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Nicodemus National Historic Site
Nicodemus, KS

Kansas State University
College of Architecture, Planning, and Design

Team Leader
La Barbara James Wigfall, MCRP, Associate Professor in Department of Landscape Architecture / Regional and Community Planning

Leading Discipline
Landscape Architecture

Other Disciplines
Landscape Architecture; Interior Architecture; Architecture (Sustainability); Business; Engineering; Journalism; American Ethnic Studies; History; Women's Studies; Agriculture; Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources; Human Ecology; Hospitality Management; Family Studies and Human Services

32, Upper-division undergraduates

Studio Research

View studio documentation.

The People's Park

The Challenge

Nicodemus National Historic Site, in Nicodemus, Kansas, represents the involvement of African Americans in the western expansion and settlement of the Great Plains. In their studio submission, the Kansas State team addressed this landscape's unique cultural and historical challenges. As the oldest and only remaining town west of the Mississippi River established by African Americans following the Civil War, how can this small site, with its five historic structures, better tell the story of the perseverance and continuity of its nation-spanning descendants? And how can new opportunities be developed to cultivate the town's rich heritage?

Studio Approach

Kansas State's vision proposes new governmental bodies and economic vehicles by which local peoples can help themselves sustain their community and their park. The approach is grounded in a development strategy that respects the past but also expands current thinking about economic markets, technology, tourism, community needs, land management, and sustainability. Most critical to this expansion is the collaborative relationship between the residents, the National Park Service, and the descendants or heirs who live elsewhere but may retire there. The studio aims to provide a balance between the university’s mission, community necessities, and National Park Service goals.

Key Features

Under Kansas State's proposal, Nicodemus would become part of a network of "Journeys" among other historical enclaves of Kansas. These journeys would in turn be part of a re-classified National Park Service network. The design proposal focuses on increasing site synergy through targeted interventions at Nicodemus, including creative signage, music festivals, added recreational and retail amenities, alternative energy sources, interactive genealogy exhibits, and virtual tours.

Jury Comments

Kansas State provided an excellent framework with considerable background and thought given to understanding the park and the NPS as a whole. The "journeys" are a clever and unique on-the-ground concept, and are successful in connecting Nicodemus to the larger network of similar sites. The submitted video is quite compelling as a narrative of the studio process, and shows how the students were forced to face a tough set of questions with few answers. These challenges require many design scenarios to discover the most creative and strategic solutions.