Photos by Thena Tak; Mary Ludington; Don Wong.

MINNEAPOLIS, September 1, 2021
– Type/Variant House, located in northern Wisconsin and designed by VJAA, is the 2021 recipient of the 25 Year Award.

The project team included Vincent James, FAIA; Jennifer Yoos, FAIA; Nathan Knutson, AIA; Paul Yaggie, AIA, Nancy Blankfard, FAIA; Andrew Dull; Steve Lazen; Krista Scheib; Julie Snow, FAIA; Taavo Somer; and Kate Wyberg. Project consultants included The McSherry Group, Inc (structural); Vogt Mechanical (mechanical); Coen + Stumpf Associates; and Yerigan Construction Company (general contractor).

Established by the American Institute of Architects Minnesota in 1981, the prestigious 25 Year Award annually recognizes one exemplary architectural project that stands the test of time. The award recognizes completed building projects—either individual buildings or groups of buildings—completed at least 25 but not more than 50 years ago, designed by firms with architects registered and practicing professionally in Minnesota. 

The design process for Type/Variant began in 1994 with an exploration of a series of famous paintings titled “Homage to the Square” by Bauhaus artist Josef Albers, and a personal interest of the client, an artist. The minimalist paintings, done as a series of abstract color studies, helped establish the concept of the Type/Variant – a collection of similar objects that through their differentiation become a rich and subtle aesthetic experience. Formally, the house is a composition of interlocking cubic volumes designed to set up particular relationships to the site. In this way, each space provides a distinct experience with unique views and spatial qualities, all built with a simple palette of materials used throughout the project.

Construction was completed in 1996 and since then the project has received significant accolades, including recognition by such notable architects as Marlon Blackwell, FAIA and Brian MacKay-Lyons, FAIA for its early influence on their own practices. The project received an AIA Minnesota Honor Award in 1996 and National AIA Honor Award in 1998. It has been widely published internationally, including the Netherlands, Germany, France, England, Spain, Argentina, and Canada. In 1999, the project was featured in the book, Daylighting for Sustainable Design, “Type/Variant House,” by Mary Guzowski.

The 2021 AIA Minnesota 25 Year Award jury included Adam Ariano, AIA; Mohammed Lawal, FAIA; Katherine Solomonson; Bruce Wright, FAIA; and Daniel Yudchitz, AIA.

The jurors noted that despite the passage of time, the project continues to feel fresh and modern. They noted that the project addresses many areas of the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, and that it serves as a prime example of the Midwest modern design aesthetic.

The VJAA team will receive their award at the AIA Minnesota Awards Celebration on Friday, December 3, 2021.

More information regarding the AIA Minnesota 25 Year Award may be found at

The American Institute of Architects Minnesota, founded in 1892, is dedicated to strengthening our communities, improving our built environment, and providing exceptional design. For more information on the organization and Minnesota architectural firms, reference our website and subscribe to ENTER, our digital weekly newsletter that explores how design is shaping a better built environment for Minnesota.