A place where Minnesota's design community can blow its collective mind about creative expression in every medium from websites to landscapes, chocolate to bicycles.

Office Snapshots

Posted: January 30th, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, interiors | Tags: | Comments Off

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Physical work space is particularly important to designers. Not just to designers obviously but that’s what I’m familiar with. On the one hand, we need a wide variety of resources readily at hand but don’t want the place to look like a kindergarten classroom. On the other hand, we have labored for years to develop refined taste but often don’t have the interior design budget of a Wall Street firm that has a lot of government bailout money to throw around. It can be tricky to figure out how to integrate these competing interests. As with all things the power of example is… well… powerful. I’ve long wanted to assemble a collection of local design shop spaces but as the saying goes “He who hesitates is lost.”

So, it is with the urgency and sense of self-satisfaction of an Emergency Medical Technician arriving on the scene just in time to prevent a tragic interior design disaster that I present Office Snapshots. It’s a great site in blog format that showcases a ton of office spaces that can be sorted by industry (Including advertising and graphic design) or location (including Minneapolis’ Blu Dot, Mono, Walker Art Center). Now I happen to know for a fact that there are many other amazing office spaces in the Twin Cities so check out the site and then submit your cool space and let help MSP get the credit it deserves.

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Windows of Opportunity

Posted: January 3rd, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off

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Whatever you believe about global warming 2009 demonstrated that the governments of the world aren’t prepared to do much about it. Yet I suspect most of us appreciate that treading lightly and nurturing our planet are good ideas. The truth of this fact is all around us and the tools to contribute to reducing your personal impact are nearer at hand than ever before. There are many small things you can do that are improvements on multiple levels. For instance, you can replace your battery hungry flashlight with one that you crank by hand. Not only will you save money and prevent all those heavy metals from entering the landfill (and eventually your drinking water) every time you pick up your flashlight it will actually work!

There are also some big things you can do like changing the car you drive and the home you live in. Buildings account for a massive portion of the energy we use and as with the flashlight bringing your home up-to-date has many advantages like energy savings and the opportunity to mold your home around the way you live rather than the other way around. Why wait for the G-men to get their act together when you can get going right now? For a little inspiration check out the terrific collection of 62 innovative green homes on jetsongreen.com. They’ll pique your appetite for improvements large and small.

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Shelter Me

Posted: December 16th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, local twin cities | Tags: | 1 Comment »

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Shelter Architects has completed one of the first LEED Platinum residential houses in the Nation. And not just any ol’ place in the nation – right here in Minneapolis on Washburn Avenue near Theodore Worth Park. Not only is the design a nice break from the endless rows of traditional houses but the materials are up-to-date as well. The home boasts energy star lighting, no-voc finishes, recycled and fsc finish materials, and even reclaimed flooring and tile. They score on all three counts: reduce, reuse and recycle. Check out Shelter’s site for more or if you’re local make the pilgrimage one day when the weather is nice… late May perhaps.

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Have You Voted Today?

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off

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You may not have a house that is an architectural masterpiece but take heart – you have an opinion and that’s all you need to participate in The House Vote. Roughly every day a new bite sized bit of architectural creativity is posted and you get to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. If you are feeling particularly loquacious or lean more toward freestyle commentary you can do that too. It’s a fun way to get a dose of architecture and if you see something you like you can click on the picture to visit the website of the architectural office responsible.

If you are not confident about your opinion check here first to baseline (or possibly flat line) your appreciation for homes that are poorly designed, poorly crafted and basically out of touch with reality. Then check out some of the architecture posts on this site or jump right to The House Vote to look at some really nice homes that were designed to be built in a specific location and support the healthy, happy life of the occupants.

Clearly I have an opinion (grin)


An Oblique Lesson in Creative Direction (part 1)

Posted: October 28th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off

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One of the credos from my childhood that has served me particulary well as a creative director is “Give credit where credit is due.” With sufficient practice this simple act of generosity becomes so rewarding you’ll never miss an opportunity to share the love. So, naturally I felt the need to share with you my praise for the beautiful portfolio of residential work featured in the Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects portfolio. It looks like a really nice crew of folks in this San Francisco office and I appreciate the smiles on their down-to-earth faces given what a minor miracle it must be to achieve architectural nirvana despite the obstacles of budgets, deadlines, building codes, personalities, weather and the chaos inherent in a quantum mechanical universe.

In a world overflowing with cheap plastic meaninglessness and flashy technological trends there is something about the soft, reassuring glow of wood that never fails to satisfy my sense of a welcoming home and TGHA employs it masterfully. The integration of these houses into the landscape is likewise wonderful and I hope to see the next iteration of the TGHA website give the firms they work with (like Lutsko Associates) credit for their important role. Take a minute to click through their work, email them a note of appreciation and let the inspiration of their work find expression in your own.

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Don’t forget to apply this lesson’s theme of sharing credit with those who have earned it.


Red Mountains Yellow Trim

Posted: September 15th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Tucked away in a little neighborhood just below the Flatiron Mountains in Boulder, Colorado lies the Sampson House by Tician Papachristou. Make sure you take the time to actually sound out his name because despite looking unfamiliar it will roll off your tongue with the same comfortable charm that this house inspires. It’s amazing how a home built in 1958 can escape looking dated over 50 years later. In part it is the simple honesty of the wood siding and bare concrete. The shape is intriguing and makes even more sense when seen in context with the dusty red peaks that soar almost 1,000 feet above. I believe the yellow trim is a recent addition but it serves to emphasize the way the roof line parallels the slope. Together these design details ensure the house feels rooted to the landscape but also celebrates the jagged mountains that surely inspired it. It was also likely inspired by the long, low lines of Frank Loyd Wright’s Usonian homes.

Tician collaborated on a few projects with a more famous architect Marcel Breuer. Breuer was brilliant without a doubt and it must have been rewarding to collaborate but unfortunately seems to have overshadowed Tician’s own work which is wonderful in its own right. If you’re ever in Boulder take a moment to walk by.


Get Out and Go Inside

Posted: September 1st, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, events, local twin cities | Tags: | Comments Off

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The Twin Cities Homes By Architects tour is coming up September 19 and 20, 2009. There are a few interesting modern numbers including 4869 Dominica Way (pictured below) by Altus Architecture and Design. There are quite a few – shall we say – “traditional” homes on the tour so you may want to take a look at the full portfolio before you spring for tickets. Fortunately, the site includes a detailed map so you could swing by the ones you like the look of and then get tickets if you are just dying to get a peek inside.


Far Away Without the Commute

Posted: June 30th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture | Comments Off

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One of my very favorite spots in the Twin Cities is tucked away down a little side street in what must be one of the most beautiful settings I’ve seen. While very close to all the wonderful things the city has to offer (like milkshakes) approaching this spot is like leaving it all behind. Every time I ride my bike by I leave feeling relaxed.

The house itself is unique and handsomely designed but not ostentatious the way well funded homes often feel the need to be. It nestles into the side of the hill like it grew there years ago. What’s growing right next to the house is a big part of what makes it so special. A full lot worth of Japanese style garden plays out in a myriad, tranquil shades of green. Backing up against a park allows the garden to take full advantage of the borrowed landscape.

The garage is a recent edition and makes the entry to the house even more private. A feature that makes the fact that the owners have generously shared unobstructed views of their garden even more of a gift. Larger photographs are available on flickr.


An Architect Lived Here

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, local twin cities | Tags: | Comments Off

One of my design professors once told me “A designer should never take the same route to work two days in a row.” Going on he explained that the repetition dulls our ability to perceive the details afresh each time. I’ve followed his advice for 17 years now and have traveled for miles going around ‘just one more bend’ at a time.

Just the other day I took a different turn and discovered this fun little house just a single block from a house I’ve been by many times. Interestingly, the day after taking these pictures the home (at 1912 Norfolk Ave. in Saint Paul) went up for sale. There is a corner stone (unusual for a residence) listing the architects Bergstedt and Hirsch which is also unusual since they designed things like Mount Zion Temple on Summit Avenue so it’s possible this is just another one of a number of interesting reclaimed materials. Then again I believe the house is currently owned by an architect so you never know. If you’re not in the market you might still enjoy going to an open house to see some of the interesting solutions on display. And who knows what else you’ll find – just around the bend.


This Side of the Mississippi

Posted: May 11th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture | Comments Off

A block off the prestigious Mississippi River Blvd the neighborhood quickly becomes fairly common place. But at the top of a little rise stands this house that seems to have decided it is not content to be a neo-this or revival-that. It doesn’t even proclaim its mid-century modern heritage very loudly actually. It just sits on its hill looking content to be what it is. Although, I when I consider its yellow doors I can’t help but think it wears just a little sly smile.

Regrettably I have been unable to discover the architect responsible.

x marks the spot.