What is Minnesota Architecture’s Character?

By Nathan Johnson, AIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

I was recently asked the question “what is Minnesota architecture’s character?”

I took a long pause and admitted I did not know, responding that the buildings in this state are as diverse as the people designing them. After a little reflection, I think my initial assessment was right; buildings, like people, are diverse and they should be. Part of the beauty of practicing architecture is that there are always multiple great solutions to a design problem, and that buildings can be designed in many styles and in multiple eras and still be great.

After thinking about the question for a few days, I think the question could be phrased in a slightly different way: “what is the character of the Minnesota architect?”

When I think of the wide variety of architectural professionals I have practiced with or otherwise worked with in Minnesota there is an ethos that I think is consistent: Hard work and passion. Everywhere I have practiced, individuals have been willing to put in the extra effort to make a project successful. There is a great cohort of volunteer leaders within AIA Minnesota that make our committees and programs recognized throughout the nation.

Mary-Margaret Zindren, AIA Minnesota EVP, was recently recognized as the CACE Emerging Leader in Chicago for the hard work she is doing to make AIA Minnesota a model for other components throughout the nation. We have robust and active engagement with the architectural community. We have leaders that are curious and willing to try new things. We are reflective and examine programming and committees to make sure they are in alignment with the strategic plan.

We are fully engrossed in implementing our 3-year strategic plan. It took a lot of hard work to get us to where we are, and it will take a lot of hard work to get us where we want to be. This summer we established a new partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society, planned for a move of the AIA Minnesota offices, the Architecture in the Schools Committee has been active at community events engaging youth with model building and conversations about architecture, and we celebrated multiple Minnesota architects at the A’18 Conference on Architecture in New York City.

With the start of school and the end of summer, there are some great programs and activities planned for the coming months. I would like to highlight a few programs that will engage the public directly in September.

  • The Homes by Architects Tour (September 15 – 16) is an annual event that showcases some of the best residential architecture in the state.
  • AIA St Paul will host an event on the Missing Middle (September 26).
  • Architecture in the Schools will be participating in Open Streets Broadway (September 15).
  • AIA Northern Minnesota will host “Impacting the Economy: Architecture, Engineering, and the Construction Industry” in Duluth (September 27).

Please take some time in September and come join these great programs.

View the full September issue of Matrix.