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Jack Zaleski, Published October 06 2012

Zaleski: A pyramid on the prairie? Go for it

Last week’s story (Amy Dalrymple, The Forum, Oct. 3, Page 1) about a developer who wants to build a pyramid in western North Dakota got eyes a-rolling and heads a-shaking in disbelief. The general reaction was a disdainful, “you’ve got to be kidding.” One North Dakota architect, who apparently has the imagination of a machine shed builder, said, “Nice fantasy, but I think it would be better in Las Vegas than North Dakota.”

Not me. I’m intrigued, not only by the idea of a residential/commercial/

recreational pyramid on the western prairie but also by the chutzpah of proposing such a thing in a state where architecture is less than inspiring. I mean wow, can you imagine?

For those not versed in North Dakota history, the state already has a pyramid on the prairie – a really big one. In the early 1970s, the anti-ballistic missile system that was supposed to keep us safe from Soviet attack over the pole was sunk into the ground near Langdon. About nine miles south of Langdon, near Nekoma, a pyramid rose that housed one of the ABM’s then state-of-the-art radars. The brooding concrete building is still there, the state’s only really gigantic pyramid-type structure.

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and sparking a genuine economic boom among a dozen or so small communities, the vagaries of Cold War brinksmanship shut the whole thing down. The boom became a bust from which many towns never recovered. Thank you, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

That was then.

The new pyramid proposal has nothing to do with national defense. An out-of-state developer wants to capitalize on the oil boom. His pyramid is so big (taller than the state Capitol building in Bismarck) that it would virtually be a city within itself with parking, balconies, apartments, shopping districts, hockey arena, ballfields, movie theater and a pond. Topped by an observation deck and restaurant, it would be – heck – as exciting as the steel sculptures on the Enchanted Highway in Stark and Hettinger counties. OK, maybe the pyramid would be a bigger deal … you know, bigger than the giant dairy cow on the hill outside of New Salem, or (oh, my god!) the Fargodome that never was a dome. (Hey, gimme a break. I’m reachin’ here.)

I hope the developer can secure the estimated $145 million his group needs to finance the Oil Patch pyramid. I hope he can get the permits and clearances he needs to build the thing on a tract about 25 miles east of Williston. Can’t you just see it, rising up from the dark prairie, a brightly lighted pyramidal monument that probably would be visible from low-Earth orbit, like the Great Wall of China? The Great Pyramid of Dakota! Gotta love it.

One suggestion for the developer: Add a few deep-in-the-pyramid burial chambers for North Dakota’s new pharaohs – oil company execs. After all, what’s a pyramid for if it’s not to enshrine the death of a culture?

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.