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Current Work

CRD brings design as a problem-solving process to rural issues. Design is a methodology for integrating issues to resolve a problem, and as an interdisciplinary effort, it can bring synergism to the creative process.

Current Work

Digital Towns

CRD, as part of a collaborative team with University of Minnesota Extension, is pursuing a community-based research effort through a pilot project that seeks to increase community capacity by enhancing rural citizens' access to digital geographic information and mapping tools. Using the free version of Google SketchUp and Google Earth the team instructs community members on how to identify important community assets, create 3D models of them, and post them out to Google Earth. The goal is to increase the community's online exposure, enhance economic development possibilities, and to build social capital especially among young residents.

A Master Plan for the Wadena County Fairgrounds and Fair

CRD is assisting Wadena County and the Wadena County Agricultural Society to develop a master plan for the reconstruction of the Wadena County Fair Grounds that was nearly destroyed by the June 2010 tornado. CRD will facilitate updating the mission statement for the fair and the fair grounds as well as develop alternative conceptual designs for rebuilding the fair grounds. Update - this project has been completed. View the final report and conceptual plans (PDF).

Food System Research

The Southeast Foodshed Planning Initiative (SEFPI), managed by the Southeast Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, connects the communities of Southeast Minnesota with cutting edge research of the University of Minnesota to enhance the local food system. The Center for Rural Design is collaborating with the Foodshed Analysis Team to craft a Geographical Information Systems foodshed analysis to better understand where and what edible is food produced, what the average diet consists of, and how and where can local foods production be increased.

CRD's other areas of investigation in food systems is a research and community–based assessment of local policy and planning practice related to agricultural land and labor in Southeast Minnesota.

Rural Design Certificate

CRD is pursuing the development of a Rural Design Certificate. Available online, the Certificate will be globally accessible and presented in enroll-anytime class modules. Designing to meet the issues of climate change; adequate food supply and safety; renewable energy; community sustainability; quality of life; and human, animal, and environmental health in rural areas around the world will be at the forefront of the Rural Design Certificate.

In March of 2010, a survey was available to provide input into the beginning stages of the Rural Design Certificate development. Thanks for all that responded. The April 2010, results of the survey are available here (PDF).

An International Rural Design Organization

CRD is pursuing the creation of an organization dedicated to conceptualizing, defining, and positioning rural design as a new, interdisciplinary field of inquiry and practice capable of addressing rural problems comprehensively, scale appropriately, and thus, effectively. The organization will foster interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration for the continuing development of rural design, and will function as a think tank / clearing house to identify areas of common interest, share resources and ideas, and collaborate on important rural issues.

Sustainable Animal Agriculture Facilities Research

CRD is part of an interdisciplinary team pursuing research that will generate integrated performance design guidelines for sustainable development of animal agriculture facilities.

Creating the Research Foundation of Rural Design

CRD is pursuing the creation and definition of a research foundation to support the new field of Rural Design. Rural regions have been largely ignored by the design schools and professions of architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and urban design.

Rural design is a rapidly emerging design discipline offering a new approach for meeting the needs of rural communities and the challenges of a global future. It analyzes and integrates information through the lens of spatial awareness and the problem-solving methodology of design. To be effective and relevant, this new discipline must be founded on solid research, and practice must be based on data-driven evidence that will result in transformational changes.

"Rural Design: A New Design Discipline"

The book "Rural Design: A New Design Discipline" will be the first on rural design in the English language, and outlines Dewey Thorbeck's professional and academic background with rural architecture and why he became concerned about rural America's future. It is oriented towards academics, students, and design professionals, but also contains useful information for all people involved with rural communities, agriculture, small towns, and rural regions.