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.