New Year, New Home for AIA Minnesota

By Mary-Margaret Zindren, AIA Minnesota Executive Director

As I write this, in the midst of many boxes and a lengthy to do list, we are preparing for the February 1st move from International Market Square to the Crown Roller Mill building.


I write with confidence that the move will indeed happen (painting and millwork are being completed at this moment, and our lease at IMS expires January 31st). I write with deep gratitude for the more than 30 years of programs, services and meaningful connections created in the space we say goodbye to, and with excitement about the future we will create together in our new space.


We won’t be ready to hold meetings in the space until later in February (some furniture will take longer to arrive), but when we do reopen our doors, we hope you will feel welcome. Having the space create that feeling of welcome for all members of the Minnesota architecture community was a driving factor in the design process.


Let me paint you a picture.


Entering the building (via a few steps or the ramp), you will hear the water of the lobby fountain and might see some members meeting in the large 1st floor conference room. You will see an expansive area on the second floor (accessed by the staircase or elevator) where you can grab a comfortable seat to send some emails or meet up with a few folks. You can walk out onto the huge deck and take in the view of St. Anthony Falls, the Mill District, and the Minneapolis skyline. Depending on the season, we might just have the outdoor fireplace on or the grill going for a happy hour.


Taking the elevator up to the 4th floor, you will turn toward the Atrium, take a right, and in a few steps you’ll be at our glass-door entrance. Pulling the door handle or pushing the button to open the door automatically, you will enter our Member Resource Area and see the Meeting Room to the right.


The Meeting Room has seating for twelve and is hooked up for remote access by phone or video. The Birch wood wall – the connecting thread of the office – starts in this convening space and winds throughout the office. We chose Birch because it is a tree that exists throughout the Minnesota landscape, reminding us of our service to the whole of our membership beyond the Twin Cities. It was also chosen as a reminder that the land upon which our office sits was originally home to the Dakota people, for whom Birch wood has important meaning and uses. This is a place of rich architectural history, a history that began with the Dakota people and the structures they created.


The table in the center of the Meeting Room will draw your attention, too. It is a combination of concrete, steel, and Maple wood. It is a reminder of the results of Climate Change that our state is already experiencing – where Maple trees have been migrating northward and can now be found among Birch trees where they’ve never been before – and the important role of the architecture community in meeting and exceeding the 2030 challenge.


Other notable elements of the member-focused spaces:

  • A pin-up board in the Meeting Room for displays that will rotate among AIA Minnesota committees, knowledge communities, local chapters, and the Minnesota Architectural Foundation every few months.
  • A Member Resource Area to grab a cup of coffee or tea with three or four other members or staff.
  • A screen in the Member Resource Area will rotate images and messages to keep members, students, and others in the space apprised of the great work of the association and our architecture community.
  • The Quiet Room – a private space that can be used for lactation or for spiritual practice; chairs are comfortable but easily moved aside, dimmable sconces provided for meditation and relaxation can be flipped to become reading lights, and the carpet is oriented at angle, pointing the way toward Mecca.


It’s also notable for what is missing. We have purposely left one wall open – it is poised to be the feature of the space. AIA Minneapolis will be sponsoring a design-build competition/collaboration for this feature wall, in which anyone within the architecture community from throughout the state of Minnesota can participate – individual members, firms, students, faculty, cross-firm or firm-school collaborations, etc. The design/build budget will be $5,000, including installation. The length of time it will be displayed is to be determined but will be at least one year. (Watch for details in March!)


The team at Cuningham Group worked very hard to make this project happen, especially understanding the considerable space and budget constraints involved. We are grateful for each and every member of the Cuningham team: Amy Cheever, AIA, Project Manager/Programmer; Eric Lagerquist, AIA, project architect; Sam Olbekson, Assoc. AIA, design principal; Janet Whaley, interior designer; Jeff Schoeneck, AIA, principal-in-charge, and Jeffrey Tonkin, AIA, specifications writer.


We are also grateful for the construction team at Gardner Builders, who worked so hard and so well to get us in the door by February 1st: Abigail Heimel, Project Manager and Rod Kalina, Superintendent in particular. And to Meredith Hayes Gordon, AIA, of HGA who served as a key partner to staff at critical junctures in the project, David Eijadi for going through the library to make donations to the Dunwoody School of Architecture, and Sarah Nettleton, FAIA who is helping us go through boxes of photographs and media.


Companies that worked with Cuningham Group to provide great pricing on interior elements were: Blu Dot, Concrete Pig, General Office Products, Hennepin Made, and Intereum.


And we very much appreciate the work of NTH, who helped us with the search for properties and managed the architect selection process. It was not an easy path, as we shifted course to pursue a smaller space in close proximity to Mill City Museum, once our partnership with MNHS was initiated. They rolled with it all with professionalism and were great advocates on our behalf.

We could not have found this wonderful space without our amazing Space Ex Task Force. They met for more than a year and helped us identify the perfect space for our needs.

I’m also so thankful and proud of our AIA Minnesota staff team. Everyone on the team thoughtfully went through thousands of pages of paper accumulated over 30+ years, arranged for recycling of hundreds of pounds of equipment and materials (thanks to our certified Master Recycler Composter, Angie McKinley), and schlepped cart after cart to donation centers.


And HUGE shout out to Amber Allardyce for three reasons: for her extraordinary effort to organize all aspects of the move, for her unflappable demeanor in navigating the ups and downs of the project, and her promotion to the position of Deputy Executive Director – a title that well reflects the nature of what her role has grown to become, over the past four years in particular.


Finally, thank you, members, for your patience and positivity over the past year of planning and preparing. We look forward to welcoming to the new office and are excited to leverage every aspect of the space to serve you well for many years to come.

View the full February issue of Matrix.