Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa, the town that time forgot and geography misplaced: a collaborative exploration in place-making
Agincourt is a town of about 30,000 people, the seat of Fennimore County in northwestern Iowa. Founded in 1853, its 160-year history has been shaped by the same factors that influenced most Midwestern towns from the Appalachians to the Great Plains: nurtured by agriculture and railroads, conflicted by war and social change, immersed in dramatic economic and technological forces, Agincourt may not seem very different from towns of your own acquaintance. But don’t look for it in your Rand-McNally highway atlas, because Agincourt isn’t there.
What we call the Agincourt Project has been a broad academic exercise in the fundamental processes that make communities. Now in its seventh year, the Project’s seminars and studios have engaged students of architecture, landscape architecture and art; faculty, graduates and friends; professionals, craftspeople and others in an unwieldy dynamic collaboration, not always sure where it will lead. Anyone can play in the sandbox of its history, design any building or landscape, where only two rules apply: 1) you must be true to the circumstances of time and place, understand the socio-economic framework of the chosen era, and be guided by the prevailing technologies; and 2) you must also tell a story, describe the characters involved, identify their motives and delineate their interactions within the larger context.
What has come from this is a huge body of work—buildings, landscapes, fine and decorative arts, music, and writing in various forms—comprised the 2007 Agincourt Sesqui-Centennial exhibit at the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead, Minnesota, celebrating 150 years of community history. Today we are working toward “Agincourt Homecoming”, a second opportunity to explore the relationship between narrative and place that will become another exhibit in the Spring of 2015.
We hope to see you there.
Ronald H.L.M. Ramsay
Ron Ramsay, a Chicago native and the instigator and “curator” of the Agincourt Project, is an Associate Professor or Architecture at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota, where he has taught since 1971. Ramsay’s BArch came from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, and the University of Texas at Austin granted him an MArch in 1992. He has also done further graduate work in American History toward a PhD at the University of Delaware. Professor Ramsay teaches both design studios (not all of which involve Agincourt, by the way), the undergraduate architectural history survey sequence, and seminars touching on topics such as the Progressive Movement, the Social Gospel and Early Modernism. He has also been an active proponent for historic preservation, working with public schools and retirement communities on greater popular awareness of architectural history. He and Prof Steve Martens have recently co-authored The Buildings of North Dakota, a volume in the “Buildings of the United States” series being published by the Society of Architectural Historians; the North Dakota volume will be in print in the Summer of 2014.
In addition to the Agincourt Project, Ramsay’s research energies are currently directed toward 1) “American Gothic: the life and career of William Halsey Wood”, and 2) “Building the Social Gospel: American religious architecture 1880-1920”.
In May 2013, Ramsay presented The Agincourt Project at the UCDA Design Education Summit, at Chattanooga, Tennessee, annual meeting of the University and College Designers Association.