South Bend Architecture
4 min read

South Bend Architecture

**This is a post we transferred over from our OG website. Original post date was December 3rd, 2020.**
South Bend Architecture

As the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled events throughout the summer, South Bend transplant Eddie Jurkovic made use of the extra time by starting a project to document and celebrate the architectural past, present, and future of South Bend. His social media project, South Bend Architecture, can be found on Instagram: @southbend_architecture, Twitter: @architecture_sb, and Facebook.

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The goal of South Bend Architecture is to celebrate the architecture, history, art, and life of South Bend. I think that we often overlook how much there truly is to celebrate in this place. So if I can go so far, I would say the loftiest aspiration of this project is to make us think deeply about what makes South Bend so special. South Bend, especially during its peak years, was part of that uniquely American architectural progression, one that borrowed from almost every influence, every movement, both old and new, in order to make a bold statement about a place with unique possibilities. South Bend is a microcosm of that American spirit of limitless potential. In a 15 minute walk in and around downtown you can see Gothic and Art Deco towers; Italianate, Classical Revival, and Prairie style homes; churches of every architectural type, inspired by the cherished traditions of the immigrant group that built them; and new buildings rising every day. You can trace the history of the city by tracing the progression of buildings and styles. It’s not only the legacy and heritage of the city, it’s also an indication of its future. At the same time we are appreciating the beauty of the past we can celebrate and promote the possibilities of the future.

As a proponent of the New Urbanism movement, I also believe that architecture and the design of the places we call home can have a profound impact on our happiness, personal fulfillment, and community engagement. Architecture tells us something about the cultural expression and the essence of a place. As a kid growing up in the Midwest, it was easy to feel you were stuck in a cultural desert, a world of suburbia. Our architecture is one of the best ways to prove that’s not our past and it doesn’t have to be our future. While I don’t restrict the posts to older buildings, I do try to emphasize the importance of walkable spaces, beauty in the places we build, the benefits from close proximity of living and leisure, and the importance of public space. These elements are all part of the charm and the staying power of the great buildings we consider treasures today. My hope is that people will stop and think, “Hey, why don’t we design our buildings and cities like that anymore?” And then they might be more willing to support the great work the city is doing to promote real and sustainable urban revitalization.

But then at its most simple, it was just a way for me to share the things that I love about this place. In my own experience I’ve found that, especially for people who were born in a place or arrived by chance instead of choice, we often don’t notice the beauty and history in our own backyards. I know this was the case in my own South Bend story. When I arrived in 2011 to start my freshman year at Notre Dame, South Bend itself was the furthest thing from my mind. When I moved back to the Bend in 2018, I wanted to make sure I made a serious effort to get to know the place I had decided to call home. As I would ride my bike around town, walk with friends, or read about the history of the city, I found myself constantly taking pictures of the places I would see. I felt amazed that a place I thought I knew well had so much to appreciate once you really started looking. The real genesis of the project was just that desire to share the beauty of the city with others to help them see its immense worth, legacy, and potential. It’s been a great joy to see how many people feel the same way.

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I feel my favorite South Bend Building changes from week to week, but here are some highlights of the most popular posts. Each of these buildings is architecturally significant and has something to tell us about South Bend.

This was the first post to really take off and generate a lot of discussion, and I completely understand why. Art Deco is the style that first got me interested in architecture and John Adams HS is probably the most prominent Art Deco feature in the Bend. You can see some of the classic motifs in the strong, clear lines and shapes, the sleek forms of the stone and metal eagles, and the stepped design of the main tower.

One thing I love about South Bend (and the midwest in general) is that you can find two houses like these in close proximity. Two completely different styles, from different periods, similar only in their uniqueness. This variety is what really gives a city life.

St. Adalbert’s is the perfect example of architecture as both art and living and evolving history. It was first built by Polish immigrants to the West Side in the early 20th century, and now serves the Hispanic community who have made the West Side the vibrant place it is today. Inside the church you can find the stations of the cross in their original Polish alongside a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s the epitome of the American story developing over time and for different groups of people. And it also just looks really great.

I don’t think it’s surprising that this is the most popular post by a wide margin. The white terra-cotta exterior mixed with the columns, decorations, and features of the classical revival style make it a downtown landmark. It’s a great example of the bold vision in American architecture. It takes the best of old and new to make something unique and lasting.

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I hope this project continues to help people celebrate, learn, and converse about our great city. If you want to send any comments, recommendations, or ideas for collaboration, please reach out with a message through any of the social media pages, or by email at ejurkovi@alumni.nd.edu