The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Carl Small Town Center helps small towns thrive with good design

Small towns are inherent in descriptions of Mississippi’s landscape. Mississippi has always been heralded as more of a collection of small towns than urban metropolises.  The state does not boast a skyscraper over 318 feet tall and does not have a city with more than 170,000 residents.   Mississippians take pride in this claim. Country singers romanticize the concept of a “Mississippi girl,” and novelists like William Faulkner, Eurdora Welty and Larry Brown immortalized the state’s small towns and rural Southern culture in their writing.  

The Carl Small Town Center, which was founded in 1979 by members of Mississippi State University’s School of Architecture, preserves this hometown reputation. According to its website, the CSTC offers a “laboratory-like setting where small town problems and their solutions could be identified, discussed, studied and illustrated.” The Carl Small Town Center helps maintain and improve one of Mississippi’s defining assets: its small town atmosphere. 

The CSTC believes that Mississippi has an advantage over other parts of the country. According to the CSTC website, “While other parts of the country are trying to recover a sense of pedestrian scale and small town life, many of Mississippi’s small towns lay waiting to be revitalized with these qualities intact.” 

John Poros, director of the center, and MSU professor of architecture, said the main goal of the CSTC is to help Mississippi towns re-envision and revamp their historic buildings and downtowns. 

“By improving the places in a town, the town works better to provide housing, services and recreation and businesses,” he said. “In the 21st century economy, the character and amenities of a place are critical to luring well-trained and educated workers that businesses need today.” 

The fact that a business could be judged by its appearance seems unsettling, but in a world where a book is judged by its cover, presentation is everything. 

In terms of history, Mississippi has much to offer, and the CSTC hopes to bring this historical richness out in order to restore thriving business in Mississippi and remain competitive with the economies of other states. 

Though the Carl Small Town Center takes interest in all Mississippi towns, it is especially connected to Starkville and the students of MSU. 

Poros said the CSTC influences his life as a teacher but also influences the lives of his students by providing them with opportunities to work on real world projects.  

“My work with the center makes me aware of real world issues that small towns grapple with, and as a teacher, I can bring those issues to students,” he said. “Likewise, small towns love to work with our students, who can bring their different experiences and insight to these small town problems.”

Hannah Waycaster, junior architecture major, said the CSTC benefits students by teaching them subjects, like master planning, that are not always taught in traditional architecture studio courses. 

“I’ve learned a lot that I haven’t learned in studio, so I think it has really advanced my work,” she said. “In the Small Town Center we do a lot of urban planning, and in studio it’s more about designing buildings and structures. It’s opened my eyes up to a whole different scope of architecture.”

Waycaster said working with the CSTC also allows her to work with students of other majors.

 “Right now there are three architecture students, an interior design student, and a guy who does broadcasting weather,” she said. “Over the summer we had a landscape architect working with us.”  

To make strides in Mississippi design and architecture, the Carl Small Town Center employs students and architects who have the most care for the state: native Mississippians. The people best equipped to bring forth the beauty of this place are those who grew up amidst its rich agricultural resources, see its creative flow at work and have been indelibly influenced by its sweet Southern charm. 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Carl Small Town Center helps small towns thrive with good design