November 27, 2017




They call it the third coast, but it’s first in so many ways. It holds 21% of the world’s total surface fresh water and is home to 35 million people in both the United States and Canada. I spent both my child and adulthood in Wisconsin, Canada, and Illinois — this is where much of my professional life has played out as well.  

The Great Lakes region and its potential for population growth and development has been the subject of two recent publications — one from the Urban Institute titled The Future of the Great Lakes Region and another, funded by the Graham Foundation, Third Coast Atlas: Prelude to a Plan. Both discuss the very real opportunities here for urban development and for personal and professional reasons were very exciting to read. The results of the studies confirmed much of what I have known — this place is resource rich with lots of available land and has a population positioned and prepared for a rebirth. 

While some may call this flyover territory, what they are flying over is the place that created the American automobile industry, the producer of America’s breadbasket, the manufacturing base of the industrial age, and the great metropolis of Chicago.  

Every commission I’ve worked on in both this region and elsewhere has embodied the idealistic pragmatic style I developed while growing up in Wisconsin. A style rooted in the steady pursuit of craft with aims of inspiring, improving, and influencing lives and the surrounding environment. Always mindful of the importance of impact, no matter how small. 
In the Midwest, there remains an inherent love of the land — envisioning it unspoiled, yet understanding the need for development and growth. Much of my career has been devoted to a reconciliation of these disparate demands. Landing somewhere close to a love for the city, with a desire for a weekend home in the country. 

The Midwest’s strength, creativity, and genius will always be the heartbeat of the nation. And no other profession is better positioned to be the ignition for the rebirth of this great region than the architectural community. Because great design solves problems.  

     —  BL