Made to last: Places take on greater meaning as they evolve with the community

This piece is presented by TSP.

Before Amazon, there was the EROS Data Center. The online retailer has created a nationwide frenzy among cities vying to become the site of its next headquarters. In the late 1960s, the federal government set off a similar race when it announced plans for a satellite-imaging program.

A 1996 addition to EROS Data Center

The time was “right and urgent to apply space technology towards the solution of many pressing natural resources problems being compounded by population and industrial growth,” according to then-Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. The Sioux Falls Development Foundation — led by its first president, Dave Stenseth — secured the win and brought the EROS Data Center to a site near Garretson.

Ron Mielke

“Overall, it reminds me a little of the work we’re doing today at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment,” said TSP principal Ron Mielke, who worked as a project engineer on the U.S. Geological Survey facility.

In the decades since TSP and partners at FKGB designed the original EROS building, Mielke’s architecture, engineering and planning firm has returned to make several updates and renovations. That includes a significant addition in 1996.

“It’s always new technology, new science, new ways of finding things that work,” he said.

Forward-thinking solutions

Mielke and his colleagues at TSP pride themselves in developing solutions that fit clients today, yet are forward-thinking and flexible enough to last. In Sioux Falls, the legacy firm’s imprint is seen in the business community and on college campuses, as well as at churches and civic buildings. It’s not unusual for designers to reimagine spaces their predecessors created. Augustana University’s Froiland Science Complex, planned in collaboration with SmithGroupJJR to expand and substantially renovate the Gilbert Science Center, is the latest example.

The Church of St. Mary’s timeless design has endured for nearly 60 years.

Time-tested designs serve their communities for generations and witness the full range of life’s milestones. Since its completion in 1958, the Church of St. Mary has been home to the central Sioux Falls Catholic parish of the same name. Its instantly recognizable sanctuary wall ― featuring a mosaic of Mary and her infant son ― appears in decades of family photographs.

The core building remains virtually untouched today, even with a 1995 parish hall addition that preserves the church’s former exterior wall. The design won several national awards, but the architect’s real accomplishment was creating a place that — almost six decades later — still feels like home to its faith community.

Enhancing earlier designs

Another TSP original, Augustana University’s Mikkelsen Library, serves as the “campus living room.” Finished in 1955, the library doubled in size in 1980. In 2009, a TSP team led by interior designer Karen Mutschelknaus and principal/senior architect Paul Boerboom wrapped up a thoughtful but intense renovation to reorganize and refresh the building with sustainable features.

The original exterior of the Mikkelsen Library at Augustana.

That latest work included a glass stair-tower addition to solve circulation and safety issues.

The library’s new look

Library director Ronelle Thompson describes it as “a beacon of light at night” that gives the building a distinctive element and provides a larger campus connection.

“The north reading room of the original building is a glorious place to study or read,” she said. “On the coldest winter day, it is filled with natural light, and the view of the night sky is simply magical. The 2009 addition of a bamboo ceiling and a brick-and-limestone fireplace wall with exquisite wood reliefs made this space even more spectacular.”

Rediscovering an icon’s good bones

Artistic touches such as colorful frescoes and granite carvings also are an integral part of a true Sioux Falls landmark: City Hall at Dakota Avenue and Ninth Street. The project was TSP founder Harold Spitznagel’s first major commission. The Commission Room — used for City Council meetings until late 2001 — is a near-identical match to photos from City Hall’s 1936 public opening.

Extending City Hall’s useful life to serve a growing population has required innovative upgrades. The structure’s good bones housed a series of hallways and small spaces that prized private offices, not collaborative workspaces. Numerous renovations through the years divided the building’s larger areas, creating a mix of disconnected layouts, materials and room purposes. TSP again partnered with city decision-makers for a 2014 space-needs study and followed with phased renovations on the ground level and second floor.

The ground floor of City Hall before and after renovations

Removing most of the drywall on those levels maximized square footage in the existing footprint and restored interior sight lines. That created more space for numerous departments, a much-improved employee lounge and small breakout rooms to foster teamwork.

The City Hall break room before and after renovations

For the second floor, Sean Ervin and Michelle Klobassa — both principals and senior architects at TSP — collaborated with Mutschelknaus and city staff to transform underused lobby space into functional areas.

“We were actually able to push out the central corridor wall to capture an additional 500 square feet of office space,” said Central Services director Sue Quanbeck Etten.

Glass module walls allow natural light to flow through entire levels instead of being limited to rooms along the perimeter.

“Our ground-floor customer service counter is now a focal point and very easy to find,” Quanbeck Etten said.

Even better, the new layout allows staff to help more than one person at a time — increasing efficiency for staff and creating a better experience for citizens.

“Needless to say, we are very pleased with the results.”

While working on the second floor, crews discovered a 50-year-old newspaper clipping tucked inside a wall. Even though the newsprint was crumpled and torn, city staff recognized a face in one of the faded photos. There, on Page 5 of the Jan. 27, 1965, edition was the building’s designer himself: Harold Spitznagel. Yet more proof that great designers survive the test of time.

See it for yourself

City of Sioux Falls renovation ribbon-cutting

4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6

City Hall: 224 W. Ninth St. (Ninth & Dakota Avenue)

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Made to last: Places take on greater meaning as they evolve with the community

These forward-thinking original designs were meant to last and have evolved with their owners’ changing needs.

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