November 04, 2020
Written By: Rapid City Journal
Bryan Vulcan looked across the new section of the Black Hills National Cemetery his company designed and saw a young woman on her knees, adjusting flowers around a headstone, sobbing.
In that moment, he knew the work his company FourFront Design Inc., extended beyond designing military bases and Veteran Administration hospitals.
“I thought it didn’t end there. It didn’t end with us creating this spot,” Vulcan said. “There was no place on Earth that was more special to her than that little plot of ground where her loved one was buried.”
Vulcan and his team at FourFront Design are currently working with the National Cemetery Administration to map and record the final resting places for those who served in the military. They are currently in their fifth year of working on the mapping.
“This data we’re putting in places is probably going to be used for at least 50 years and beyond,” he said. “We’re having an impact well beyond that day when that young serviceman passes through one of the security checkpoints or gates that we designed and all through his military and veteran career.
“We’re having an impact for generations to come,” he said.
Vulcan grew up in southern Minnesota and has a long line of family members in the military. He said it traces as far back as the War of 1812.
His father served in World War II, uncles in Korea and brothers in Vietnam — he and four of his brothers served in the military and three of them retired. Vulcan joined the Army Corp of Engineers in the late 70s and served for 24 years. He was stationed in Texas, Pennsylvania, Europe, Kansas and Nebraska, to name a few. He even served as an ROTC instructor at the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City.
In 2001, he retired as a lieutenant colonel in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to work at an engineering firm. About two years later, he transitioned into the president and owner of the Alliance of Architects, which would become FourFront Design, Inc. after merging with Thurston Design Group, LLP, in 2006. He said he took over from two Army veterans.
Vulcan said he wanted to bring the company into the 21st century when he started, upgrading its processes, equipment, procedures and getting more involved with doing work for the federal government.
“I understood working for the Army Corp of Engineers and just federal contracting in general — that’s the world where I came from,” he said. “I also understood there was a lot of talent in Rapid City, in this firm and other places that I could draw upon to do work because we’re every bit as qualified as any of the large firms.”
As the company upgraded and expanded its work, it expanded its presence. Vulcan said the company has projects at the VA in Hot Springs, Fort Meade, Sioux Falls, Fargo, St. Cloud, Des Moines, Iowa City, Omaha, Grand Junction, Denver, Cheyenne, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake and more.
He said the company primarily works in the middle of the country and has developed an expertise in working with the federal government in the VA and Army Corp of Engineers.
Vulcan said he wanted to continue to contribute to not only the local community but the veteran and military community as well.
“I wanted to do things that mattered, to make a difference and give back and continue to serve the military and the military member long after I had retired,” he said. “Just because you hang up the uniform doesn’t mean you quit caring and quit doing it.”
Vulcan said FourFront Design has also developed a niche in designing VA hospitals. He said each hospital can’t be a cookie-cutter design, although there are guidelines the company has to follow.
However, the designs extend beyond the hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, janitors and those who walk through the doors every day.
“The client is that veteran that needs care,” he said. “We keep that in mind and it makes our jobs...easier because we understand who we’re serving.”
Vulcan said he’s proud to say his company has been able to help create physical environments and buildings that will contribute to servicemen and women healing and moving forward. The company also designs other clinics like dental clinics, women’s health clinics, primary care, surgical additions and more.
“It’s all important and it feels good to know every day you’re doing something that matters,” he said.
FourFront Design is also responsible for the ice rink in the Civic Center, Main Street Square, downtown improvements, the new National Guard headquarters building and more. He said the company would like to take on new local projects, but are being kept pretty busy by the federal government.