructing a regional building culture in and around Bozeman, Montana? Starting with the theories of architectural regionalism, this thesis takes a pragmatic approach to synthesizing several topics—history, geography, technology, economy—and situating them within Bozeman’s specific context in order to assess the implications of constructing a regional building culture. This potential shift is viewed primarily as technological, but with the understanding that technology is not just objects but also a set of practices and knowledge embedded in the co-evolving structures of society. The main outcome of the research is therefore recommended points of action for builders, designers, and policymakers that would encourage the development of regional building practices, which are shown to have technological and economic benefits when compared with universal technologies. Limitations are discussed in terms of barriers to realizing these benefits, as well as possible problems and contradictions.

To start, the various discourses of architectural regionalism are summarized to provide a theoretical footing. Next comes an overview of the history of Bozeman’s building culture, with an emphasis on how universal technologies and their related cultural assumptions have obscured the potential for regional building practices. This leads to the question of defining the region, which is taken up first in an analytical way, then more concretely by using geographic information systems (GIS) to map the region’s climate. Analysis of climatic variables suggests technological practices that could reduce consumption of fossil-fuel energy. These are discussed conjointly with a critique of regional materials and an assessment of how these regionally appropriate alternatives might emerge within conventional technological systems. The economic implications of regional technologies are discussed in terms of benefits and draw-backs. Finally, all these findings are put within the context of information gathered through interviews, which leads to concluding recommendations for action and critical reflections.




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