Site buildings on the edge of “transitional zones,”

such as the edges between flat plains and rolling

landforms or at the edge of (rather than within)

riparian areas. There are two basic types of sites:

• Building compounds that create protective

enclosure and human scale. Compounds

create their own windbreaks and shade.

• A single consolidated structure that should

be set back from major roads. It can be set

against a landform so building mass merges

with the horizon.


Figure of flat plain profile:

Building set back at an extended distance from road.


Figure of rolling plain profile:

Building set into the edge of the hill.


Riparian zone profile:

Building set at edge of established growth of a riparian area.


Figure of building cluster with wind-break


Figure of building set back from road and low plants providing a visual base for the building.



Buildings and structures of this province cannot

be easily screened by vegetation or landforms.

Poorly designed structures are visible for miles.

Structures should not overwhelm or dominate

their natural settings. Yet buildings for public

visitation should not seem insignificant within

their landscapes.

• Build structures that are low profiled and

layered horizontally upon the landscape.

• Make buildings compact to retain heat and

conserve energy.

• Avoid tall, stand-alone buildings—they look

awkward when set into vast landscapes.

• Use landscape elements, such as native

grasses, to help relate the building scale to

the sweeping landscape.

• Use porches to reduce the appearance of

mass in buildings.


Figures demonstrating inappropriate Massing and Scaling:

Isolated, tall structure on a plains landscape and

Small structures sprinkled on the landscape.


Figure of entry sequence to public facility:

Main road


Landform screening

Entry point

Parking beyond




Figure of the relationship of the scale of details to the scale of the landscape.


Figure of grasses defining a finer scale landscape.


Figure of an acceptable cluster of buildings in a horizontal grouping.


Figure of clustered structures conforming to the landscape.


Figure of a low structure set into the landform.


Figure of layered, horizontal lines fitting into the landscape.



Roof elements include the roof itself, eaves,

dormers, skylights, and other features that

penetrate the roof.

• Roofs and gables should have a low or flat pitch.

• Forms should be simple, with continuous

horizontal lines.

• The roof should appear solidly connected to the


• Porches are desirable.

• Moderate overhangs should be used to provide

summer shade and allow for passive solar

heating in winter.

• Roofs should be made of smooth to finegrained

materials using medium-toned colors.

• Roof materials should reflect heat without

creating glare.

• Roofs should slope to withstand high winds.


Figures of inappropriate elements such as:

Excessive overhangs and

Complex roofs


Figure of appropriate element:

Simple, horizontal roof


Figure of porch element reducing apparent mass of a building.

Figure of porch as a transition element and protection



• Build straight walls, although some Native

American buildings, such as Mandan lodges,

featured curved walls.

• Construct walls from a single material without

a strongly articulated separate base.

• Use light frame walls predominantly.

• Consider using rammed earth or hay bales

for exterior walls.

• Integrate the base with a berm.

Walls should appear anchored to the

land or rooted as though they grow

from the land. This can be accomplished


• Change of plane.

• Change of material.

• Use of uniform window sills.


Figures comparing a building with a heavy, inappropriate base with one rooted in the land.


Figure of walls used to emphasize the horizontal:

Fine-grained vertical wall

Strong horizontal wall

Massive earthen/masonry wall GREAT



• Make windows more extensive on the south side.

• Align windows to create a horizontal pattern.

• Save energy and create a pleasant work

environment by using clerestory windows to

provide “daylighting” or allow natural light to

illuminate interiors.

• Make entries obvious to first-time visitors.

They can be marked and sheltered by a porch,

which can double as interpretive space or as

an outdoor work and meeting space. Porches

provide a transition between the intimate

indoors and the vast outdoors.

• Make windows energy-efficient through the use

of low-E and triple-glazed glass. They should

be operable to provide natural ventilation.

• Include vestibules or air locks for entries

making them energy efficient.


Figures of comparing inappropriate random openings with an appropriate horizontal sets of windows.



• Enclose rather than expose structural elements,

such as beams and trusses. This provides for

greater energy efficiency, lower maintenance

costs and procedures, and clean architectural


• Make buildings lightly framed but well-insulated.


Figure of thermal mass in earthen structure.


Figure of a light frame structure with structure elements not visible.



• Use a fine texture and nonreflective building


• Avoid such materials as massive boulders

and heavy logs and timbers, which are not

native to the Great Plains.

• Use suitable “native” materials, which include

walls made from rammed earth, straw bale,

and smaller-scaled sandstone.

Suitable manufactured materials for siding


• Wood lap siding.

• Stucco.

• Corrugated metal (for roofs and siding).

• Poured concrete.

• Split-face concrete block.

• Finely detailed precast concrete panels.

Acceptable roof materials include:

• Metal.

• Composition shingles (thick,

architectural grade).

• Concrete tile.

• Sod.


Figure of a range of roof materials including:



Composition and




• Study the landscape for cues.

• Use darker colors at the base of walls and

lighter colors for the tops of walls.

• Use darker colors or earth tones (buff, tan,

ochre) for expanses of walls, with brighter

accents such as orange, sienna, green, or

white for trim.

• Use neutral roof colors between light and dark,

avoiding white or reflective materials.


Figure of inappropriate color use of dark tone roof and medium tones at the bottom and

figure of appropriate color of medium tone roof and darker tones at bottom.


Figure of plants to study for color cues:

• Light brown and yellow

• Grass greens

• Light and pale yellow highlights

• Straw yellows

• Pale violets and blues


Figure of shading with a west side trellis

Figure of shading with a south side fixed overhang

Figure of deciduous vegetation located to west for summer shading and winter solar gain

Figure of a solar chimney

Figure of topography used to shelter north winds




Chapter 4.5 Table of Contents

Reader’s Guide