CRM + Architecture: How Resources Can Inspire Design

106 Group started 30 years ago as a cultural resources management (CRM) firm. Our roots are in archaeology and history. Through our documenting work, it became clear that the story of a place is so much more than what is written in a regulatory report. The history of a place, written and unwritten, and the stories told through archaeological and architectural resources can contribute to the future design and use of a place. Those resources can enhance the uniqueness of a place.

Section 106 & Design

Often developers are apprehensive when they hear “Section 106.” Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 [NHPA] requires that federally funded or permitted projects consider the effects on historic properties. The key to preventing delays with Section 106 regulation is early consultation among agencies, project proponents, and stakeholders. Research from Section 106 work can give guidance on sensitive locations to avoid and provide parameters to reduce impact. While regulations have clear requirements to fulfill, and these can take time, the Section 106 process rarely derails a project. It can, instead, be a source of inspiration for design outcomes. As Patty Digh has stated, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” By understanding cultural resources, design can be a storytelling tool.

History, Culture, and “Restory-ation”

In a similar way to how 106 Group has grown and evolved over the past 30 years, projects throughout our company history often start out with the goal simply to meet regulatory compliance for cultural resources and develop into so much more.

Rondo Land Bridge: Creating Unity

The Rondo Land Bridge is an on-going African American-led project in the Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul. This project aims to reconnect the community damaged by the original construction of I-94. The efforts of this project are supported by foundations established through the first cultural context study focused on a non-European cultural group in the city of Saint Paul. Our current work includes research that aims to define the cultural resources – both archaeological and architecturally historic resources – located within the project boundaries. Our team is also providing support for community engagement efforts. The results of research and community involvement will inevitably influence the project design.

“It’s a powerful way to restore what was lost with the original I-94 construction.” Reconnect Rondo.

Design has the power to reflect the culture and acknowledge the history of a place while creating spaces for healing and unity. Historical and community-based research can do more than impact the design of a project. Because Section 106 requires efforts to invite relevant stakeholders to review the process, conversations between historians, cultural experts, and knowledge keepers can spark inspiration for programming outcomes.

Water Works: Reclaiming Space

The James Beard awarded chef, Sean Sherman, is nationally renowned for his restaurant Owamni at Water Works at Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis. The location of this restaurant has long been a place of great power and significance to Native people. This place now features “the most prominent example of Indigenous American cuisine in the United States” (The New Yorker, 2022). Along with the restaurant, Water Works Park features outdoor seating, firepits, a nature-themed playground, medicinal and edible native plants, industrial relics unearthed during construction, and stone remnants from the Bassett, Occidental, and Columbia Mills.

106 Group was involved with the Water Works project for six years. Our work was foundational for project design and programming. It included cultural resource consultation, evaluation of archaeology and architectural history resources, interviews with Dakota elders, and support of “restory-ation”, or expanding the history told of the space. This is a place of complicated history. There are visible and invisible stories, including those of the Dakota, Ojibwe, and other Indigenous people, and descendants of enslaved African Americans brought to Fort Snelling.  Also central are the development of the sawmills and flourmills. The history here came to light through a combination of cultural resources studies and perspectives shared during interviews with stakeholder community members. Water Works demonstrates the power of uncovering layers of history. Design can help in reclaiming a space and guiding a complex story told through design.

Water Works Park Pavilion, 2017
Water Works Park Pavilion, 2021
Wakáŋ Tipi Center: Revealing History

106 Group has been a part of the work at Wakáŋ Tipi Center in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in partnership with Lower Phalen Creek Project since the land was transferred from railroad to public ownership. It began as a Section 106 requirement but has evolved into so much more. A key part of this project includes a cave which has been sacred to Dakota people for millennia and serves as an intergenerational gathering place. Formerly known as Carver’s Cave, this project has worked to correct this name and reclaim this place as Wakáŋ Tipi. This community-led project began with research and broad community engagement. It became a Dakota-led project with reclamation of the place and stories told there. The team is now planning the design of interpretive exhibits that will connect people to this landscape. Wakáŋ Tipi Center demonstrates the influence of community in reclaiming a space and telling the true story through design, guided by voices from the past and the present.

Wakáŋ Tipi Center groundbreaking, 2022
Finding the Connection

A distinctive sense of place, rooted in local history and infused with cultural meaning, enriches the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Over time, the evolving relationship between the natural environment and diverse groups of people shape each place to be unique, with its own story to tell. By embracing the Section 106 process, learning from cultural resources, and engaging with local knowledge keepers, the design and programming of a place can create an impactful and lasting legacy.

Alison Manley

Author, Alison Manley is a senior cultural heritage planner who has contributed to community outreach and engagement efforts for a number of infrastructure development projects. She is passionate about elevating the voices of underrepresented communities by way of storytelling, which is reflected in her work at 106 Group.

Anne Ketz

Anne has worked with a broad range of stakeholders, including Native American tribal communities, community planners & leaders, and thought leaders to ensure respect for each community’s heritage within the planning process. Anne was project manager during 106 Group’s first 10 years of involvement with the Bruce Vento Nature Center/Wakan Tipi projects.