ARCHITECTURAL GUIDELINES FOR THE
GREAT PLAINS PROVINCE
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.
MASSING AND SCALE
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
Build structures that are low profiled and
layered horizontally upon the landscape.
Make buildings compact to retain heat and
Avoid tall, stand-alone buildingsthey 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:
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
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
Roofs should slope to withstand high winds.
Figures of inappropriate elements such as:
Excessive overhangs and
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
BASE AND WALLS
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
WINDOWS AND OPENINGS
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
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.
Corrugated metal (for roofs and siding).
Split-face concrete block.
Finely detailed precast concrete panels.
Acceptable roof materials include:
Composition shingles (thick,
Figure of a range of roof materials including:
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
Light and pale yellow highlights
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