Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Architecture



First Advisor

Anz, Craig


AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF Matthew J. Highlander, for the Masters of Architecture degree in Architecture, presented on July 6, 2009, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: THE RURAL TOWN SQUARE AND ITS NEW IDENTITY MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Craig K. Anz This thesis investigates the current complex nature that is the American town square and its identity in rural heartland communities. Historically, the town square in this context becomes an image of civic pride in its community through the incorporation of essential civic buildings such as county courthouses, city halls, community centers, guest houses as well as functioning playhouses, gathering spaces such as a parks, gazebos, or green space for public use within the town square. However, through the advent of the automobile, one-stop shopping, and urban sprawl, rural town squares have become a shell or fossil of their former selves as citizens visit this district of town less frequently due to a lack of business and public activities. Hence, these spaces become subjugated to other forms of planning and thus become dens for poverty and areas for crime. However there are many present solutions that can facilitate a movement towards improvement in this area. One such solution is the redesign of surrounding square spaces in conjunction with the incorporation of mix-use facilities within the town square streetscape. Mix-use buildings offer a variety of options that can introduce daily use businesses such as coffee houses, bookstores, deli shops, etc..., have night hours, and do not require a large amount of space to operate business. Along with these businesses, mix-use facilities can also incorporate a variety of residential living quarters such as lofts, studios, and townhomes to foster life within these places. Again, as a result, there is a substantial increase in the amount of public activity within the towns square between residents, business proprietors, and shoppers. This activity alone can transform a once dim light of the community into a shining example of the image and identity that the community wishes to project to its participants. The mix-use building and square together also have the ability to co-operate as a self-sustaining entity of the community due to the type of businesses that it incorporates and its proximity to other businesses within the town square and the community as a whole.




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