Chapter 581: Q & Arch [02] feat. Real Architecture Workshop (Part 1)


In this long awaited edition of Q. and A.rch we'll be featuring the first part of an informational session regarding RAW (Real Architecture Workshop) Dakota, an adventuresome design/build class being held this July 26th-August 6th in Custer, South Dakota.


I'm going to feature a little bit of material from the website to get past all the big logistics and then feature some answers from some of the gents heading up this endeavor, three of which I attended graduate school with at the University of Minnesota (Justin Merkovich, Adam Riddle, and Nate Steuerwald) as well as head honcho Paul Neseth, co-founder and President of Locus Architecture, an award-winning Minneapolis based architecture firm.

"RAW is the realization of a long time dream of Paul's to help young architects and students gain critical real-life design and building skills that help them become better architects. Paul will lead RAW Dakota, assisted by many able pioneers."

Paul led a group which featured a number of his compatriots in this endeavor during May of 2007 to do a shade pavilion here in Biloxi at John Henry Beck Park. Here's a picture with all of the folks from the U of MN that participated:


Anyhow, please check out the website for more details, sign up and check them out on Facebook or their website:

Here we go with the FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. Expect the less frequently asked questions in our next installment...

What is RAW Design Build?
RAW Design Build is a unique firm that brings the creativity, enthusiasm and talent of young architects and students to design and build remarkable client solutions.

What is RAW Dakota?
The project site in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the home of many future RAW projects.

What is the Abode workshop?
The first (of many) project workshops on the RAW Dakota site scheduled for July 26-Aug 6, 2010.

What does RAW stand for?
Real Architecture Workshop.

How are RAW projects selected?
Very carefully. We look for clients who share our vision to give young architects the opportunity to grow and develop new skills and we look for projects that offer a unique setting or challenge, highlight progressive environmental and social principles, and are manageable in scope.

What do I do if I have a project that I want RAW to design and build?
We are thrilled that you are interested in engaging RAW and a group of young architects and students to bring their passion and desire to your problem, need or project. We are happy to talk to you about our design/build services and discuss how we can help. Please fill out the contact form and well get back to you right away.

Who is RAW for?
RAW workshops are designed for young architects and students who are looking to test their limits - creatively and physically - and use their skills to design solutions, build better communities and promote social change.

What are the eligibility requirements to participate in RAW?
RAW Architecture Workshops are intended for young architects and architecture students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program. RAW Design Build does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, or national or ethic origin in admission to the program.

Do I need any previous client or construction experience?
No prior experience working in an architecture firm or on a construction site is needed.

How far in advance should I register for RAW Dakota?
For our inaugural year there is just one two-week workshop with 12 spots. We encourage you to register as early as possible because of the limited enrollment. Once we fill we can place you on a waiting list in case there is a cancellation. If space becomes available, we will accept registrations up until 1 week before the workshop begins. Get on our mailing list so you can get advance notice of the workshop schedule for next year. Enrollment will begin in the spring of 2011 for the summer 2011.

For whom are we building the project?
Every RAW project will be for the benefit of a client, whether it is a community group, non-profit, local public school or private individual or business.Depending on the workshop, most project work will take place on or near the client's site, and we will provide transportation to and from the site. RAW Dakota will design and build projects for Circle Z Ranch.

How much does RAW cost?
The cost of the two-week RAW Dakota Workshop, including meals and accommodations, is regularly $1,500. We are offering the workshop at the introductory rate of $1250. All meals, materials fees, activity and rental fees are included, with the exception of a bike rental fee (approx $50/day) for occasional group mountain biking. There may be sufficient bikes on-site but is recommended that, if possible, you bring your own mountain bike to the workshop.

Does my workshop have a materials fee?
No, the Abode workshop does not have a materials fee. A materials fee may be charged for future workshops.

What is the payment schedule, and what if I need to cancel the workshop?
Once you have received notice of acceptance, we require a non-refundable $500 deposit within 1 week of notice of acceptance in the workshop. The balance of $750 is due no later than June 30th. If you cancel your enrollment at least two weeks prior to the workshop start date, we will refund all payments less the $500 deposit. No refunds will be given for cancellations after the 2-week deadline.

Can I earn college credit?
Although the curriculum is in line with design/build courses taught by Paul at the University of Minnesota, RAW Design Build is currently not affiliated with an accredited architecture school and does not offer college credit at this time. However, you may appeal to your home institution backed by instructor recommendations and workshop description. We are happy to help students with any of the above processes. All credits are transferable only at the discretion of the receiving school.

Do I need health insurance?
Personal safety at RAW is a top priority. Each student is required to carry personal health insurance to cover them in case of accident. This request is usually satisfied by parent's insurance, personal or school-based policy.

Do I need a car?
Not necessarily, though it certainly helps simplify things. Getting to and from the airport, or bus stations, will require taxi service or we may be able to arrange to pick you up. Please contact us for more info. Once you arrive we will make sure to get you to and from all RAW related activities. We have loaner bikes and are willing to give lifts in to Custer, if needed.

How do I get to RAW Dakota without a car?
The nearest airport is Rapid City, SD (RAP), about 50 miles away. Depending on your arrival time, we may be able to arrange pick up. Otherwise we can help you arrange for cab service between the airport and the RAW Dakota site. Taxis and shuttles from the airport to Custer are available for approximately $80 pp. The major car rental companies also service the airport and there is Greyhound bus service to Rapid City as well.

Will I be able to communicate with the outside world?
Cell phone reception is sketchy on the site and good in the town of Custer. There is internet access, including wireless, at the Circle Z offices and you are welcome to bring your own laptop.

When should I arrive? And when do I leave?
Please plan to arrive in Custer City, SD by 3pm on July 25th, 2010. The workshop will officially conclude with a celebration on the evening of Friday, August 6th 2010. You can plan to leave starting on Saturday. See the application form for a tentative schedule. A more detailed schedule will be provided prior to the workshop start.

How do meals work?
Meals are provided and included in the cost of tuition. Meals will be primarily available on-site in a camp-style format with some meals arranged in town. Students will participate in meal preparation and clean-up, as needed. You have the option of eating off-site at your cost.

Can I bring my dog?

No dogs are allowed at RAW sites (or pets of any kind). There are a couple of kennels and a doggie daycare nearby. Please inquire with them directly for more information.

Where do I sleep?

This is where you really get a taste of the RAW experience! There are no permanent structures on the site at this time, aside from an outhouse. Plan on bringing a tent, rain tarp and sleeping bag and mat and camping out during your stay on site. In the case of inclement weather or emergency, alternative accommodations are available.

Can my family/friend stay with me even if they are not taking a workshop?
No, unfortunately not. We have limited facilities and cannot accommodate additional guests.

What should I bring?
Students will participate in a full schedule of design and construction activities and should be prepared to bring appropriate equipment and materials to complete the workshop. Most workshop activities, as well as accommodations, will take place on an undeveloped, primitive site. RAW may also include rigorous, physical and/or outdoor activities, including mountain biking, rock climbing and horseback riding, etc. You will receive a detailed list of required and suggested equipment upon acceptance into the program.

What is the surrounding area like?
RAW Dakota is located 3 miles SW of Custer City, SD on the private land of Circle Z Ranch. The setting of Custer City makes it unique. It is surrounded by thick forests of Ponderosa Pine and contains outcroppings of granite stone. Small and quaint, with a population of roughly 2,000, Custer City offers many motels, campgrounds, restaurants and attractions, making it an ideal base camp for touring in the southern Black Hills. Within a 30-minute drive from Custer you can visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Jewel Cave and Wind Cave National Parks, and many areas within the 73,000-acre Custer State Park. Custer City is located just south of the geological center of the Black Hills. Harney Peak, at 7,242 feet and the nearby Needles rock formations, form the core of an area created by the rise and fall of the earth's crust millions of years ago. Surrounding this core are rings of sedimentary rocks - sandstones, limestones, and shales - which have allowed for the formation of well-known caves such as Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.