The Architecture of Change: R/UDAT

“Change is inevitable. Growth is Optional.”

I don’t know who said the above quote, but they obviously don’t live in Bozeman, Montana. Where growth is inevitable, and change is not wanted.

My wife and I recently attended a local neighborhood workshop that brought in a team of architects from the R/UDAT program to envision the future development of our community. If you are also an architect like me, and have never heard of the R/UDAT program, they are a group of volunteer architects sponsored by the AIA and have apparently been around for over 50 years inspiring architectural projects throughout the nation.

R/UDAT stands for Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team.

And AIA stands for American Institute of Architects, but is colloquially known as “What the fuck are my AIA dues good for if I still I have pay $800 dollars to attend the national conference in Orlando?”

But don’t worry. I just received an email stating that my registration fee to the AIA Conference ‘17 can be waived for all new AIA members!

Apparently, interest must be so low they are resorting to free marketing tactics to lure architects to Orlando – since the only architectural building in Orlando people wish to visit is a faux castle where onlookers in mouse hats take pictures with a faux princess.

Spoiler alert: Disney World princesses are humans in a costume.

Dammit. I’m supposed to put the spoiler alert before you read that Disney World characters are actually dressed-up humans. Dammit, again. I also just used a curse word, but I doubt anyone reading this still believes in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Shit. I just ruined another idyllic image from our wide-eyed nostalgic youth – but I don’t have to time to edit out this rambling post because the youth will be the one’s impacted by any architectural change. And that was the intended point of this article – architecture and change!

Northeast Bozeman Neighborhood

The Northeast Bozeman residential neighborhood, where my wife, cat, and I reside, could be described in other communities as being “on the wrong side of the tracks.” But in reality – it’s on the same side of the railroad tracks as the posh historical mansions in South Bozeman. But the Northeast neighborhood consists of small homes that were originally built as “worker’s houses” for the railroad. However, these modest homes are now valued near half-a-million dollars – since articles state that half the country1 is moving to beautiful Bozeman, Montana… downtown land prices are rising and rising!

The Northeast neighborhood is eclectic and quirky; where they host an annual “Parade of Sheds” as a sarcastic spoof on the contractor’s “Parade of Homes.” The Parade of Sheds begins at the climbing boulder across the road from the abandoned Train Depot, and a trumpeter leads a parade of costumed misfits through backyard sheds and gardens. “Beautiful tulips!” can often be heard; and is a fitting description of the neighborhood: often forgotten, the residents are always there – year after year.

The R/UDAT team came Friday evening to a local grain elevator with a leaky roof and guided community members through several charettes to assess and further understand the neighborhood’s character and values. They will then take these findings, and present a “best practices” architectural solution to the perceived needs of the neighborhood.

If I was disheartened by any of the R/UDAT activities it was probably because I failed to receive a complimentary beer. Now, I must admit this was solely a ME problem. Everybody had a beer (even my new favorite Bozeman Pale Ale in the light blue can) and some people were carrying around 2 beers! Apparently, there were complimentary coupons somebody were handing out, but I was the only person there that couldn’t locate the person responsible for ticket distribution. Yes, you could purchase beers for $4!


If I wanted to spend money on beer I would’ve just biked back to my house and drank the beer out of my fridge with my cat – who, like all of the neighbors, doesn’t want the neighborhood to change it’s character.

However, I bet my cat would prefer if the grey cat and black neighborhood cat weren’t so pleasantly pompous while sunning themselves in their own yard – across the fence – in their respective yard – and I must note: Bambi Danger Schwalm! (that’s my cat’s name, and yes her middle name is Danger) you are on a leash and harness due to reckless outdoor time… oh crap, I just lost my cat under the neighbor’s deck again… afternoon is ruined… now banging a can of cat food while shouting, “Bambi Danger Schwalm! You are so in trouble!”

Note to self: Middle names are not threatening to cats.

Generic Red Baseball Caps with White Embroidered, Badly Kerned, Capital Letters

Bozeman’s Northeast Neighborhood Association was one of three cities in the United States to receive a grant for the R/UDAT team to come to our neighborhood, listen to concerns, and present feedback for a coalesced vision of the neighborhood.

I must disclose that there is a large contentious 5 story development in Bozeman seeking planning approval – whose fate will be decided this week by the City Commission. I am a member of Bozeman’s Design Review Board, so I will withhold my personal commentary in case I review this project again; but the majority of public comments are outraged by the mass, height, and lack of parking for this 62 foot high, 190 foot long, residential structure within their historical neighborhood consisting of single-detached houses.

If the City Commission denies this contentious project, the developer has already threatened to bring a lawsuit against the city – considering he is not asking for any deviations from city code.

If the City Commission approves the project to the chagrin of the vast majority of residents, the Commission will be viewed as being in the pockets of developers and would have no basis for denying any ill-fitting development in the future.

Now, I must note that Bozeman is a progressive town by American standards, but is an extremely progressive town by Montana standards – as I have rarely seen anyone sporting a generic red baseball cap with white embroidered, badly kerned, capital letters. Most residents of Bozeman want equality for all residents, a walkable and bikeable city, and urban infill projects that limit the sprawl of subdivisions in to the farmlands to the West.

However, this atmosphere, of locals vs. developers (who want to construct large scale projects in their backyards), was permeating the air2 the night of the R/UDAT meeting.

Near the end of the meeting, one woman said, “I’m sorry if you’ve already spoken about this, but why are you here?” She continued, “Are you here for the developers, or are you here for us? Why do we NEED to change?” I initially scoffed, but everybody else in the room was nodding their heads in agreement. Not why are they here; clearly we received a grant to receive the input of outside architectural consultants to provide visionary improvements of the neighborhood. But why do we need change?


The Northeast neighborhood doesn’t need to change. But they will change. Private developers already have plans for several large-scale projects within the area. Protesting change is putting a moratorium on building; and unless you simultaneously put a moratorium on people reproducing – growth will continue to increase in Bozeman.

Being a mayor is difficult, but just like architecture, there is no one right answer in city government. We can only attempt to create the greatest benefit to the majority of the occupants. Therefore, I think I’m going to start a blog series titled “If I were mayor…” Because all of the tough problems for cities are impacted by architecture, but can be solved by architecture. Architects come in at the beginning of projects and have the ability to incrementally plant tulips – beautiful perennials that become cherished year after year.

Architecture is often difficult to embrace because change in communities is complicated. You can’t separate architecture from politics; architecture in small town America is the politics! So how does one cope with change, prepare for change, and plan for change?

We don’t have a choice between change and no change, but we do have a choice as to who directs the change… Architecture is becoming the defining topic of our time.



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1 And every Californian!
2 Or it could’ve just been the smell of a musty, leaking, grain storage building.

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which Laura Teagarden, of L-2-Design, selected this month’s theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is Architecture of Change. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean, but read other people’s take on the topic to find out.

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks : Architecture of Change

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture for change

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architect(ure) of Change

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture of Change

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
architecture of change: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Change — The Document Evolution

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 25 “architecture of change…”

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Architecture = Change

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
My Architecture of Change / Hitting Pause to Redesign My Life

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@architangent)
Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
3 Things I Hope Change in Architecture

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
The art of Architecture of Change

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Architecture of Change

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