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The city is a multi-sensory encounter.


“Architecture is actually a lot better than it looks”. Or so said Cecil Elliott, former department chair at NDSU. It put me in mind of the elephant described by five blind men.

An early exercise in the Agincourt Project asked students to map a place — where they live, where they grew up, a favorite place they visited as children — but to map it as an experience other than visual. How would they describe their hometown as an acoustic encounter? Or an olfactory one? Many of my childhood memories involve the smells of home: the Argo Plant of the Corn Products Co. (a stench that had become so familiar we didn’t notice it); a local bakery run by a Hungarian refugee from the ’56 uprising; and if the wind was wrong, the aroma of the sewage treatment plant across the river. If it were an acoustic map, the examples would generate something quite different.

Pavement in Midwestern American small towns have become fairly uniform. But at one time it might have varied from one block to the next, both sidewalks and street pavement. We’re fortunate to own 2,000 Purington Pavers, manufactured at Galesburg, Illinois during the years 1890-1930. Hundreds of small Midwestern communities paved their heavily-traveled business districts with these durable monsters — each of which weighs about eight pounds!

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