One of the Midwest’s most popular mountain bike parks is getting a new trail head facility next spring. Dakota County hired Locus earlier this year to design the Lebanon Hills West Trail Head building, which will be used year round by skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts in addition to Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists.
Two interlinking buildings will include restrooms, changing stalls and a picnic shelter. Construction has been underway for several weeks and is beginning to reveal the primary structural systems.
A forest of corten columns will soon support a roof 14 feet above the changing and shelter areas.
Laminated veneer lumber beams ready for placement above the columns.
Concrete masonry units contain the restroom while defining edges throughout the shelter. Twin Cities artist, Kerry Dikken
will be sandblasting the exterior surfaces with bicycle tread prints
Over 300 people gathered at the Minnesota Historical Society last Wednesday to remember Pearl Harbor on its 70th anniversary. Star Journal newspapers (reclaimed from Locus’ ceiling earlier this summer) set the stage for the evening’s ceremony.
The papers have since returned to the Gallery at Locus Architecture (GaLA) and continue to reveal new connections to history. For example, a Minneapolis resident recently saw her mother, Susan Pillsbury Snyder, on the front page of The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (June 30, 1940) after being wed to Rowley Miller.
Every once in a while a potential client asks what makes us different from our competitors. That’s tough to answer; as creatives, our expertise is subjective. We believe we excel in creating experiences, using our clients’ passion and our expertise in a custom process. The feedback we get from potential clients who interview multiple architects suggests this approach is unique.
We believe in the power of communities, and we’re committed to making experiences that will bond them. That might be a congregation, a neighborhood, a business entity, or a family. Whatever the structure, there are extraordinary synergies when people bond. We support and make communities in our work life, in addition to the usual stuff; volunteering, coaching our kids’ teams, or being involved in our schools and churches. A few examples:
- We led a group of University of Minnesota students to post-Hurricane-Katrina East Biloxi to document damages and build a park shelter; Paul continues to organize design+build seminars (RAW) with the intention of teaching young designers how to build exquisite structures for under (design) served communities both in the U.S. and abroad.
- We pulled together Twin Cities cyclists to make tread-print-art to raise money for Full Cycle. Rather than simply raising funds to provide them with a check (which we did), we designed the process of making tread prints to allow Full Cycle to use the process in the future (also available on YouTube).
- We curate an ongoing free lecture series, 2X2, that pairs visionary people who collaborate to make incredible things happen. We also host an open gallery and architectural reading room in our office.
Interacting with people inspires us. If we can’t enhance the experience of being in a community, using spaces we create, we’re only making nice structures. Any architect should be able to do that, even if many don’t.
Architects love to prioritize project-type experience over just about every other skill (“We’ve done over fifty _______.”). Project-type expertise is only one facet of a successful project. When it comes to church design, for instance, we often have less project-type experience than our competitors. Even so, we usually make it to the face-to-face interview stage. Potential clients, even if they don’t ultimately hire us, want to meet us after reading more about our approach to design. It must stand apart. Our expertise includes:
- Sustainability. It’s in our DNA. While most firms jumped on the green bandwagon in the mid 2000s, we started our practice with a philosophical belief in sustainable practices the day we opened the door in 1995. It was the right thing to do then, it still is.
- Listening. We’re experts at it, which allows us to use the Missions of our clients to tailor their living and working spaces (and even design processes). We have no interest in shoehorning our clients into our preconceived notions. One size does not fit all.
- Design. Our teamwork with our clients has led to multiple publications, AIA MN Honor Awards, and an IFRAA National Award. Our first two religious commissions resulted in two local and one national design awards.
- Construction. With over 25 years of experience of hands-on construction in both residential and commercial projects, we know how to problem-solve alongside with contractors. We also host open houses to share our research with the public.
We feel our expertise is broad, and usually unmatched.
Every project is different. When a client asks us how we plan to approach theirs, we usually tell them we won’t know until we get to know them better. Our listening skills are invaluable here. Ferreting out the ethos of an organization allows us to craft a 3-dimensional story – their story. We involve our clients in that process as a way of creating ownership and excitement about what they are doing. When we leave them with a building, they own it both financially and emotionally. We harness their energy to make forms that speak to them.
After wrapping up a church a few years back, Victoria Safford, the minister, took time to write us a note: “we’ve held four services now in the new sanctuary here, and every week it is as if we are entering the spaces here for the first time, so beautiful are the movements of light, the textures of steel, concrete and glass, the seemingly permeable boundaries between inside and outside. The congregation is in a state of amazement and gratitude – as am I. This work you have done here is beautiful. Thank you.”
Our clients’ passion fuels the energy. Our expertise provides credibility. The collaborative process harmonizes the two.
“It’s starting to get cold”
Come 3:15 each day, as the sun angle sharpens across the office floor, we notice a significant drop in comfort at Locus headquarters in Southwest Minneapolis. Keep in mind that the temp outside has barely crept above 20 these last few days and, as the passing boys with sleds in tow would attest, winter weather is in full swing here in Minnesota.
The consistency of our experience – cold feet precisely at 3:15 – has been so dramatic that I thought I’d check to see if the data correlates. The chart below, from Architectural Graphic Standards, shows that, at our latitude, the heat gain between 3pm and 4pm through south facing windows decreases from 122 units to 3 units. That’s right – there’s 40 times more heat coming into our office at 3pm than there is one hour later at 4pm. Apparently, our feet don’t lie. While we know through our training that this should be the case, the first-hand knowledge gained each day in the office is far more significant and lasting.
The above quote comes from St. Paul native Richard Thill who was on board the USS Ward when it encountered a Japanese submarine on December 7, 1941. The ship fired and sank the sub one hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Thill will be sharing his experience in a discussion at the Minnesota History Center along side a documentary film of the incident.
Newspapers from this era were recently uncovered from the ceiling of Locus’ new office and will be displayed as part of the remembrance event on December 7th from 7 – 8:30 pm. Tickets can be in purchased in advance by phone (651-259-3015) or online.
US Battleship Arizona July 14, 1940
It’s at about this time every year that two events happen in my life. First, I walk into the Locus office and, for the umpteenth time of the season, proclaim “we’re still heating with wood at home.”
For about seven or eight years we’ve been going deep into winter each year, heating our house only by the solar gain through our south facing windows and the fires in our Gemini heater. Each night we jam the firebox full of wood and turn the damper down so we get a long, thorough burn. In the morning, we uncover the embers to bring the fire back to life again and, depending on the conditions outside, we might have a fire burning for nearly two months straight. We enjoy the freedom of providing our own heat, the changes in how we use the peripheral spaces in our home and the exercise we get from cutting, chopping and hauling each log.
The added connection we feel to the natural environment outside as the temperature inside moves up and down the thermometer is tangible. Clients Mike and Linda are taking this to another extreme, planning to heat all winter long only with their masonry heater and wood gleaned from their own land. “We like our bedroom a little colder” they said. Mike thought he’d much prefer living in a yurt, where he could experience the full impact of the natural environment. Their house, soon to be completed in SE Minnesota, was designed to take full advantage of their site, while providing an experience where environmental factors play a stronger role in their daily activities.
Back at my home in Minneapolis, the second event closely trails the first as we buckle under and turn on the boiler heat. The enthusiasm that keeps our fireplace running through the fall is equally strong when the flame goes out some time in December. Literally burnt out from the constant attention, we might only have one or two “ambiance” fires for the remainder of the winter. Conviction gives way to comfort, however, as the warmth of that last working fire fades and we begin paying for “invisible energy”, the memory of each BTU carried into the house, stick by stick, remains.
Auditioning for a spot on a North Minneapolis lot, SAM 1.5 donned a wide array of fashions, showing that the Sustainable, Attainable, Modern home can easily be outfitted to suit different tastes.
The photo shoot started with a more classical look than past public appearances (see WCCO’s Real Estate Round up for 3/30/11) and ended with custom artistry.
SAM’s white lap siding adorned by a traditional Doric column.
Transitioning to a natural state, vines climbed through SAM’s sun-screening trellis.
Green is good, but some like it red hot (and with shutters).
Happy as a clam in a custom painted ensemble.