By Troy Bishop & Rustin Hall
April 4, 2023
Working with small communities is an experience unlike any other. With these projects, architecture becomes a vehicle to learn about the people and stories behind the communities. We pull newfound inspiration, tackle new challenges, and are pushed to innovation, all while listening and learning along the way. Firm-wide expertise grows while absorbing teachings from smaller community cultures. A deep-rooted pride and history encompass each of these projects, motivating us to perform and achieve nothing shy of excellence. Work within smaller communities is what influences and fuels ALSC.
Inspiration in these communities varies from what is typically seen in urban environments. This process frequently reveals an awareness of different resources, vegetation, and materiality, which often trickles influence back into our work with bigger urban projects. We focus on designing a building through the eyes of the community members instead of through the lens and expertise brought from Spokane. Learning these rich histories inspires us to authentically capture and produce them as a collaborative effort in the form of lasting architecture. Learning about their inspiration often inspires us in return.
With smaller communities, the importance of capturing history is vital. They want their stories told, and we want to be the ones to help them tell it. This can be done through something as literal as a display of graphics or can take form through specific design elements that reflect the people and surrounding environment. When possible, we like to celebrate local material quality and utilize historical elements, such as Washington timber and clay. Our goal is to remain as authentic to the client and their history as possible. We have learned that asking questions to generate great architecture and evoke listening are the greatest tools we can bring to a community. We let the place (all-encompassing) define the architecture. Ultimately, we have the ability to increase people’s pride in their heritage through design.
The biggest difference when designing rural is, the smaller the community, the bigger the reach. What we mean by this is, “Oftentimes an urban school’s range is limited to a defined area, restricting its reach to students. Whereas if you develop a school in a more rural area, such as Almira, surrounding communities within a 100 mile radius utilize it,” says one of ALSC’s principals, Troy Bishop. For these communities to take full advantage of a space, we see a consistent theme of developing multifunctional facilities intended for multigenerational use. We can change the community’s economy and future growth with just one project.
What sets us apart and makes us more accessible to small communities is that we are a client-centric, relationship-based firm. “We don’t market projects, we market people,” says one of our principals, Rustin Hall. We don’t have a specific design look because every client is different. 70% - 80% of our existing clients are repeat clients. As a result, we gain amazing relationships, amazing architecture, and the opportunity to work with clients again.
We are fond of smaller communities not only for the inspiration they provide, the history we learn, the outreach they have, and the relationships we establish, but also because of their appreciation and gratitude. They generally feel undeserving of great architecture due to their lack of experience and resources. It takes a sense of urgency to use creativity and band together to improve the community. ALSC has always been available and seeking for these small communities because of our grassroots business strategy. For us, what may start as a spot on the map, quickly develops into something much larger. “Once you travel to the location, talk to community members, learn the culture, establish relationships, and build a building, the community leaves a lasting impression, “adds Troy. Due to the enduring impact these communities have on us, our staff members make an effort to visit long after projects are completed. To know that their legacy will live on for generations through a piece of architecture is something truly wonderful to be a part of, and makes working with these communities so exceptional.